How to Identify the Subtle Signs of Chronic Pain in Dogs

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    Acute and chronic pain in dogs are both debilitating but many dogs rarely show the signs of being in pain. This is usually due to an evolutionary instinct to not show weaknesses. It’s up to us as dog owners in the end to pick up on the subtle signs of pain in our dogs.

    What’s the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain in Dogs?

    Knowing the difference between acute and chronic pain in dogs is the first step in helping your dog. Dr. Lindsey, Fry, veterinarian and owner of Red Sage Vets in Colorado explains that acute pain is usually very obvious. This may be crying and other types of vocalizations, obvious limping, changes in mobility, or known events such as surgery or an accident. It is believed to have protective properties, but is often accompanied by redness, swelling, or fever. She’s explained “sometimes the pain is no longer protective. It has become the disease itself, and the symptoms look very different.”Chronic pain is often insidious, and your dog may have to endure it for a long time if the owner doesn’t notice the first signs.

    How Can You Tell a Dog is Suffering From Chronic Pain?

    “It is difficult to diagnose chronic pain because dogs usually do not have obvious signs associated with acute pain. “It’s very individual, so we try to peel back the layers that have developed and find the primary sources. It’s rarely the same between two patients.”, according to Dr. Fry. Changes in behavior are often the most important indicator of a pain problem. Sometimes these changes are noticeable and become big warning signs. Perhaps your normally voracious dog has stopped eating. Or, in general, affectionate dogs may growl, curl up, or hide when they try to touch.

    Older dogs are more likely to have signs of chronic pain, usually from a condition like osteoarthritis so as dogs get older, it’s imperative to keep an eye out.

    Severe chronic pain can cause depression and anxiety in dogs just like humans. Your dog may become noticeably more withdrawn and less likely to communicate or make contact. Older dogs are more likely to suffer from chronic pain. However, owners often associate subtle changes in behavior with natural age-related deceleration.

    They may not want to go that far while walking, or they may have trouble jumping into cars or going up and down stairs. Dogs who used to like toys may no longer play with them and may struggle to become more sleepy or comfortable. Even things like excessive licking or small changes in posture sometimes cause pain.
     
    As Dr. Fry puts is,“the brightness and strong engagement owners recognize in their dog’s face starts to disappear. There’s more of a disconnected, glazed over blank stare.”
     
    cattle dog laying down with an icepack on their head

    How Do You Diagnose Chronic Pain in Dogs?

    Chronic pain is usually complex and multifaceted. However, experienced veterinarians like Dr. Fry say, “It’s easy to spot specific reward patterns associated with specific types of pain. Whether it’s an old ACL rupture, hip arthritis, or neck pain, we’re seeing some classic signs. So we are trying to categorize their pain into different categories, which will help get started developing treatment plans.” They will focus primarily on neurological, inflammatory (eg arthritis) and myofascial causes.
     

    How Do You Treat Chronic Pain in Dogs?

    Arthritis is one of the leading causes of chronic pain, especially in older dogs. Dr. Hannah Capon founded Canine Arthritis Management to better educate owners and fellow veterinarians about this disease and treatment options.
     
    According to Dr. Capon, “I had been working as a vet for around 12 years when I became very conscious of how many dogs are euthanized for “going off their legs”. I was also aware that, as a vet, I actually knew very little about soft tissue ailments and felt I needed to offer my clients more than just anti-inflammatory medication and leash rest”.
     
    Introducing a multimodal chronic pain treatment plan can often significantly improve a dog’s quality of life and long-term prognosis. There are many “game-changers for owners that cost no money and have huge benefits,” she emphasizes. Capon. Your veterinarian can not only provide you with medications and rehabilitation therapies for dogs like acupuncture and hydrotherapy. These are important factors, but owners should also be proactive about their dog’s lifestyle and home environment.
     

    She also recommends making simple adjustments at home, like “ensuring your dog isn’t injuring themselves further on slippery floors, blind steps, steep staircases, or elevated sofas.” Introducing additions such as ramps, orthopedic beds, and rugs around the home are all small changes that can make a big difference.

    Why is Weight Important for Dogs?

    According to a 2018 comprehensive survey, the Pet Obesity Prevention Association estimated that more than 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Dr. Frey said, “being overweight isn’t just a physical burden on the joints, but fat tissue itself is also inflammatory. Having a lot more inflammatory tissue is going to make something like arthritis, that’s inflammatory in origin, much harder to control. This means that weight loss is a critical part of the conversation. ” She also realizes that it can be a challenge. increase. It’s about proper, partial nutrition and delicacies, and proper physical and mental affluence.
     
    overweight poodle sitting down

    When Should You Visit a Vet?

    For dogs with persistent chronic pain problems, it may be beneficial to seek help from a pain management or rehabilitation specialist. “General Practitioners are wonderful and essential, but they often have very limited time,” he says. fry. “Managing something like chronic pain is challenging and time-intensive. Having access to so many pain management options really lets us fine-tune the treatment for the dog.”

    Adapted from “The “Subtleties and Seriousness of Chronic Pain in Dogs” written by Gemma Johnstone for AKC.com

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