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Is My Pet Painful?

By Emari Yokota, DVM, CVA, ACVCHM

Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and Herbalist

Don’t you wish your pet could speak English?

Obviously, we can see some of the most pronounced signs of pain: crying, biting or swiping at you when the painful area is touched, holding up a limb, limping, not wanting to walk, etc.

Picture this:

Think about how you felt the last time you pushed yourself a little too hard when you exercised….

You wake up the next morning and realize everything is a little stiff and achy. Getting dressed is suddenly an uncomfortable chore. You might not be able to take the steps as quickly as usual – you may even have to change the way you position your body, so it hurts a little less. Squatting to put your shoes on does not feel very good.

See where I’m getting at? You are still functioning…. you are just uncomfortable. Most of us soldier on with our daily lives. We may take some pain medication to take the edge off. We might be a little more impatient than usual or outright cranky with other people because we don’t feel our best. Instead of engaging in an activity, we may choose to sit it out to avoid engaging our muscles. Most people may not even realize we are uncomfortable unless we tell them, or worse, they push right on the sore spots. Ouch!

This is what we see in our pets with osteoarthritis and other chronic pain conditions too. Just like us, they may be slower to get up and sit down. They don’t want to move around as much, so they sleep more. They may not want to be pet, picked up or touched as much as they previously did. Squatting is much more difficult, creating problems when they need to relive themselves. The only problem: this is not going away with a few days of rest. The disease creeps up slowly on our pets and gets worse as the days march on. Before we know it, we look back and realize our dog has not brought us their favorite toy in a while. We see our cat using his front paws to jump up on the couch when he used to leap up without thinking twice.

What are some good pain relief options for our pets?

Acupuncture is a great non-medicinal tool for our pets to find relief. After about 3-5 appointments, most patients with chronic pain diseases will show improved strength and mobility. One of the most rewarding responses that we see before anything else is that patients often outwardly project more happiness and engagement with their people and environments. Acupuncture can be used by itself as well as combined with other therapies such as conventional medicines (e.g. dog or cat specific NSAIDs or gabapentin), natural therapies (e.g. herbal medicine, fish oils and joint supplements), and other therapies (e.g. laser therapy, chiropractic, and physical therapy exercises).

About the Author:

Dr. Yokota has been practicing in the Northern Virginia area for over 7 years. Her veterinary service, Well Whiskers, currently provides at home holistic care to her patients.

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