Humans who live with animals know (if they are paying attention) that non-human animals can–and do–experience pain, but non-human animals can have their own unique way of dealing with it.
Show Us Where It Hurts
Mammals share the same nervous system, neurochemicals, perceptions, and emotions, all of which are integrated into the experience of pain, says Marc Bekoff, evolutionary biologist and author.
Whether mammals feel pain like we do is unknown, Bekoff says—but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience it.
There are some clues as to how animals—especially pets—communicate physical suffering.
For instance, Dorothy Brown’s dog Foster has phantom limb pain in a leg that was amputated after being hit by a car.
“He will be fast asleep and jump up and cry and look at where his leg used to be,” says Brown, who teaches surgery at the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary Hospital, where Foster was brought in for treatment. Human amputees also experience this phenomenon.
Photo: Wounded wolf (Canis lupus) licking its wounds after territorial fight, Bavarian Forest, Germany. Photograph by Arterra, Getty Images