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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

Whether I have my "normal vet" hat on or my veterinary behaviour/ pain assessor hat on, pain in animals is something I deal with every single day.

Most animals are incredibly resilient- and when motivated to eat, drink, run and play, despite the fact they have underlying pain issues- they get on with it, regardless.

This doesn't mean the pain isn't there, it just means that it is at a manageable level rather than an overwhelming/ debilitating level, which stops other normal and necessary functions.

Unfortunately- pet owners are often shocked and surprised when they find out their pet is and probably, has been in pain for a long time- in some cases since puppy or kittenhood, if it is a hereditary or congenital defect they have been born with.

Equally- just because an animal allows a vet to manipulate their head/ neck/ back or limbs, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. X-rays give us a good idea what is going on under the skin's surface, but they don't tell us about the nerves, muscles, ligaments or tendons which surround the bones we can see on the x-ray. A clean or "normal" looking x-ray does not mean the animal isn't experiencing pain. It just means we can't point our finger, or a little digital arrow, on the place we want to call the "source or root" of the problem.

"Animal pain is an aversive, sensory experience representing awareness by the animal of damage or threat to the integrity of its tissues; (note that there might not be any damage).

It changes the animal’s physiology and behaviour to reduce or avoid the damage, to reduce the likelihood of its recurrence and to promote recovery.

Non-functional (non-useful) pain occurs when the intensity or duration of the experience is not appropriate for damage sustained (especially if none exists) and when physiological and behavioural responses are unsuccessful in alleviating it."

(Molony, 1997)

Sometimes, reluctance to go for a walk, jump into the car or on/ off furniture or window ledges (if we're talking about cats), play rough and tumble games or tolerate snuggling up on the couch- might mean they don't feel up to it or they would prefer peace and quiet instead.

Animals cannot articulate that they feel uncomfortable or would prefer not to be touched or lifted, so instead they communicate in the only ways they can, that they want space and ideally distance from the situation they are worried about. Sometimes that looks like fear, sometimes it looks like aggression, but it is coming from the same place- "I'm in pain right now or I was painful there before and I don't want to be painful again, so leave me alone!"

There are some fantastic resources available to help pet owners recognise pain in their companion animals and to help explain why it can be: unpredictable, variable, exaggerated or "temporarily forgotten" if the motivation to have fun or do something nice is strong enough.

You may find the following links helpful:

Animal Pain Awareness - IVAPM

Signs Of Pain - Cats Health and Advice | Cats Protection

How to Tell if a Dog Is in Pain | Signs & Symptoms Of Pain In Dogs (

Pain recognition and its management in rabbits | Vet Times

Full article: Pain in birds: a review for veterinary nurses (

Pain Recognition and Management in Horses | News | Merck Equine (

If you think, or if you've been told that your pet is in pain, do seek help from your veterinary surgeon right away- there are loads of things we can do to help. There are also qualified veterinary physiotherapists, hydrotherapists, rehabilitation practitioners and members of many other disciplines, relying on evidence- based medicine, licensed medications and recognised specialist techniques, to help support you and your pet to enjoy the best quality of life that we can give.

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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

In my native Scotland, we go "guising" at Halloween- children dress-up in fancy dress costumes, visit their neighbours and do a "party piece," sing a song, tell a joke, do a wee dance or magic trick, in return for sweeties, tangerines/apples and on occasion a small amount of pocket- money. There is no trick as an alternative to giving treats- it's a positive experience for the children and the households they visit!

Please do give a thought to the animals living both inside and outside of people's homes this Halloween!

Scary People

Cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and other companion animals, who are normally really well socialised with children, may be apprehensive and then anxious meeting "sugar rush" children, full of squealing excitement and with painted faces and weird and wonderful costumes on. When the only options are to freeze, run away and hide or "ask/ bark/ hiss" to get the children to back off and give them space- many pets might be misunderstood and potentially admonished for reacting negatively. You and I know that the children mean no harm- but if your pet doesn't know that, they are going to want to scarper or vocalise to create a safe distance between themselves and the "scary person or people."

Safe & Happy Place

Make sure you think about where your pets are going to be safe, quiet and comfortable, if you are expecting brightly coloured and noisy visitors to your home. Make sure they have some interesting toys, chews or food dispensing games to keep them entertained. If you have access to lovely appeasing pheromones (Adaptil/ Feliway/ Rabbit Appeasing Pheromone) please do plug them in or spray them on bedding or bandanas.

Pet Costumes

I am personally not a great fan of dressing pets up- I would be much happier dressing up myself and allowing my pets to be "au naturale" but still participating in the fun and treats. If your pet particularly enjoys dressing up- please make sure the clothing is not heavy, tight or restrictive in any way. If they struggle when you put it on, and have their heads and tails down, or spend their time trying to get it off, please remove, accepting it's just not for them. If they appear to enjoy it, not minding it being put on and possibly enjoying the additional attention they get- then fair enough.

Chocolate & Sweeties

Please remember that dogs and cats should never be fed "normal or non- pet friendly" chocolate or sweets. The chemicals in both (Theobromine/ Xylitol) are toxic for animals. Instead- treat them with their favourite biscuits or pet friendly treats instead.


Animals both indoors and outside (remember the livestock in the fields and wild birds/ foxes/ rabbits) exposed to the noise from fireworks, without any understanding that we humans consider them "entertaining!" Never let off fireworks anywhere near animals, of any kind. If your pets are indoors, put them in a room away from direct exposure to fireworks, away from conservatories or patio doors; play a loud movie or music to distract them, treat them to nice things to eat or their favourite games instead, to try and turn the whole thing into a positive rather than negative experience. Plan your dog walks for earlier in the day, before dark, so they only need out for a quick loo break when it's dark. Select routes away from planned public firework displays. Please keep dogs on lead- as if they are off lead and startled, they could run off or get into bother (risk of getting hit by a car in panic).

Medications and Anti- Anxiety supplements

There are some things you can buy, over- the counter- or online which might help? I mentioned pheromones, which are great, and completely safe. There are some others you can look up including Zylkene (milk protein casein) and products containing L- Tryptophan. There are also licensed "panicolytic" medications your vet can advise you on, including Sileo, Xanax, Pexion and longer- term anti- anxiety medications such as Reconcile, Clomicalm and Selgian. Don't leave it until the last minute- book in to see your vet asap if you think your pet needs help coping during the firework season.

Have fun & make sure your pets stay safe and happy too!

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  • Writer's pictureClaire Corridan

The IVBA’s inaugural event, held in Belfast on September 16th, 2022, was arranged in honour of Mr Des Thompson OBE, BA, MVB, MSc (VetGP) Hon. FRCVS. Des was the Chairman of the British Veterinary Behaviour Association for decades and campaigned to promote both the veterinary profession and the discipline of veterinary behaviour in Ireland throughout his career. Anyone who has met Des and enjoyed his company for any amount of time, can tell you how proud he is of both Ireland and the veterinary profession. Des’s input, energy and connections were instrumental in establishing the Young Vet Network and Vetlife/IVBF.

Combining 2 of Des’s passions: veterinary orthopaedics and veterinary behavioural medicine, the IVBA Belfast conference promised to “explore how a veterinary behavioural approach can enhance the management of companion animal orthopaedic cases.” Guest speakers included Professor Stuart Carmichael (Joint Adventures Ltd) who explained the importance of treating the animal and not the x-ray! Anne Rogers (VN & Director at AniEd) covered the preparation of patients for elective orthopaedic surgeries. The double act of Dr James Hunt (Pet Pain Relief, UK) and Dr Claire Corridan (Great Expectations & UCD) talked about both the pharmacological and behavioural strategies we can use to handle painful and frightened cases attending for orthopaedic procedures in practice. Dr Siobhan Menzies (Holistic Pet NI) explored post operative management to include analgesic and rehabilitation protocols, to improve compliance and surgical success rates.

For more photos and feedback from the event, visit

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