I don’t know what brought this story to mind. Maybe it was the recent discussion of Pit Bull dogs.
Many dogs and cats are pretty stoic about pain. Certainly some are screamers, wailing at even the vaguest contemplation of possible pain (much like my own self). Most conceal their pain, though. This is a survival mechanism in the wild. Animals who go around moaning about how hurt and helpless they are have a tendency to attract predators from higher up on the food chain. Much better to suck it up, keep a stiff upper lip, and put on a bold front. Don’t look like a victim if you don’t want to be one.
In pets, this is really not so helpful. While there’s nobody to help you in the wild, mummy and daddy would be glad to get something done if they just knew what was wrong. Often the only way to tell how much pain an older animal is suffering with arthritis is to do a trial therapy for a week or so. It is not uncommon for an owner who told me that their pet was "just getting old" to tell me "I have my dog back" after five days of medication.
Aside from the concealment of pain, there certainly are animals with higher pain thresholds than others. Generally, I would include Pit Bull dogs in that category. I have seen them appear to behave pretty normally with wounds that would have me writhing on the ground. My general rule of thumb is "would this be hurting me?" If so, I prescribe pain medicine, regardless of the animal’s behavior.
Once upon a time, a gentleman (I presume, though he was dressed like a renegade biker and looked rough as the devil), presented his Pit Bull dog for examination the day following an altercation. It seems that two dogs had been penned together for the purpose of making whoopie. The meter-reader, seeing two unfamiliar large dogs in the yard, elected to boldly go where most people would not. When the dogs appeared to resent his intrusion, he sprayed them with "Mace" and this engendered even more resentment. Instead of cowering and running away, the dogs became more territorial and aggressive. At this point, common sense partially asserted itself and the intruder beat a retreat. Alas, he failed to close the gate on his way out. He then called for animal control to alert them to this dangerous situation (which he had created). The animal control officer was unavailable, so a regular police officer was dispatched to the scene.
Now the last time the dog had seen someone in uniform, it was the meter-reader invading the boudoir and spraying mace. This did not make the policeman very welcome in the dog’s mace-blurred eyes. The dog bit the policeman’s hand and hung on. The officer drew his pistol and shot the dog, miraculously avoiding shooting his own hand in the process.
When I examined the dog on the following day, he was very calm and cooperative. I was able to probe the three bullet wounds with no protest. The slug had passed through the heavy muscle on top of the dog’s head, entry and exit, and gone on to lodge in the upper foreleg. As they say in the old Western movies, it was "just a flesh wound"…three of them. No bones were broken, no vital organs damaged, and the dog was walking okay.
Says I to the owner, "The body will wall off the slug and it isn’t necessary to remove it. We just need to put him on some antibiotics so the wounds don’t become infected, and we’ll give him some pain medicine for a few days." Says Mr. Tough-guy owner to me, "He’s tough. He don’t need anything for pain." Says I, skeptically, "Really? Have you ever been shot?" He replied, "Yeah, I have; right here" (pointing to his lower abdomen). "DId it hurt?" [beat…beat… beat,…sound of wheels turning slowly] "You can give him something for pain."
Did he need that pain medicine? I don’t know. I’m glad he got it, though. I don’t figure it hurt him any.