How to Tell if Your Dog is in PainIt can be challenging sometimes to know if your dog is in pain as they tend to hide it and may only show subtle behavioral and physical signs. Pain in dogs can be acute or chronic, and the type of pain they are feeling can impact their response to it.
Acute pain is typically due to a recent event or over a short period of time due to things like surgery, injury, or illness. Acute pain tends to be a bit more obvious and your dog is more likely to show signs of things like limping or an unwillingness to get up.
Chronic pain lasts for a longer time and doesn’t improve once the issue is healed as acute pain does. It may be caused by things like osteoarthritis and neuropathy. The signs of chronic pain are often much more subtle, making it much harder to identify that your dog is in pain and where the source is.
Some common signs of pain include panting, trembling, sensitivity to touch, restlessness, excessive licking, and unexplained barking or whining. There can also be behavioral signs, like if your dog stops wanting to do the things they love or possibly even if they are following you around less.
Why You Should Try to Manage Your Dog’s Pain
Dogs feel pain just like people do. If you have ever been in pain for a prolonged period of time, you know how exhausting and debilitating it can be. Not only is dealing with pain wearing, but pain can also impact healing time and quality of life. Dogs who are in pain may socially isolate, and may not behave as they normally do, drawing pleasure from activities like eating, going for walks, and others.
So, if you see your dog retreating from normal behaviors, this may be a sign that their pain is at a level that needs to be better managed. By managing your dog’s pain, you can actually help them heal faster and be happier overall than doing nothing . And, don’t you want the very best for your best buddy?
Holistic Options for Pain Management
Instead of running to pharmaceuticals like NSAIDs which can cause some undesirable side effects, there are a number of other options to help with pain management and strengthening your dog.
Canine Physical Rehabilitation
Canine physical rehab is a treatment that adapts human physical therapy techniques to improve the mobility and function of joints and muscles in dogs. It seeks to improve the quality of life for dogs while decreasing pain.
Trained canine physical rehab vets will use a number of modalities and therapies in their practice including those listed in this article. Additionally, they incorporate things like therapeutic exercises, therapeutic massage, manual therapy, the use of orthotics and prosthetics when required, and others.
By choosing a vet with the Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) certification, you know they have the training required to safely and effectively help your dog. They have advanced knowledge of pain management, strengthening, and conditioning to help improve your dog’s quality of life.
Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy uses beams of light to stimulate cell generation and to increase blood circulation, known to help reduce pain and inflammation and increase mobility. Essentially, it helps the body heal at a cellular level.
Cold laser is non-invasive, drug-free, and there is no pain with its use. This isn’t the laser you may be thinking of! It’s an effective option on its own or with other treatment modalities.
Though it can be used on most dogs, cold laser should not be used on a dog with metastatic cancer (where cancer has spread to multiple areas), not at the site of a tumor as it does stimulate cell growth It also should not be used on the uterus of a pregnant dog.
An Assissi Loop is an FDA-approved device that emits bursts of microcurrent electricity that penetrates the tissue around where the loop is placed. It causes a chemical process known to promote healing and since it penetrates fur, casts, and bandages, it can be used effectively on humans, dogs, cats, and horses.
The loop uses 15-minute timed treatments and it’s easy to use as it’s non-invasive. In fact, most won’t feel anything at all, and those that do generally only feel a mild tingling sensation.
The Assisi Loop promotes blood flow, and not only speeds up the healing process but also can reduce inflammation and reduce pain. It’s an effective treatment option and has no known side effects.
Transcutaneous Electrical Neuromuscular Stimulation, or TENS, sends low-level electrical current to injured or weakened muscles, stimulating them to contract. It’s used primarily for pain management.
An electrode may be placed at trigger points—tight balls of muscle fiber that can’t completely let go of the contraction. These muscle knots, as they are called, cause pain. The electrical impulse stimulates sensory nerves, causing an overload that limits the ability of the nerves to transmit pain signals to the brain.
Treatment benefits are short-lived, often only lasting for an hour or up to a few. However, it’s a helpful therapy for acute pain following surgery or other trauma.
Hydrotherapy is one of the best-known forms of physical rehabilitation used for dogs. It is the therapeutic use of water for improving health and it consists of two types for dogs: underwater treadmill and therapeutic swimming.
The underwater treadmill is probably what comes to mind when you think of hydrotherapy. It’s a manual or motorized treadmill encased in a glass or plastic chamber that the dog enters. The door is closed and the chamber fills with water until it’s just above the dog’s legs. The water provides resistance while reducing stress to provide a low-impact workout.
Therapeutic swimming is an exercise using controlled swimming to help your dog gain strength and build muscle. It’s a no-impact workout and can be done in a pool specifically designed for it or even in a regular swimming pool if the water is a comfortable temperature for your dog.
Hydrotherapy provides a good cardiovascular workout as well as building strength. However, it doesn’t enable the targeting of certain muscles. It may be beneficial, though, and it can be used effectively with other therapeutic treatments
Consider the Many Ways to Treat Pain for Your Dog
There are a lot of options at your disposal for effectively and safely managing pain in your dog. If you think your dog might be in pain, make an appointment with your vet if you don’t know the cause or before you introduce any new treatment for your dog to manage it. If you’re not sure—ask. Your dog will thank you for it.