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Pets and Their Pain

Don’t ignore the tell-tail signs.

If I could become a dog lady without judgment and ridicule, I think I’d do it in a heartbeat. I know I’m not the only one who walks down the street and whimpers a little when they see a homeless person with a dog sprawled out on the street. And Jack knows this about me: Without fail, I always head over to give them money. Jack stops me by saying that’s their ploy. But the dog! Those dogs can’t help themselves, so I have to help them -- right? Our little mutt gets enough food to feed half the homeless puppies out there

And that’s how I inevitably decided that I want to take all those helpless dogs in. Why, you might ask, am I confessing my urge to care for all the pups in NYC? Well, I found this article on PsychologyToday.com about how dogs, contrary to previous belief, actually do experience pain similar to humans -- they just don’t display it in the same ways.

It’s appalling that, oftentimes, vets release animals after major surgeries like neutering without painkillers. Like the article says: “Consider the comparable human situation where a woman has had a hysterectomy. Imagine what the response would be if her physician told her that he was not going to prescribe any medication for her since ‘the pain will be good for you because it will keep you quiet while you are healing.’” This was essentially the case for dogs -- the previous belief was to not provide drugs because the little guys weren’t outwardly displaying pain and the calm and quiet would ultimately help them recover.

But now (thank God those researchers wised up), literature shows that pain, over a long period of time, is actually terrible for dogs’ health. Ummmm, doesn’t this seem like a no-brainer to you? The findings show: “Pain is a stressor, and in response to stress the body begins to release a set of stress-related hormones. These affect virtually every system in the body, altering the rate of metabolism, causing neurological responses, causing the heart, thymus glands, adrenal glands and the immune system to go into a high state of activity. If this situation continues long enough these organs may actually become dysfunctional.” Jeez, that doesn’t sound good.

Ultimately, this relates back to me. (Well, and Jack, but he doesn’t know about my plan to turn our house upstate into a doggy sanctuary.) When I take in all those dogs, I will not only keep a careful eye on them -- because dogs have coping mechanisms to deal with pain, like shying away, keeping really quiet and even becoming aggressive to hide their weakened state -- but I’ll also insist on heavy doses of doggy Vicodin (if that exists) when they get a minor surgery. The study shows that the benefits of painkillers after vet visits “include improved respiratory functions, decreasing stress responses surrounding surgery, decreased length of hospitalization, faster recovery to normal mobility, improved rates of healing and even a decreased likelihood of infection after surgery.” There you have it. Sure, I’ll be spending a buttload of money on a pet, but I’m cool with that…

What about y’all: Do you have an urge to rescue every dog on the street? And are you keeping an eye on your little pups like you should be?

-- Holly