If you have ever had surgery or broken a bone and have been down or frustrated by your limitations, you’ll probably understand this. Here’s what you should know about the other aspects of pain that can impact your dog and what you can do about it.
Types of Pain in Dogs
Pain in dogs is typically either acute or chronic. Acute pain is caused by a recent event occurring over a short period of time due to an injury, illness, or surgery. It often comes on quickly and improves quickly as well, once the issue causing the pain is healed.
Chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time, and longer than the expected healing time would be. Acute pain can become chronic pain if it extends longer than expected. An example would be if an injury doesn’t heal properly, leaving some residual pain. Chronic pain can be from many things, and some of the common causes are osteoarthritis and neuropathy.
How Do You Know When Your Dog is in Pain?
We know dogs feel pain as they have ways of indicating that they do. Your dog may express their pain in physical ways, like limping, panting, restlessness, excessive licking, and other ways. Sometimes these signs can be quite obvious, and other times your dog’s signs of pain can be subtle, so it’s not always easy to be sure.
You may also notice behavioral changes in your dog, either with or without these physical demonstrations of pain. You may see that your dog stops wanting to go for walks or playing their favorite game of fetch. So, these behavioral changes can be similar to some of the physical signs. Or, they could be more general, like if your dog seems withdrawn or anxious.
It can be hard to tell as many of these signs of pain can be subtle. And, for something like your dog not wanting to go for a walk, there could be other reasons for the change in behavior that are not due to pain. When It’s a slow change over time, it can be even harder to link the behavioral change to pain.
Impacts of Pain
According to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage…” Generally speaking, it’s is our body’s way of indicating something is wrong. Though the more traditional view of pain is a physical issue, IASP’s definition indicates equal significance given to the sensory experience and the physical issue.
Physiological Impacts of Pain
Dealing with pain over time can lead to physical changes in the body. The intense physiological stress response due to pain can lead to delayed healing, which can prolong pain. It can also cause decreased gastro-intestinal (GI) mobility, leading to bacterial overgrowth and issues like sepsis, a systemic infection that can cause multiple organ failures.
Prolonged pain can also cause water and sodium retention, which can be particularly problematic for animals with heart disease. It can also cause a decrease in taking in oxygen and getting it to the cells throughout their bodies that need it. All of these issues can negatively impact our dog’s quality of life, which, at its most dramatic levels, can cause a threat to survival.
Psychological Impacts of Pain
Pain isn’t only unpleasant physically, but it’s also negative from an emotional level as it causes fear. It can bring about undesirable consequences as pain can trigger a continuum of fear, anxiety, and stress, leading to more pain and suffering.
Critically ill and critically injured dogs may exhibit social isolation where they hide themselves away somewhere. They also may not behave normally, not wanting to eat, go for a walk, or snuggling with you.
Benefits of Treating Pain
So, it’s not just a matter of their pushing through to deal with the pain. You can actually help improve their life by helping them to manage it better. The impact of pain is not just the reaction that something hurts, but the true impact is suffering.
By treating pain, you can improve your pet’s physical, psychological, and emotional condition. Many of the improvements can be measured through blood work, testing, and a physical exam. The psychological and emotional improvements can’t be so easily measured but often have a greater impact on your pet.
If you have ever had a dog that either gets sick or goes through surgery, you’ll likely understand this as you have seen the impact. At first, your dog may just want to sleep a lot, doesn’t move around much, and may not want to eat. As your dog heals, you feel like you “got your dog back.” Maybe they seek your attention again, eat, and are more playful—regardless of the specific behaviors, your dog is acting like your dog again. It’s a cycle as when your dog feels better, your dog will heal faster, and their body will run more effectively.
What to Do if You Believe Your Dog is in Pain
If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of pain, and particularly, multiple signs, schedule an appointment with your vet. It’s a good idea to document what you’re seeing and when to help you and your vet find any trends to help identify the cause.
If you know the cause, share that with your vet to discuss treatment options. Some pain is ok, and it’s part of life. For example, your dog is going to be in some pain after surgery. However, you can help to manage and reduce the pain for both acute and chronic medical issues to help your dog live a better and happier life.