Dogs can be very good at hiding pain and illness. We believe that dog owners need to be aware of the signs of chronic pain in dogs. Our Torrance vets are here to tell you all about it.
Chronic Pain in Dogs
Pain can be a tricky thing to identify in your dog. Pet owners often think of their dog’s pain as their inability to move or activity level – lower activity levels may equate to more pain. Dogs tend to hide their pain, often showing only subtle physical and behavioral signs. This makes it difficult for you to notice they’re suffering and potentially prolonging their discomfort.
Chronic pain, as the name implies, is pain that lasts over an extended period of time. An arthritic dog that's been hurting for weeks or months or, in some cases, even years would be in chronic pain.
Chronic pain doesn’t have a purpose and offers the animal no advantage in terms of survival. Chronic pain is not just a prolonged extension of acute pain, it signals that wide-ranging physiological changes have occurred in your dog's body.
How to Know if Your Dog Suffers From Chronic Pain
If you are concerned that your canine companion may be suffering from chronic pain then you will want to note any signs and symptoms that you see and bring them in for a full examination in order to rule out any other possible causes.
Your vet may utilize the following pain assessment methods in order to diagnose your dog's condition:
- Veterinary examination
- Physiologic biomarkers
- Objective measurements of gait (eg, force plate) and/or activity and movement (eg, accelerometer)
- Owner assessment of activities of daily living (ADL)
- Multifactorial clinical measurement instruments.
Signs of Chronic Pain in Dogs
The most common signs of chronic pain in dogs include:
- Less willing to jump up or down
- Less willing to climb stairs
- Less active or “slowing down”
- Slower getting up after sleep or a nap
- Tight or twitching muscles
- Shaking or trembling
- Arched back
- Holding their head below their shoulders
- Not wanting to be touched
- Excessive licking
- Excessive vocalization
The Causes of Chronic Pain in Dogs
When dogs experience chronic pain the most common cause is Osteoarthritis affecting approximately 40% of dogs. Some of the contributing factors for osteoarthritis include hereditary and other congenital factors which can affect dogs of all ages and breeds.
Other causes of chronic pain in dogs include:
- Intervertebral disk disease IVDD
- Dental Health Problems
Treatments for Chronic Pain in Dogs
Never give your dog medications that are formulated for people. Many medications that are effective for us are toxic for pets. If your dog is diagnosed with a condition resulting in chronic pain, the treatment recommended will depend upon the underlying cause of the pain.
In the case of painful dental health conditions, surgery is generally the best treatment.
Chronic pain related to cancer can be treated a number of ways including narcotics such as Tramadol, NSAIDs such as Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx and Rimadyl, topical medications including lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), or drug-free therapies such as acupuncture or laser therapy.
For chronic pain caused by joint conditions such as osteoarthritis your vet may prescribe a change in diet plus dietary supplements to help fight inflammation, non-drug therapies to help reduce inflammation and soothe joints such as cold laser therapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy or acupuncture, anti-inflammatory medications such as Galliprant, Rimadyl, Previcox or Metacam, painkillers such as Gabapentin or Tramadol.
Laser Therapy to Treat Chronic Pain in Dogs
Veterinary laser therapy is a fairly new method of treatment for symptoms related to various disorders and is most commonly used to help manage pain, inflammation, and wound healing for your pet.
Therapeutic lasers use light waves of a specific wavelength to alter the physiology of the affected tissues. The light emitted by these lasers throughout treatment will help to stimulate the cells within the tissues and allows for faster cellular regeneration.
The wavelength of the laser used will determine the tissue that can be affected. Most commonly used lasers emit near-infrared light with the use of lower wavelength lasers becoming more common. Low-wavelength lasers are used to treat areas near and involving the skin while the higher wavelength lasers are able to focus on deep tissue repair.
Speak to your vet if you would like to learn more about how your dog may benefit from veterinary laser therapy.
When You Should See A Vet
Ideally, you would bring your dog to the vet annually which would give your vet the opportunity to examine them and assess whether or not they are experiencing pain. Yearly checkups and twice-yearly checkups for geriatric dogs are important factors that can help keep them from experiencing chronic pain conditions.
That being said, at the first sign of pain, you should contact your vet for an appointment. While chronic pain conditions may never go away, your dogs quality of life can be greatly improved if caught early.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.