Can you tell if your dog is in pain?
So September is Animal pain awareness month….
I’m going to talk to you about recognising pain in my fellow furry 4-legged friends, Dogs. It can be very tricky and sometimes we don’t give a lot away because we are scared. You see historically if we showed pain we may have been left out of the pack or been a target for something bigger to attack us – so naturally we became very good at concealing it.
Every one of us dogs will be different in how we deal with pain, just like our owners. Some of these signs are visible when you observe us and others when you interact with us. When you observe us early signs can be as simple as not wanting to socialise as much, we may find it easier to sit on our own in our bed then with you even though we still love you!
You might notice we stop doing some of our normal routines or tasks, or that we’ve pick up unusual new habits, for example we might be reluctant to jump on and off the sofa or in and out of the car, we aren’t being disobedient but it might be making us wince! There was an interesting research study (Pardey, D., Tabor, G., Oxley, JA., Wills, AP. (2018) that looked at the forces our legs undergo jumping from different car boot heights. They found that the higher the boot the greater the vertical force. This may not always be the case, as I said every dog is different and some dogs may find the reward of these activities so great (being closer to you!) that they’ll continue to do them despite the pain, and this is why it’s important to recognise it.
You may find we are less lively on our walks or resistant to walking the same distances, or panting more when there is no obvious reason e.g. temperature. We aren’t trying to be difficult but if we are in pain when enjoying our normal sniffs and play dates we enjoy them less and less.
You may notice common signs when you touch or interact with us, these are commonly:
- Lip licking
- Looking away/ avoiding eye contact
- Low posture
- Panting or vocal noises
Sometimes we get a bit grumpy so growling or biting can happen, this can be scary for you but it’s also scary for us because we don’t know what’s causing the pain! This might be as simple as if you stroke your dog and they become irritable over the same spot it could be a sign that they are experiencing discomfort here.
We try to give early signs of discomfort before we growl or bite and these include looking away from you and avoiding eye contact, we might start licking our lips (No we aren’t hungry!! Unless it’s a chocolate Labrador, those guys are always hungry!), along with this we might have our tail between our legs or be adopting a cowering type posture (when our bottom is tucked under us).
Some of the more obvious signs which you probably already know are if we start avoiding food or drinking, or avoiding the use of a limb or limping, obsessively licking or chewing an area causing skin redness or soreness.
If you have ANY concerns about your dog displaying any of these either speak to us or to your veterinarian and seek further guidance. This blog is a drop in the ocean to touch on signs of pain and discomfort and so is by no means exhaustive.
As always if you have any questions or want to discuss things then please get in contact with the humans - our Veterinary Physiotherapists.