Pets

Pets column: Dog feels pain; she just shows it in a different way

 
 
Khuly
Khuly

khulyp@bellsouth.net

Q: Our 6-month-old Lab puppy, Bella, was spayed last week. Afterwards, she acted like nothing was wrong. I expected her to be a little sluggish, but she was super-active! I had a similar surgery last year and couldn’t walk for a week. Do pets feel pain the way we do?

A: I can understand how observing an exuberant pup who has just had her uterus and ovaries scooped out with a scalpel would make you wonder whether they feel things the same way we do. Sometimes I wonder the same thing –– usually after they’ve bolted after a cat, jumped a few fences, and ripped out some stitches along the way.

Pets do experience pain. They simply have a different way of dealing with it.

All animals hide their pain and distress. This is an effective evolutionary adaptation designed to help them avoid predators when they’re sick or injured. Even pets, divorced from their wild cousins though they’ve been, have never lost that natural skill.

This evolutionary advantage, combined with a) their desire to please their human family, b) their excitement in our immediate presence, and c) their inability to communicate verbally, means our pets don’t display pain in ways humans would readily recognize.

As humans, we’re inclined to anthropomorphize our pets. We tend to resort to our human understanding, limited though it may be, to fathom their feelings on the subject of pain (among others). Which means they’re more likely to go without proper pain relief.

The good news is that veterinary medicine has made great strides in treating pain relief. We’ve learned that pain can be measured using simple metrics adapted from human pediatric medicine. After all, babies don’t talk or show pain like human adults do, and yet we know they feel pain.

As to your Lab puppy: Pain scoring systems in pets reveal that even young, excitable pets like Bella experience pain after surgery. They may drool, their heart rate may rise, they may cry or whine. That’s why all pets should receive pain medication –– ideally before, during and after surgery –– regardless of their visible reactions.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to khulyp@bellsouth.net.

Read more Lifestyle stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Diver Frank Notte gets ready to go over the side of the St. Nicholas VII and demonstrate old-fashioned sponge harvesting on the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs.

    Tarpon Springs

    Dive into Greek culture on the Florida coast? Opa!

    First we saw a few bubbles. Then so many that the water seemed to boil. Next appeared a bulbous brass helmet, big as a beach ball, trailing a long rubber hose. A human hand clasped the side of the wooden boat. A minute later, the diver had climbed back aboard the St. Nicholas VII. Clad in traditional early-20th-century diving getup, he appeared to have stepped directly from a Jules Verne novel.

  •  
The work 'IMAG_NE' by Australian artist Emma Anna, coming to Boca Raton this fall, on display in Sydney, Australia in 2008.

    Florida notes

    It’s the season to see Key Deer

    Dear to the hearts of many are the miniature deer that exist only in the Florida Keys. Fully grown, these Key Deer stand only two to three feet high, but resemble their bigger siblings in every respect: Stags grow a full set of antlers, does charm with their limpid eyes.

  • Carolyn Hax

    Carolyn Hax: Siblings not pitching in when mother needs them

    Dear Carolyn: I am the youngest of five siblings. We lost my dad almost a year ago. My parents were married for 60 years, and my mom is lost without my dad.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category