Thu 7th Sep 2023

Small furry pet pain signs – when to call the vet

Did you know that September is Pet Pain Awareness Month? Our team at Estcourt Vets truly understand how distressing it can be to see your pet in pain. With cats and dogs, pain signs can be more obvious such as a lower posture or limping. However, small animals, such as guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, are much more obscure when it comes to showing signs of pain.

Veterinary Surgeon Scott Carpenter has put together the following advice on how owners can closely monitor their small furry pet for indications they may not be feeling themselves.

Call us if you have any concerns

Why do small furry pets hide their pain?

Hiding pain is a natural survival instinct for many small furry pets as, in the wild, they are prey animals. Showing signs of illness or injury could be very dangerous to a small animal, making them experts in hiding pain to make them less likely to be hunted. This adaptive instinct has been passed on to their domesticated counterparts, so your own pet will also try to hide when they feel under the weather.

What signs to look for

Loss of appetite

The team at Estcourt Vets know that a loss of appetite can be an indicator for an undiagnosed medical condition that could need veterinary treatment. Chronic and acute pain can affect your pet’s ability to eat a nutritious meal and some of the conditions we diagnose from this symptom could be dental disease, diabetes and cancer amongst others.

Reduction/increase in water consumption

Monitoring the water consumption of your pet is a useful tool to work out whether they could be dehydrated or suffering from a condition that increases their thirst.

  • Rabbits should consume approximately 50-150ml per kilogram of their body weight daily
  • Guinea pigs should consume roughly 80-100ml of water per day
  • Hamsters should drink 10-30ml of water per day

Note that this figure increases if your small furry pet is pregnant or lactating.

Aggression & behavioural changes

Becoming more aggressive is a sign of pain. Monitor your pet to see if they are scratching or biting more than usual and take precautions if so – an animal in pain will sometimes not distinguish between their kind human carer and something they can use as an outlet for pain control.

Being excessively jumpy or appearing nervous are both signs of behavioural changes that affect small furry pets. These can indicate pain but sometimes also appear when your pet is feeling stressed or unhappy. Book an appointment with Estcourt Vets’ veterinary team so we can help distinguish between pain or stress and start any necessary treatments.


If your small furry pet is crying, whimpering or screaming, contact us immediately. This is a sign your pet is distressed and could be in a large amount of pain.

Posture and movement changes

If your pet is hunched over, looks stiff or is exhibiting a different gait to usual, Veterinary Surgeon Scott Carpenter wants owners to know that this is because of pain. Even just avoiding activities they usually love, such as running on their wheel or exploring the house, could be a sign that something may be affecting your small furry pet, such as arthritis or muscle/tendon strains. Contact our team on 01380 723687 to book an appointment with a vet.

Hiding in their environment

Hiding is another one of those evolutionary tactics that small animals have developed to disguise that they may be feeling pain. Hamsters instinctively burrow to protect themselves and other pets will also hide in their houses. Knowing your pet’s usual movements is essential in understanding whether they are acting differently to normal. Closely monitor your small furry pet and if they do seem to be hiding away, contact our team for more advice.

If you notice any of the signs above, it could mean your pet is in pain. Contact our team of experienced vets who will be able to assess your pet and make a diagnosis and treatment plan – ensuring they are back to their normal self in no time.

Call us if you have any concerns

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