To complicate the issue, just like with people, dogs respond to pain differently and have different levels of pain tolerance. Some dogs are stoic in the face of great suffering, while other dogs will show more symptoms to their owners or vet.
Many dog owners have been taken by surprise to learn that their pup has a painful condition. Others mistakenly believe their dog is tolerating their pain well, however, the dog may be hurting more than the owner realizes, or even suffering from a deteriorating quality of life.
Some common causes of canine pain include:
• Ear infection
• Urinary tract infection
• Inflammation in the bladder/cystitis
• Dental disease
• Intervertebral disc disease
• Surgical pain
With advances in veterinary medicine, dogs no longer have to suffer in pain. Old belief systems, such as these below, have been set aside in favor of pain management and improving the quality of dog’s lives.
Old beliefs about canine pain include:
• Dogs don’t suffer in pain
• Dog’s pain is different than humans
• Pain doesn’t affect their wellbeing
• Dogs don’t need pain management
• Pain is good because it keeps them inactive
• Pain medicine is bad
Since dogs can’t tell us when it hurts, owners must watch for changes in behavior. Here are 10 ways your dog may be telling you they are in pain:
1. Sudden change in behavior.
If your dog’s normal behavior suddenly changes for no apparent reason or they seem depressed, they could be in pain or sick. Examples may include a gentle dog suddenly getting grouchy, not running to the door to great you like they always do, hiding themselves away, or not playing like normal.
2. Changes in appetite.
A sudden change in appetite, refusal to eat and drink, and nausea can be a pain signal.
3. Change in sleeping pattern.
A sudden change in sleeping pattern can be a signal a dog is in pain. This could be a dog sleeping more or a dog that is unable to relax and fall asleep as they usually do or panting at night when the house is cool.
4. Unusual vocalizations.
A dog that suddenly starts growling, whining, crying, howling, or is getting snappy may be experiencing pain. A dog that is not normally vocal or becomes suddenly quiet may be in pain.
5. Licking or drooling.
Licking one part of the body can be a signal of pain. Dogs will often lick their wounds but will also lick a painful joint or other body part when they are in pain or are self-soothing. Drooling can also be a symptom of pain.
6. Changes in normal breathing.
Panting for no apparent reason (like after exercise or because it’s warm), a rapid heartrate, or a dog being unable to take a deep breath can be a signal they are in pain or distress. Respiratory distress is an emergency.
7. Changes in the way they move.
A dog that is suddenly stiff, reluctant to climb stairs, jump like they normally do, stops running and playing, or is having trouble standing or laying down may be experiencing pain.
8. Changes in posture.
A dog that is suddenly walking hunched up, not raising their head, not moving their tail like they normally do, or is walking with a different gait may be in pain.
9. Shivers or trembles.
Dogs that suddenly begin to shiver or tremble may be in pain. Tremors can also be a sign of other serious health problems, like poisoning or sudden illness.
10. Eye changes.
Eyes are the windows to the soul and changes in eye appearance can signal pain. Whale eyes (showing the whites of the eyes), dilated pupils, or squinting of both eyes can be a signal of pain. Pain in the eyes themselves can also occur and may include rubbing of an eye with a paw or on carpet or bedding.
Pain can be a symptom of a highly treatable health problem or symptom of something serious going on. If your dog suddenly starts showing these symptoms or just seems off, it’s never a bad idea to have them checked out by a vet.
There are many health issues that cause pain that can only be diagnosed by lab work or other diagnostics. For chronic problems, there are many medications and supplements that can help manage and control canine pain and improve or even extend the life of dogs.
Please pass along these tips to your dog loving friends and family.