Chronic pain in dogs is one of the most underrecognized phenomena that Dr. Tarantino, a Vet focused on the happiness and comfort of aging dogs sees in our pets year after year! She estimates that millions of pet parents miss chronic pain in their dogs annually but she explains in an episode on her Senior Dog Revolution podcast, you are not alone, she has also missed the signs in her senior dog.
September is Pet Pain Awareness Month and we are focusing on pet pain so that you can address it with your pup and keep them happy and comfortable as best that you can.
Chronic pain is highlighted this month since it is so important and impactful to the quality of life of your pet. Dr. Tarantino notes that the aging and senior dog population is the one she sees impacted by chronic pain the most. But not only that, certain breeds have very particular issues that affect them like dachshund back pain, Labrador sciatica, and German shepherd’s back pain.
However, ultimately all of these pain issues culminate in the three common sources of pain in dogs, and understanding them can get you ahead in setting your dog on a course for a better life.
How Dogs Communicate Pain
Despite the burgeoning world of dog communicators, the average dog lover misses dog pain. Even vets and experienced dog professionals have indicated that they did not understand that the changes in their dogs resulted from chronic pain in dogs.
Even the most expressive dog lacks a great way to communicate pain to you this is compounded since ‘hiding’ illness was important to your pet’s ancestors in the wild and is a natural instinct for our pets, says Tarantino.
However certain signs of dog behavior that reveal that dogs are in pain are very consistent and should be noted:
-Sensitive or painful to the touch
-Loss of appetite
-Wakefulness and Restlessness
3 Common Sources of Chronic Pain in Dogs
There are many sources of chronic pain in dogs but these three sources of chronic pain make up the majority of those.
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Arthritis and musculoskeletal pain are large sources of chronic pain in our dogs, and people for that matter. Arthritis is more than just a slowing down of your dog’s gait or movements. My Senior dog has arthritis and her initial signs included overall less activity, slowing down, she no longer just jumped on the couch or in the car or upstairs, she instead spends a lot of time assessing before attempting, she also has a stiff gait, and although she tries to follow me around, where she one was my shadow she is not anymore. According to Dr. Tarantino, all of these signs can indicate arthritis.
Just as in people, a consistent low-impact exercise routine is really important to help support your dog’s joints as they age, and to stave off chronic pain in dogs resulting from arthritis, along with weight management an anti-inflammatory diet, and carefully selected supplements that will reduce joint inflammation as we discuss in our article The Complete Guide to MSM for Dogs With Arthritis and Three Tips from Managing Arthritis from Expert Vets.
Dog Dental Disease
Dr. Tarantino indicates that dental disease in dogs is one of the most common places of pain for older dogs! Unfortunately, you may have noticed that rarely does chronic tooth pain slow down a dog’s consumption of food making it very hard to detect.
Signs like strong odor from your dog’s mouth can be indicators although it is tough since most dogs’ mouths are a bit smelly. The best option is to include preventative tooth care in your daily routine and include a thorough dental exam in your dog’s next visit to the vet.
Learn more about dental care in our Senior Dog Guide to Tooth Care.
Cancer or Internal Disease
Unfortunately, cancer is striking our senior dog population more than ever before! Cancer can come on slowly or very quickly and being aware of signs like changes in appetite or energy are VERY important to pick up on pain from internal disease, says Dr. Tarantino. Much like watching for arthritis pain also paying attention to changes in energy, appetite, drinking, urination, bumps and more is very important for the assessment of comfort in this area says Dr. Tarantino.
Last Thoughts on Chronic Pain in Dogs
Our senior dogs face many health challenges but chronic pain is one of the most life affecting. Paying attention to the signs of chronic pain in dogs will allow you to address the issues