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Pet Hospice 101: Quality of Life: Recognizing Pain in a Pet

The goal of pet hospice is to make sure that the pet is as pain-free and comfortable as possible. This begins with being able to recognize when a pet is pain. Pets do not show outward signs of pain and suffering the way humans do. Many clients may be completely oblivious to their pets suffering if they don’t know what signs to look for. Pet hospice service professionals rely on a special pain assessment to determine the condition of a pet. They use the results of this assessment to educate the client on the amount of pain of their pet is experiencing and how they can help. When looking for signs of pain in a pet, it is important to consider what is normal vs. abnormal. Biting, licking, and chewing, for example, are often considered normal pet behaviors and not a reason to raise an alarm. However, these actions can point to something more than just anxiety; for example, there could be an infection or deeper pain beneath the surface. Pet owners expect to see whining or crying, but in reality, pets express pain and discomfort in much subtler ways. Discussing the list of signs below with clients can help save pets from unnecessary suffering.

Signs of pain

  • Hesitation to stand or lay down

  • Dragging on a walk

  • Hiding

  • Sleeping more or less

  • Loss of interest in playing with owner or other pets

  • No longer doing a behavior, such as being held

Signs of anxiety

  • Panting

  • Heart pounding

  • Pacing

  • Unable to sleep

The differences between signs of anxiety and signs of pain in a pet are subtle. Help clients understand the difference between the two and empower them to better care for their pet. This works towards the ultimate goal- to make sure that the pet is as pain-free and comfortable as possible. A pet’s quality of life can be greatly increased just by educating clients and raising awareness. If a client needs help to recognize signs of pain, refer them to a pet hospice care service for a formal consultation and assessment.

Article by: Gentle Journey's Dr. Christina Guttuso, DVM in Phoenix, Arizona

Gentle Journey's Mission: The goal of pet hospice is to make sure that the pet is as pain-free and comfortable as possible. This goal is best achieved when veterinary clinics and pet hospice providers work as a team to provide a high-quality care and services for clients.

If you have concerns regarding your pet's quality of life, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Call us at (602) 807-4690 to schedule an

appointment today.

For additional information regarding pet hospice and

in-home end of life services visit

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