Does Your Cat Feel Pain?


“An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”

- Abridged from the International Association for the Study of Pain


1. Arthritis

Arthritis pain is caused by several factors:
a. Inflammation - the process that causes the redness and swelling in your cat's joints
b. Damage to joint tissues, which results from the disease process or from stress, injury or pressure on the joints;
c. Fatigue that results from the disease process, which can make your cat's pain seem worse and harder to handle
d. Depression or stress, which results from limited movement or no longer doing activities your cat once enjoyed.

2. Oral Pain

Causes of oral pain:
a. Dental cavities - feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions
b. Tooth-root abscesses
c. Gingivitis/Stomatitis - inflammed gums and/or oral cavity, also oral ulcers
d. Jaw dislocation/fracture
e. Acid reflux
f. Oral cancer
g. Sinusitis

3. Post-op pain

a. Constant surgically-related pain, frequently described as aching in nature and ordinarily near the surgical site
b. Acute exacerbation of pain added to the basal pain and due to activities such as getting up from a resting position, bandage changes, basic handling, etc.

Pain control may have a further benefit of improving clinical outcome by reducing the incidence of postoperative complications such as:

1. Heart problems
2. Impaired wound healing
3. Lung problems
4. Blood clots
5. Metabolic abnormalities

4. Ear pain

Outer ear inflammation (otitis externa) pain is usually excruciating, particularly with bacterial or yeast infections. The pain is made worse by pressure on the outer ear. There is usually at least some hearing loss, owing to the fact that the ear canal may be swollen shut and/or clogged with debris. Other "ear symptoms," such as tinnitus (ringing) or vertigo (a spinning dizzy sensation), occasionally accompany the pain and hearing loss. The pain of acute external otitis is worsened when the outer ear is touched or pulled gently. Cats may also experience ear discharge and itchiness.

Because the symptoms of external otitis promote many people to attempt to clean out their cat's ear canal (or scratch it), and self-cleaning attempts generally lead to additional trauma of the injured skin, rapid worsening of the condition often occurs.

5. Eye pain

Eye pain is caused by a number of common conditions in cats:
a. Abrasions or ulcers of the cornea
b. Conjunctivitis
c. Glaucoma
d. Inflammation of the iris
e. Inflammation/infection of the optic nerve (optic neuritis)
f. Sinusitis
g. Trauma

6. Bladder pain

One of the most common conditions I treat at the cat clinic is bladder pain. Causes of this type of pain include:

a. sterile cystitis (bladder inflammation WITHOUT infection) - most common
b. true urinary tract infections (caused by bacteria/yeast)
c. urinary crystals and/or stones
d. urinary tract cancer

7. Pancreatitis

The most common symptom of acute pancreatitis is pain. Almost every cat with acute pancreatitis experiences pain.

The pain may come on suddenly or build up gradually. If the pain begins suddenly, it is typically very severe. If the pain builds up gradually like a choo choo train rolling into the station, it starts out mild but may become severe. The pain is usually centered in the upper middle or upper left part of the belly (abdomen). The pain may feel as if it radiates through to the back. The pain often begins or worsens after eating. The pain typically lasts a few days.

8. Diabetes

Diabetes can damage many organs and destroys small blood vessels, while the nervous system becomes an innocent, injured bystander.

The pain arises from nerves that are injured or malfunctioning. These crippled fibers can be found anywhere along their path, from the tip of the tail to the brain. Diabetes eats away at the thread-thin blood vessels that feed delicate nerve cells.

Diabetes alters sensation in the smallest nerves, which happen to lie at the end of the peripheral nervous system, located in all four paws. Diabetes starves these tiny nerves. As a result, the nervous system becomes confused about what is and isn't painful. Anything that that touches skin served by these tiny, hypersensitive nerves-is going to send signals to the spinal cord, where they may be mistaken for pain.

9. Cancer pain

Why does cancer hurt?
a. Blocked blood vessels causing poor circulation
b. Bone fracture from metastasis
c. Infection and/or inflammation
d. Side effects from cancer treatments (e.g., chemotherapy, radiation)
e. Tumor exerting pressure on a nerve

Initially, pain may produce physiological signs such as grimacing, rapid heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing. Patients with pain lasting more than 3 months (chronic pain) often do not display physiological signs and as a result, chronic pain often is undertreated.

So, the answer to the question above is: Yes, animals DO feel pain, but we're finally doing something about it. Cats feel the same way people feel during a painful stimulus...so, think about people who allow animals to get pregnant so they can sell the offspring and make money. Chest fluid is very painful, by the way. And lots of other things, so if you have any questions, please feel free to post them here.

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