Pain in Animals

How do you know an animal is in pain?

It can be obvious if you’re animal is in pain or discomfort as there are clear signs such as limping or licking the painful area, but in an older animal signs like slowing down or being stiff in the morning maybe the result of pain or old age.

Many owners don’t realise their pet is in pain and sometimes the only way we can tell if an animal is in pain is to do a pain relief trial and monitor if there is any change. Sometimes an animal may have pain in more than one area, or had the pain so long it adapts and masks the signs.

As a veterinary surgeon I enjoy having a cuddle with a puppy and watching them grow but my personal daily highlight is working with the geriatrics. The reason is I have owned and adopted animals in their later years that have already started slowing down but I always feel that I have made a difference to their quality of life and that is how pain management became my area of interest.

Another common myth is that animals like rabbits and reptiles don’t feel pain, this is not true its just that they are better in hiding it. The good news is a lot of the following options are available for all species.

Regardless of the species of your animal if you believe it may be in pain the good news is we now have lots of options and treatments available.  The two main areas we offer are medical treatments and physical therapies often referred as complementary.

Medical options include

  • Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), Inflammation is caused by the release of a hormone-like compound called prostaglandin (PGE1) and is sustained by the enzyme cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2). Nsaids work to inhibit cox 2 and examples include aspirin, meloxicam and carprofen. These drugs are often the first line treatment in pain relief.
  • Paracetamol/Acetaminophen was previously thought to be a cox 2 inhibitor but now scientists aren’t sure how it works. In dogs it can be given in conjunction with other medication such as nsaids. In cats it must never be used as its toxic
  • Steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (steroids or corticosteroids) Steroids are medications that relieve pain and inflammation. Our bodies naturally produce steroids. The corticosteroids  we porescribe mimic natural steroids, but are in a much higher concentration. They are generally used for emergency rather than chronic treatment of painful conditions. However there is a drug called Prednoleucotropin tablets (plts) that is specifically for arthritis pain in dogs.
  • Tramadol is a type of strong opioid. It works on your nervous system and brain to reduce the amount of pain you feel. It can be given  as capsules, tablets or in liquid form. It is quite bitter but can be prescribed in conjunction with other treatments. Read More
  • Gabapentin  is a neurological medication and works on nerve endings. It is not intended to be a sole painkiller. It works on quieting the nerve endings then end up relieving pain
  • Amantadine was developed as an antiviral medication but also is useful in the treatment of chronic pain. It works by partially blocking a receptor within the central nervous system that is associated with pain pathways
  • Cartrophen Vet (pentosan polysulfate sodium) is an, injectable, sulphated sugar of plant origin.It has many sites of action within the underlying processes of the arthritis disease which helps maintain joint health, including preserving joint cartilage. It is therefore classified as a disease modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD). It works as a pain relief for other orthopaedic conditions that result in osteoarthritis.

Although medical treatments work well and quickly in the short term, they are a ‘plaster’ they stop pain but longer term it is more beneficial to work with other therapies to try and improve the under lying problem.

Complementary therapies

  • Weight loss – In chronic pain
  • Physiotherapy – treating disease or injury with physical methods such as massage, heat treatment or exercise
  • Western Acupuncture – acts by stimulating the nervous system and is used to treat (amongst others) musculoskeletal and post operative pain
  • Laser Therapy – used to reduce pain, reduce inflammation and enhance tissue healing
  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) – uses small electrical currents to targeted body parts and can reduce pain, excited nerves as well as release endorphins
  • Myofascial release – relieves tension caused by trauma, posture or inflammation, it is a physical therapy where sustained, gentle pressure is applied to areas of discomfort
  • Hydrotherapy – exercises in a pool that take advantage of the properties of water, such as temperature, buoyancy and pressure for the treatment of  disease, stiff joints or to strengthen muscle


If you’d like to learn more about complimentary therapies you can read Theo’s story on our Case Studies blog.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is a non evasive treatment of pain, inflammation and accelerates healing.


We are the first veterinary practice in North Wales to offer qualified hydro therapists, a hydrotherapy pool and an underwater treadmill with dedicated specialist consults.


Physiotherapy uses a range of different therapeutic techniques to deliver a tailor made rehabilitative program for your animal.  Mochdre Veterinary Practice is one of the first in North Wales to have an on site fully qualified animal physiotherapist.

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Consultation Times (by appointment only)

Monday – Friday 08:00 – 20:00
Saturday 09:00 – 12:00
Sunday 10:00 – 13:00


Mochdre Vets is the trading name for Heywood and Heywood Limited
and is registered in England and Wales. Registered Number 10654839.
Registered Office Williams House, Conway Road, Mochdre, Conwy.  LL28 5HE.