How to Manage Chronic Pain in Senior Pets: Tips and Strategies

As pets get older, they can encounter a range of health problems that may impact their quality of life. Chronic pain is among the most prevalent problems that aging dogs experience. Whether it’s due to arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or other conditions, chronic pain can significantly impact a pet’s ability to enjoy life. In this article, we will explain several types of chronic pain with some tips and strategies to manage chronic pain in senior pets.

Types of Chronic Pain

There are several causes of chronic pain that could be affecting your senior pet.


Chronic pain in pets refers to any type of chronic pain that is not related to osteoarthritis. Here are some examples of non-osteoarthritis chronic pain that pets may experience.

Dental disease

If left unaddressed, dental disease in pets can lead to chronic discomfort. The pain can make it arduous for pets to eat or groom themselves properly. It’s important to bring your pet into their vet for a dental cleaning once a year to avoid this ailment.


Cancer is more prevalent in older pets and can cause prolonged pain, particularly if it has spread to other parts of the body.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

IVDD is a spinal column disorder that can cause persistent pain and mobility issues in pets.


Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas becomes swollen and can cause constant pain in pets.

Aural infections

If left untreated, ear infections in pets can result in long-term suffering. The pain can make it difficult for pets to eat, sleep, or engage in their normal activities.

Bladder infections

Bladder infections can cause accustomed pain in pets, specifically when urinating. The pain can make pets hesitant to go to the bathroom, which can lead to other health problems.

Gastrointestinal disorders

Digestive disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, can be a source of chronic pain in pets. The pain can make it difficult for pets to eat, which can lead to weight loss and other health problems.


Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that is common in both dogs and cats, particularly in older pets. It causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility.


Osteoarthritis is a specific type of chronic pain that affects the bones and joints of pets. It is a degenerative joint disease that causes inflammation and breakdown of the cartilage that covers the ends of bones, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Here are some of the most common types of osteoarthritis chronic pain that pets may experience:

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that affects the hip joints (acetabulofemoral joint) in pets. It causes the hip joint to become loose and unstable, which can lead to inflammation, pain, and eventually osteoarthritis.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a genetic condition that affects the elbow joint in dogs. It causes abnormal development of the elbow joint, leading to inflammation, pain, and eventually osteoarthritis.

Cruciate ligament disease

Cruciate ligament disease is a common knee injury in dogs that can lead to osteoarthritis. It causes instability in the knee joint, leading to inflammation and damage to the cartilage and bones.

Strategies and Tips for Chronic Pain Management

Follow the strategies below to start helping your pet with their chronic pain.

Monitor Your Pet’s Behavior

One of the most important things you can do as a pet owner is to keep an eye out on your pet’s behavior for signs of pain. While some pets may be vociferous about their discomfort, others may try to disguise them. Watch for changes in your pet’s appetite, sleeping habits (chronotypes), and activity level. Pets who are in pain may become less active, reluctant to play, and may be hesitant to jump up or down from high surfaces. If you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to identify the cause and appropriate treatment.

Keep Your Pet’s Weight Under Control

Improper weight can put additional strain on a pet’s joints, aggravating pain and making it harder for them to move comfortably. Maintaining an optimal weight for your pet can help to manage pain and improve the overall quality of life. If your pet is overweight, work with your veterinarian to develop a safe and efficient weight loss plan.

Provide a Comfortable Environment

Senior pets may have difficulty getting around, especially if they are in pain. Providing a pleasant environment can help to alleviate distress and improve mobility. Consider providing soft bedding, low-rise furniture, and non-slip surfaces to help your pet move around more easily.

Consider Supplements and Alternative Therapies

Supplements and alternative therapies can help to manage chronic pain in senior pets. Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements may be helpful for pets with joint pain, while acupuncture and massage can help to relieve muscle tension and improve mobility. Moreover, omega-3 fatty acid supplements can also help reduce inflammation. Talk to your veterinarian about which therapies may be appropriate for your pet’s individual needs.

Follow Your Veterinarian’s Treatment Plan

Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to manage chronic pain in your senior pet. It’s important to follow their treatment plan closely to ensure that your pet is receiving the appropriate care. Your veterinarian may also recommend regular check-ups and blood work to monitor your pet’s response to treatment and adjust the plan as necessary.

Use Pain Management Medications

Pain management medications can help alleviate chronic pain in senior pets. However, these medications should be used under the guidance of a veterinarian. Over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can be toxic to pets, so it’s crucial to use medications that are specifically formulated for pets.

dog pain management in Peoria, IL

Manage Your Pet’s Pain Holistically

Managing your pet’s pain holistically involves addressing all aspects of their health, including their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Consider incorporating activities that promote mental and emotional stimulation, such as puzzle toys and interactive games. This can help to distract your pet from their pain and improve their overall mood and quality of life.

Be Patient and Understanding

Managing chronic pain in senior pets can be a challenging and ongoing process. It’s important to be patient and understanding with your pet as they adjust to new medications, therapies, and changes in their environment. Keep in mind that some days may be better than others, and it’s important to celebrate small victories along the way.

Consider Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage can help relieve chronic pain in senior pets. These therapies can improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. Consult with your veterinarian on the best alternative therapy for your pet’s specific condition.

Provide Adequate Exercise

Exercise can help maintain your pet’s mobility and reduce chronic pain. However, the type and intensity of exercise should be tailored to your pet’s condition. Gentle activities like short walks, swimming, and stretching can help keep your pet’s joints and muscles mobile and reduce stiffness.

Use Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy can help alleviate chronic pain in senior pets. Applying a warm compress or heating pad can help improve blood flow and reduce stiffness. On the other hand, cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and swelling. Consult with your veterinarian on the best approach for your pet’s specific condition.


Managing chronic pain in senior pets requires a multi-faceted approach that involves close monitoring of your pet’s behavior, maintaining a healthy weight, providing a comfortable environment, considering supplements and alternative therapies, following your veterinarian’s treatment plan, managing pain holistically, and being patient and understanding. With the right care and attention, you can help to improve your senior pet’s quality of life and alleviate its chronic pain.

If your dog or cat is dealing with chronic pain in the Peoria, IL region, visit Whitney Veterinary Hospital. Our expert vets will be able to look at the root cause of your pet’s pain and treat any underlying conditions that may be making your pet anxious. Give us a call today at (309) 685-4707, or Request an Appointment Online.