Sunday 6 November 2011

How do you know if a cat is in pain?

How do you know if a cat is in pain? This is something that is worrying me. Cats put up with the pain of cancer much better than we do. If a cat has a low level discomfort or pain due to say the effects of kidney failure, how do we know? We should know because in a very old cat we have to decide when to euthanize a cat that is in constant pain and terminally ill.

Pain that is the result of an incurable disease is a major factor in deciding when to be kind and to euthanize that cat. If we can't work out with even a poor degree of accuracy whether our cat is in pain, even low level pain, how are we to decide? It is a worry to me because I live with such a cat (Nov. 2011).

There is nothing in the index of the best book on cat health on the question. "How do you know if a cat is in pain?".

When this book describes the effect of kidney failure, it does not mention pain. It does not tell us if the various symptoms of kidney failure cause pain. And if our cat does feel pain under these circumstances, how is that pain expressed? There are symptoms but do they include pain rather than discomfort?

If we pick up a cat that is injured and cause pain the cat will probably cry out. A cat that was given a bad injection (vaccination) cried out. That is a sign. Verbalizing pain. But long term low level pain is different. If I am in discomfort and pain, I become quieter and less active. I want to be left alone to manage it. Is that how cats behave when they are in pain? Probably, yes, and they might lose their appetite. Accordingly, weight loss may be a sign of pain.

Non-routine behavior may also indicate pain. This page describes some rather vague symptoms of cats in pain. It is a difficult subject. Administering pain killers must be done under vet supervision.

When cats are declawed they feel acute and prolonged pain. They can't keep still and try and tear off their bandages. Strong pain killers are administered these days. That was not always the case because at one time vets thought cats did not feel pain - bizarre isn't it?

Associated page: Do cats feel pain after neutering?

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