This is one of those questions that pet owners ask me most often. This is most often associated with a disease condition and the quality of life that is taken away from the animals with that condition. In this regard, in such moments, we must always first solve a small dilemma and ask ourselves whether we mean suffering or pain. Usually the answer is, “Well, it’s one and the same.” Well, of course I have to answer that it’s not one and the same.
Animals certainly feel pain quite similarly to humans, with a very different pain threshold, which depends on the type of animal, breed, age, but the pain is felt by all animals. But animals suffer in a very different way than we humans. The simplest way to imagine the latter is to say that they suffer similarly to very young children. children who do not yet have a defined self (this of course does not mean that animals do not perceive themselves as a subject). For the animal, suffering is mainly related to facing unsafe loneliness in an incomprehensible world. Again, there are great differences between species, breed age; however, it is approximate that e.g. amputation of the leg affects the owner much more than a dog or cat.
The animal actually begins to suffer when their world begins to crumble. However, it starts to fall apart due to the problems that the owners have with their disease and not themselves. Namely, animals do not live in the present in relation to the past and / or the future, but live in the present in relation to the moment. In a way, animals embody the Buddhist manner of living in a given moment. So, of course, they do not bother with something that was or. with something that is supposed to be, but simply living life. It is clear that they suffer in a completely different way than humans. In humans, suffering is most often associated with a loss of meaning in relation to a problem; if someone has to physically bear some burden, they will have a problem with it. If he does not save him in the foreseeable future, he will of course also suffer. However, here we come to the point that someone will be able to wear e.g. a heavy backpack only 10 minutes and will suffer desperately, yet another even an hour, and will not feel suffering. Suffering can be the result of pain, but it is not necessary, it is much more common as a result of loss of meaning in life.
If it is essential and crucial for me as a dog owner to be oh and beautiful and wonderful at all and I can’t imagine having e.g. three legs, then I will, clearly, suffer. How and Why I Will Suffer is another song, but the fact is that I will suffer. The dog will not suffer, but I will suffer! For I won’t be able to watch a three-legged dog that no longer goes into my context of the sense of oh and a perfect dog at all. Namely, my dog will not have any problems with this, also my dog would not have any problems and of course he would not suffer in the least if I, for example. cut off his leg. For him, I will be exactly the same as before. An altered animal condition that is not related to pain is a problem for us and not for the animals. As this becomes a problem for us and we suffer, so can suffering (but not necessarily) suffering for our animal.
Let me give an example from practice: we diagnose a dog with diabetes. Daily therapy with insulin injections is required. This is an effort, a problem and also a suffering for the owner, because he lived with his mother for 15 years, who had to be given insulin daily, and he saw how exhausting it was, how limited she was in her life and how suffered from it. When I try to explain to him that the dog is not his mother and that he will not suffer in the least with the daily application of insulin, my attempt is accepted with disapproval. The owner simply does not want to go through such hardship again. He bought the dog to be nice to him, not to relive the drama about his mother. So he will get rid of his dog as soon as possible by apologizing to himself that this is not the case because the dog is suffering too much. Of course, he is not capable of a radical change in thinking. That he would understand that he is suffering and not the dog, that the dog needs to be injected because of his past and, most importantly in this whole story and a topic for some other thinking… that he refuses to realize that the dog has this disease here before him also to deal with his burden regarding the mother to whom he had to inject insulin for 15 years.
So we need to know that animals do not suffer more or less than we do, but in a completely different way.
For a dog it is e.g. much greater suffering if we leave him alone all day with a bowl full of briquettes than having three legs and jumping and walking on the lawn with us and our family!