Meet Cairo! This is just one my patients for whom pain played a significant role in his behavior problems. Pain is one of the most common medical conditions that can cause or exacerbate behavior problems (e.g. aggression, anxiety, or house soiling).
Keep in mind that if an animal is in severe pain and holding up a limb and or limping around, I would not be seeing those patients. They would be at their veterinarian’s office with clear indicators that there is something physically wrong with their pet. I am often looking for more subtle indicators of pain by watching the pet walk around the room, jogging them, trotting them, and then following up with a physical exam while taking into consideration their behavioral and medical history.
In two recent cases, one for aggression and one for anxiety, both animals did well for the physical exam until I reached a certain muscle (i.e. illiopsoas muscle). When I examined this region directly or indirectly, one animal cried out in pain and the other became so aggressive I could not continue with the exam. Once these animals received proper treatment for a muscle strain/sprain their behavior issues improved considerably.
Pain can be very difficult to assess in other species. Dogs and cats will not always show pain in “obvious” ways. So we should not assume pain isn’t a component simply because they still walk, play, go up and down the stairs etc. Most of the patients I diagnose as having an issue causing pain, have been walking, jogging, playing etc…..After all, sometimes WE are in discomfort yet push through with an activity if we are motivated enough to do so. I will walk through my chronic foot pain (i.e. neuromas and plantar fasciitis) to get to a plate full of chocolate! However, if someone were to walk too close to my feet and I feared they might step on them, I might just growl and snap to keep them away!