The Types of Pain in Dogs
The most common types of pain in dogs are either acute or chronic pain. With acute pain, the cause is due to a recent event over a short period of time. This could be due to injury, surgery, or illness. It generally improves quickly and once the issue is healed, the pain generally is gone.
Chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time than the expected time-frame for healing. Or, it is sometimes associated with certain medical conditions like osteoarthritis, neuropathy, cancer, and others. Acute pain can also become chronic pain that extends over a period of time.
Signs Your Dog is in Pain
Some of the signs of pain your dog may express are physical and some are behavioral. For example, if your dog is limping, that’s a pretty clear physical sign of pain and one that should be checked out by a vet. Signs of acute pain tend to be a bit more obvious, though not always.
Some signs of pain can often be a lot more subtle or hard to define. Here are some examples and things to consider:
- Trembling—Could your dog be cold? Does he have a history of anxiety? Trembling for no identifiable reason can be an indication of pain.
- Panting—Has your pet recently been active? Is your dog hot and possibly overheated? If the panting is not otherwise explainable, it may be a sign of pain.
- Sensitive to the touch—Is your dog not letting you pet him as he normally would? Does he cry out, flinch, or move when you touch a certain area? Sensitivity to touch can be another indication of pain.
- Restlessness—Is your dog pacing a lot? Does he pop up quickly after sitting down or laying down? This sign of agitation can be a sign of musculoskeletal pain.
- Unwilling to lay down—On the flip side, does your dog not want to lay down at all? Or perhaps, he puts his front end down only and doesn’t put his back end down. When dogs do this it could be abdominal or musculoskeletal pain.
- Inability or reluctance to move its head—Is your dog not willing or hesitant to move its head or neck, either side-to-side or up and down? This could be when taking a treat, eating from its food bowl, or other situations. If so, this could be caused by pain.
- Unexplained barking or whining—Does your dog bark, whine, or vocalize when not expected? So, not when you get his leash or grab his bowl, but at an unusual time. This is something to keep an eye on as it could be a sign of pain.
- Changed tail position—Does your dog’s tail usually hang down but it’s upright? If it seems unusual to you, it’s something to keep an eye on.
- Excessive licking—Is your dog licking a certain area frequently or just licking more in general? This could be an indication of anxiety and of pain.
Another thing to be aware of is changes in your dog’s behavior. Have you noticed increased anxiety or withdrawal? This could be similar to some of the signs above, or it could be more generalized. For example, if your dog stops wanting to go for walks or doesn’t want to eat.
Chronic pain can trigger depression and anxiety in dogs, just as it can in humans. If you notice your dog doing any of these things, or several, keep an eye out.
When You Should Go to the Vet
Some of these signs can be really subtle. And with chronic pain, they can slowly increase with time so you don’t notice them. It’s easy to get caught up in life and when they progress slowly, it’s easy to attribute them to general aging. However, once you notice any one of these, or especially if there are multiple of these signs, it’s a good idea to get your dog checked out by a vet.
Keep a list of the signs that you’re seeing and when you notice them. It’s particularly helpful to understand how frequently they are happening and if there is some precipitating activity causing them. Does your dog seem reluctant to lay down after a long walk? Does he get restless after a game of fetch? This can help you and your vet determine what the issue may be so you can help to manage it.
It can be really challenging figuring out if your dog is in pain. Unfortunately, they can’t tell us! If you notice unusual behaviors or you realize they are not doing things they have always enjoyed, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a vet.