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Signs of Pain in Cats & What Can Help

Your cat's level of comfort will directly affect their overall quality of life. Depending on the cause, pain may make it difficult for them to eat, move or sleep. Here, our Crystal Lake vets discuss the signs and causes of pain in cats and how veterinary integrative medicine like acupuncture can help manage their symptoms.

Is your cat in pain?

Signs that a cat is in pain vary depending both upon the personality of the cat and the type of pain they are experiencing.

Most cats will show obvious signs of acute pain if they have an accident or injury but it can be much more challenging to tell if your cat is experiencing chronic pain such as pain caused by arthritis or gum disease. 

Because cats instinctively hide signs of pain it is essential for pet parents to always keep a watchful eye for uncharacteristic behavior, personality changes, an unusual stride, or changes in appetite.

What are the signs of pain in cats?

If your kitty is experiencing pain you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent or ongoing meowing or howling
  • Litter box accidents, urinating outside of their litterbox
  • Tail flicking
  • Won't eat or reduced appetite
  • Poor grooming, scruffy-looking
  • Reduced energy, lethargy or lack of interest in play or going outside
  • Hiding, no interest in spending time with you or other family members
  • Limping
  • Patchy fur
  • Avoiding being handled, picked up or petted
  • Behavioral changes such as refusing to jump onto a bed or furniture that they typically love to be on
  • Irritable mood, short-tempered with people or other pets including
  • Uncharacteristic hissing, growling or spitting
  • Unusual vocalizations (meowing more than usual, crying)
  • Excessive grooming
  • Panting

How does pain affect your cat's behavior?

Cats in pain will often display changes in body language. In some cases, the body language changes of a cat in pain will be very noticeable but often these changes are more subtle. Our vets recommend always monitoring your cat's overall demeanor, stance, and gait so that any changes from their normal will be easily spotted. 

  • Body language changes related to pain in cats include:
  • Tense looking body
  • Crouched or being hunched over
  • Head lowered

Will my cat's facial expressions change when they experience pain?

While many cats show little or no change in their facial expression while experiencing pain, some cats are very expressive. If your cat is in pain they might:

  • Squint or close their eyes tightly
  • Flatten their ears so that they are pressed to the sides or back of their head
  • Project an overall facial appearance of tension with a tight mouth

Does my cat require emergency veterinary care?

Often signs of pain in cats are missed until the cat's condition is advanced. When it comes to your cat's long-term health it's always best to err on this side of caution.

Depending on the severity of the pain or condition, your cat may need immediate urgent care. If your cat appears to be in pain along with other signs, including bleeding, vomiting, lethargy or unconsciousness, please contact our vets for immediate emergency veterinary care.

Veterinary Acupuncture For Pain in Cats

Acupuncture is a treatment that has been used for centuries in China to relieve pain and treat a host of illnesses in people. Now vets trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) offer this therapy to our animals as well.

Veterinary acupuncture for cats is performed by a trained TCVM veterinary professional and aims to treat and manage the symptoms of illnesses and disorders by inserting ultra-thin needles into specific points on the body where nerves and blood vessels intersect.

TCVM, which also includes other therapies beyond acupuncture, can be combined with conventional veterinary care to provide a more holistic, full-body approach to treating medical conditions in animals.

Animals at any stage of life from kittens to adult and senior cats can undergo pet acupuncture treatment for a range of health conditions. Veterinary acupuncture is considered a safe and effective treatment option that may provide relief from the pain or discomfort associated with injury and illness.

The Benefits of Veterinary Acupuncture

Veterinary acupuncture and other traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) treatments are believed to produce several health benefits and can be a great addition to any treatment plan. Benefits of veterinary acupuncture for cats include:

  • Stimulating the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory substances.
  • No negative side effects on internal organs, as can occur with some prescription medications.
  • There are no adverse interactions with other medications or supplements, making acupuncture a safe treatment for animals undergoing conventional treatments.
  • Acupuncture treatments are believed to create elevated blood flow and increased oxygenation as well as improved metabolic and toxic waste removal.
  • Localized pain relief may be achieved at the site of needle insertion due to the relaxation of the muscles in that area.

While our team at CASE Hospital does not offer acupuncture services, we do provide a range of other integrative veterinary medicine services for cats in Crystal Lake. Veterinary integrative medicine is a comprehensive approach to healing that combines the best of traditional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies such as physical rehabilitation.

This type of veterinary care provided by highly trained practitioners, focuses on treating the whole animal, in partnership with the client, the medical team, and appropriate therapeutic options to comfortably speed recovery, reduce pain, and achieve the best possible outcome. If you would like to learn more about our integrative medicine services, please reach out to our veterinary team today.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat experiencing pain or discomfort? Our integrative medicine services may be able to help. Ask your vet about a referral to our specialty animal hospital in Crystal Lake.

New Patients Welcome

Companion Animal Specialty and Emergency Hospital is accepting new patients! Our specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions in Crystal Lake.

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Contact (815) 479-9119