One of the most reported behavioral problems in dogs is aggression. Though less common, this also can occur in cats. This can be a stressful, horrible experience for dog and cat owners, and in homes with aggressive pet behaviors the likelihood of injury, rehoming, and behavioral euthanasia is higher.

Most alarming are dogs and cats that have previously been gentle, but then suddenly exhibit changes in behavior. Could your pet be trying to tell you something if it suddenly becomes aggressive?

We love our pets so much; nothing means more to us than being completely ‘in tune’ to what they are trying to say.  Don’t give up on trying to understand their language!  Although your dog or cat cannot speak to you, they often exhibit behaviors that give you a clue.  In fact, a recent study looked at dogs exhibiting aggression and found that over ¼ of them had some painful medical condition.

Pain can be a common cause of behavioral changes in both cats and dogs, but people often do not correlate changes in behavior with the possibility that their pet may be in pain.  Typical signs are a dog that is unhappy when petted, or a dog that has started to snap at other pets in the house.  Cats may lash out during normal petting or grooming, where they never did so before.

And, anxiety or stress can make painful conditions worse.  In fact, unmitigated stress and anxiety can add significant burden to human chronic pain patients – making pain much harder to treat and manage! Take the time to consider if your pet is stressed, anxious or fearful, and get help for these issues.

Your best success in having a pain-free and happy pet is to be vigilant in your observation of all behaviors – and work with your veterinarian to identify any problems that may be brewing.

The good news is that if your pet is starting to exhibit some behavioral changes due to pain, the prognosis for recovery is good, if the painful condition is treated appropriately.  So, if your dog or cat is starting to be grumpy, be sure that your veterinarian performs a thorough physical exam and pain assessment.  Something could be lurking beneath the surface!