Our pets can feel as much pain as we do, but it's difficult for them to let us know how much they hurt. Subtle signs may indicate a cat's discomfort, but being the stoic creatures that they are, it's often difficult to tell. When we know kitty is hurting, there are a few things we can do to help her feel better.
Signs of Pain
According to veterinarian Dr. Ron Hines, feline pain can be the result of surgery, injury or disease and is either temporary or permanent. Chronic pain in older pets that are otherwise healthy is usually due to arthritis and joint instability.
Cats hide their pain and will often hunch up when their tummy hurts. Some cats hiss and growl if the painful area is touched, and they won't purr when petted. Cats with acute pain will usually experience a decreased appetite, meow incessantly, salivate more than usual, breathe rapidly and have an increased heart rate.
Cats have unique body biochemistry and their liver functions make it dangerous for them to take most anti-inflammatory medicines that can also cause kidney damage. Never give a cat acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin.
Don't try to medicate your cat yourself if using synthetic pain relievers. The most common cause of pet poisonings occurs when pet owners give their animals human medicine or use prescribed medication incorrectly. This kind of treatment should be done under a vet's supervision.
A vet may prescribe corticosteroids, which are hormones naturally produced by the adrenal glands and have anti-inflammatory and immune suppressant properties. But corticosteroids can have serious side effects so shouldn't be used long-term.
Homeopathic pain medications are made from natural ingredients. Traumeel is a pain reliever that contains 12 botanical and two mineral substances, and is often recommended by holistic veterinarians for pain. Physicians have been using it for more than 50 years as a safe alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs. Traumeel provides short-term relief of minor aches and pains and comes in non-prescription (OTC) ointment and tablets.
Dandelion flowers have weak but useful analgesic qualities, which makes them a safe and gentle pain reliever for cats. You can make your own infusion by heating a handful of flowers in water to near boiling, then administer the cooled liquid with a dropper.
For relief from arthritis pain, cats can safely take glucosamine and chondroitin, which are nutrients that help relieve inflammation while rebuilding cartilage and lubricating the joints.
Acupuncture is a controversial treatment for pain in cats. Some vets completely dismiss it as a viable option, but holistic veterinarians like Dr. Gary VanEngelenburg bases his entire practice on acupuncture and herbal medicines. Acupuncture needles are so tiny, generally only 0.02 mm wide, that the animal feels virtually no pain. For cats that are intolerant of needles, modern methods of needle-less acupuncture do exist.