What is The Difference Between Acute and Chronic Pain in Dogs?

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    It can be difficult to tell if your dog is in pain as they hide it, and acute and chronic pain in dogs can present the same in the beginning stages. Pet owners sometimes associate their dog’s suffering with his or her incapacity to move or activity level; nevertheless, lower activity levels may imply higher pain. Although this is true, pain can manifest itself in a variety of ways other than movement, such as via conduct. Dogs are notorious for hiding their suffering, displaying only little physical and behavioral indications. This makes it more difficult for you to detect that they’re in pain, perhaps extending their agony. 

    Acute and chronic pain are the two main forms of pain in dogs. Continue reading to learn more.

    What is Acute Pain in Dogs?

    Acute pain is defined as pain that has only just arisen or been present for a short period of time. Acute pain is often associated with short-term illnesses, injuries, surgery/surgery recovery. It tells the brain which part of the body to protect so it can heal. When dogs are presenting with acute pain, they often have behavioral changes such as being less social, hiding, reluctance to be touched, etc. Dogs are doing these behavior changes to protect themselves in order to heal what hurts. Acute pain usually goes away within the first three days of the incident that produced it, although it might linger during the healing process (up to 3 months).

    beagle with acute pain

    What is Chronic Pain in Dogs?

    Chronic pain is a type of pain that continues to be present and possibly increases in severity over a longer period of time. Because it doesn’t appear to have any protective function, this is referred to as “maladaptive pain.”  One example of chronic pain is arthritis in dogs as it can’t just be cured like an injury. It often progresses over time without proper treatment and prevention leading to a lifetime of chronic pain. Chronic pain can worsen if it is not recognized and managed properly, sending pain signals to the brain from many places of the body and even when no pain-inducing stimuli are present. One of the most common causes of chronic pain in dogs is osteoarthritis which occurs in nearly 40% of dogs.

    Can Acute Pain Turn Into Chronic Pain?

    Many causes of chronic pain in dogs started as acute pain depending on the cause. Acute pain that isn’t addressed properly can also turn into chronic pain as the cause changes and develops. For example, a cut is a form of acute pain but when left untreated, it can become infected and lead to chronic pain. Joint pain also usually starts as acute pain and transitions into chronic pain.

    How is Acute Pain Treated?

    Acute pain is frequently managed with a mix of veterinarian-prescribed pain medicines and rest, depending on the intensity and cause. It’s dependent on the cause but can be as minor as rest or as major as surgery such as to fix a torn ligament. 

    How is Chronic Pain Treated?

    Many causes of chronic pain in dogs, such as osteoarthritis, cannot be cured or treated but it can often be managed in an effort to reduce the amount of pain the dog is in. Chronic pain may become debilitating if left untreated. A nerve signal intended to communicate a little quantity of pain might become so sensitive to pain that it is regarded as much more painful by the animal’s brain. To avoid this exaggerated type of pain perception from forming, it is critical to recognize and manage pain as soon as possible.


    If you believe your dog is suffering from either acute or chronic pain, it’s imperative to get them to a vet quickly to ensure the pain does not progress and become worse. If your dog is already suffering from chronic pain, you can find a pain management specialist in our specialist directory.

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