Both dogs and cats can be very stoic when it comes to how they deal with pain. Evidence supports the theory that the wolf is the predecessor of the dog through years and years of genetic selection. In packs of wolves, showing signs of pain means showing signs of weakness and this has severe consequences when it comes to survival. Consequently, these animals have learned to try to hide signs of pain and this trait has carried over to most of our canine friends. (We fully acknowledge that this does not hold true for all dogs, as we see some pets that will act as they are in pain for stepping on a blade of grass wrong or being pet by their owner too hard!) For many of our aging dogs that are experiencing arthritis, muscle atrophy, or neurologic pain they will try to conceal this pain. So how do we know if they are truly hurting?
No longer wanting to jump onto furniture or climbing stairs is a tell tale sign of pain. Too often we hear owners say that Max no longer wants to jump onto the bed at night because he has become too weak. While Max may not be as muscular as he was at 2 years old, he is likely not wanting to jump onto the bed because his hips, knees, or elbows are in pain.
Another sign of pain is heavy panting not induced by heat or exercise. Panting can be caused by stress, and chronic pain is a cause of stress. If your dog begins panting when waking up or leisurely walking around the house there is a good chance that pain may be present.
A decrease in appetite is another sign that pain may be occurring somewhere in the body. Think to the last time you had a toothache, fractured bone, or skin scrape…..Chances are while this was occurring, you weren’t in the mood for a sandwich from Charron’s deli in Youngsville (on a non-painful day, their Reuben is amazing!). A decrease in eating, drinking, and trips outside to the bathroom are likely signs of pain that need to be addressed for the comfort of your pet.
Now that I’ve told you about signs of pain in dogs, you are probably thinking what can be done about it? Having a veterinarian perform a physical exam to locate the location of the pain is an important step. Diagnosing the location and the cause of the pain will allow for the optimal therapy to help your pet. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, joint supplements containing Glucosamine and Chondroitin, and opioids are all oral medications that may help relieve pain. Other options of pain control including cold laser treatment, acupuncture,and chiropractic have also shown to help control pain effectively. If you care about the comfort level of your pet, Call Heartwood Animal Hospital at 919-570-9311 to see how we can increase the quality of life in your loved one!