A Word on Pain

Is your dog suffering from pain? Would you know?

It seems that there is a wide misconception of how much pain our dogs might have to be in for us to notice.

This is important to realize. Dogs don’t go around groaning, whining and complaining. Their instinct is to hide their pain. In a pack,  a dog showing weakness will not only have to endure his pain but also face challenges for his social rank. Clearly, there is no advantage to that.

Yes, sometimes pain is communicated by yelps, whimpers, and in case of excruciating pain even screaming. This is true for acute type of pain, as an immediate reaction to injury.

  • you’ve heard your dog yelp when you stepped on his toe. This means: “Ouch! Hey, you stepped on my toe, and it hurt!” It is also a message to you, to be more careful next time.
  • a whimper is both an expression of pain and fear. I read this as: “This hurts, I’m afraid, please stop, I give up!”
  • a series of yelps, clearly a more intensive message than a single yelp, expresses a high degree of pain or fear. It also communicates surrender.
  • screaming, as you might guess, is an expression of extreme pain or fear and I hope that you’ll never get to hear that.

Ok, so detecting acute pain seems rather straightforward. How about chronic pain though?

You might be shocked how much pain your dog could be going through without showing it. 

That’s why it is up to you to look for clues.

Some signs are easy enough to figure out. If your dog’s leg is hurting – you might notice lameness. Often though, you need to look for more subtle messages:

  • changes in posture or gait
  • reluctance to get up, use the stairs or jump in the car
  • panting and pacing
  • asymmetry in the body (Do shoulders appear broader than normally? Is one leg more muscular than the other?)
  • any changes in behavior or routine

Pay attention to small changes in your dog’s behavior or actions and don’t shrug it off. It is my sad experience, that is something doesn’t seem right, it most likely isn’t, and it needs to be figured out.

Unless we understand that, we might inadvertently leave our best friends suffering.

Categories: PainSymptoms

Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

2 Comments
  1. Jennifer, as a side note, your husband is an exception! LOLBut otherwise you're completely right, people are just not getting it.

  2. When I worked in veterinary clinics I used to try to explain the concept of pets and pain to our clients. It's amazing how many times we would hear \”No, my pet isn't in pain. He just limps a lot\”. Hello?? What do you think a limp is? Unless your dog is trying to be all bad-ass and \”gangsta\” chances are he's limping because he's in pain. My husband broke his leg this summer (rotation fracture in two places) and he was in considerable pain. But he didn't sit around whining and crying. He still ate and drank and went about his daily routine. That's how our pets are — just because they don't show it doesn't mean they aren't feeling it.

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