Your dog has suddenly started behaving differently. She has become more withdrawn than before; she growls at everyone (including you!) and paces around the house half of the night. You have no idea what could be going on, so you devise an elaborate plan to discipline her when she gets out of hand. Stop! These behavioral changes are all signs that something is wrong, and they may well indicate that the dog is experiencing pain.
As with humans, one of the first signs a dog is in pain is if his mood changes noticeably. If the pain is not too severe, the dog might just appear grumpy and out of sorts. He might seem to want to sleep more than usual, often because lying down gives him relief. He might appear depressed, miserable, or anxious, or have less appetite for fun and playfulness than he usually does. These signs could indicate a range of health issues, however, so you need to take steps to discover whether he shows other symptoms before you conclude he’s in pain. Some signs to watch out for include:
In addition to growling at others, a dog in pain might become antisocial and try to avoid contact. She might attempt to hide away from other pets and children, particularly, and stop running to the door to greet you and your visitors. If she is pressed to interact, she could become aggressive and growl, snap or bite and may follow these actions by slinking away with an embarrassed look.
If your dog suddenly starts shunning his favorite treats and eating only soft food, it could mean he has dental or jaw pain. Drinking noticeably more (or less) could mean kidney problems, especially if this is combined with mid-back sensitivity. The kidneys are located slightly in front of the dog’s “waistline,” so if your dog flinches when you touch his back, it could mean he’s feeling some pain. Sleeping more than usual is also potentially a sign of pain that saps his energy, leaving him feeling fatigued and needing rest to try and heal.
Dogs often do tell us when they are in pain. If your dog suddenly starts becoming more vocal, with yelping, growling, snarling, howling, or even barking at you without an obvious cause, she may be trying to tell you something. As with all the other signs, it’s difficult to reach a conclusion based on one symptom, but a combination of three or more is a sure sign that you need to take notice.
Dogs commonly nibble at themselves on a daily basis, but continuous biting, licking, or chewing at the same part of the body could mean irritation or pain. If you can’t see an apparent reason for the extra attention that part is getting, it could be internal pain they are trying to relieve. Frequent licking of the paws can also be a sign of referred pain and an effort to soothe pain or discomfort somewhere else in the body, especially if the affected part is hard to reach.
Panting when the dog is hot or out of breath is normal, but if he hasn’t been exercising, then it could be a sign of pain. He might also seem to be panting, but he is breathing shallowly, which can be caused by pain affecting his breathing. Shivering, shaking, and trembling are sure signs something is wrong, unless the air is particularly cold. Pacing restlessly or constantly changing position are signs of agitation that can also be pain-related.
Physical symptoms are the most obvious signs of pain and usually indicate the cause immediately. Stiffness, limping, difficulty standing up or climbing stairs suggest an injury, sore paws, or joint problems like arthritis in dogs. Senior dogs are more likely to be susceptible to long-term joint pain, along with certain breeds that have a genetic predisposition for joint conditions.
Never, ever give your dog medication intended for humans. Many of the compounds that work for us are lethal for dogs, and others can cause long-term ill-health effects. If you see signs that make you think your dog is in pain, watch him or her carefully for patterns that can give you clues as to the cause.
Acute pain usually requires veterinary attention because it can mean an infection, a broken bone or torn muscle, or an intestinal blockage, all of which need professional care. Ask your veterinarian to recommend chiropractic care, acupuncture, or other non-invasive options like cold laser treatment to start with, so you can avoid prescription drugs if possible.
For long-term chronic pain, your dog might get relief from natural pain management for dogs that includes the options listed above, as well as natural products like Maxwell Pet Hip and Joint Remedy.