What does pain look like in a dog?

by Dr. Aimee on October 3, 2010

I am often surprised at how many people do not recognize pain in their dog.  They will make excuses for change of behaviour, stiffness when getting up, intermittent lameness, not intermittent lameness, and on and on.  I wish I could say I find this particular phenomenon amusing, but somehow I can’t.  Rather I find it disheartening and cause for alarm.  Not because I think people are ignoring pain intentionally, but because one: I have not educated my clients well, and/or two: my clients choose to turn a blind eye rather than actually see what I see and listen to my advice.  There is no reason to be embarassed or feel guilty if you do not recognize the signs of pain, animals are well adapted to hide this from us.  But you do need to be embarrassed or guilty if someone with expertise is expressing concern your pet is hurting and you choose not to listen.

Your pets depend on you to provide more than just the basics:  they depend on you to care for them when they are sick, give them quality nutrition and housing, to give them adequate exercise and mental stimulation, emotional stimulation and last, but far from least, to provide pain relief when needed.  We have oodles of tools at our fingertips to help these guys out.  From Western pharmaceuticals, to chinese herbs, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, nutraceuticals, surgery, electromagnetic therapy to Laser.  we have it all, and we are here to help you choose the best protocol to fit you, your pet and your budget.

So how do you know when you dog is in pain?  As I stated before, if you were to ask your pup on a scale of one to ten what is your pain, you would get this: 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 6,7, ….  In other words the dog is unlikely to show many, if any, easily recognized symptoms of pain (whining, panting, uncomfortable), until they are a 6 or above.  Now tell  me how much pain are you in when you indicate a 6?  would you like someone to give you something to help make it go away?  So would they, so here are the signs I want each of you to look for, especially in your geriatric animals, those who are 8 and older.

1.  Change in normal behavior: no longer house trained, hiding, biting, unwilling to go on the walks they love>>>

2.  Weight loss or decreased appetite

3.  Pacing/excessive panting even when it isn’t hot

4.  Whining/crying

5.  Abnormal movement/ abnormal posture/ lameness

6.  decreased range of motion in a joint

7.  Muscle atrophy: shrinkage of muscle: often a sign of not using the limb

All of the above can be sympotoms that your pet is in pain.  It is important you take your dog to a trained vet who can help you determine where the pain may be stemming from.  Based on a good workup, history and possible diagnosis, you should be able to create a regimen of exercise, rehabilitative modalities, and combination of drugs and nurtaceuticals to help relieve you dog of his or her pain.

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