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

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Lucky Us. </span>Amy Bloom. Random. pages. 256 pages. $26.

    Fiction

    A pair of sisters take on post-war America in Amy Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’

    An irrepressible pair of half-sisters take on post-war America and emerge with a new vision of family.

  • What are you reading now?

    “Song of the Shaman by Annette Vendryes Leach. I am a real sucker for any book that involves magic and religion. And this one is also about being a mother, so I was pretty much sold before even opening the book. But the opening scene is a gritty, bloody one of a woman giving birth on the Brooklyn Bridge. Which of course means I can’t stop reading even if I wanted to. I mean, the woman’s back is bucking against an ashtray as she pushes. What a way to open a book!”

  • Dear Abby

    Dear Abby: Son-in-law’s abusive father makes family gathering painful

    Dear Abby: I adore my son-in-law, “Tom.” He’s a wonderful husband to our daughter. He’s always inviting us to dinner along with his parents and family. We get along with them, but can’t stand how they treat Tom. We have never seen parents treat their children the way they treat him — especially the father. Tom is practically begging for his approval and attention on a daily basis.

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