Pet Health, Senior Dogs

3 Types of Chronic Pain in Dogs

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.  

Brown and white dog lying under a blanket in pain.

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.

Older dog with gray hair around its muzzle that looks like a chocolate lab.
Senior dogs are often in chronic pain

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.  

Woman in jeans walking a doodle dog outside on a bike path.
Consistent exercise is important for a dog with 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 and dog toothaches 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.  

Vet in a white jacket looking into a brown dogs mouth to look for teeth issues.
Bad teeth can be a source of chronic pain in dogs.

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 dog 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 and What to Feed a Small Dog With Fewer Teeth.  

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.

Looking to learn more about taking charge of your Dog’s Health? Learn about Pet Testing from The Popular Pets. Now offering pet testing for your the health of your pet and your peace of mind. Learn more about pet testing options.

You may also be interested in the Ultimate Guide to Heartworm

Diatomaceous Earth for Dogs and Cats FAQ

What happens if my dog sniffs Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous earth is great for dogs and is safe to ingest and put on their skin, sniffing diatomaceous earth is not a problem but dog owners do need to be careful that dogs do not inhale DE further. The silica in DE can be harmful to dog and cat lungs, especially pets with respiratory issues. The many benefits of DE make it a useful pet wellness tool.

What if my dog licks Diatomaceous Earth?

Since DE is an excellent addition to food due to its ability to kill parasites, bind collagen and support a healthy coat and joints, licking DE is not only beneficial but suggested. DE is safe for dogs but dog lovers should get food grade DE to be safe.

Will Diatomaceous Earth harm dogs?

Diatomaceous earth will not harm dogs. DE is non-toxic and actually helpful for dogs due to its many wellness attributes. Pet lovers have found many benefits to adding DE to their pet’s food to help support a healthy coat and fend off parasites and on externally to help with fleas and ticks.

 Dog Chronic Pain FAQs

How do I know if my dog has chronic pain?

Dogs are very stoic and it can be difficult to assess chronic pain but licking paws, panting, pacing, restlessness may all be signs of chronic pain.

Why is my dog always in pain?

Dogs feel pain for many reasons the most common being cancer, tooth pain and arthritis but if your dog is a senior there are various health issues that arise in the later years of our dogs life that can be the source of chronic pain.

When is it time to put your dog down or euthanize your dog for chronic pain?

This will depend on your assessment of your dog’s quality of life and if there are any medical or natural or homeopathic ways to address your dog’s discomfort and pain to ensure that they do have a quality of life. Not being able to get up, breathing difficulty and listlessness can be signs that there is a severe reduction to your dog’s quality of life.