Dogs are probably the most resilient creatures on this planet. They try to not be bothered by small cuts or bruises. Since they cannot speak, it is difficult to understand whether your dog is in pain because of an injury or any other underlying cause. In this article I bring you the symptoms and signs of your dog in pain.
I am currently taking care of an Indian pariah dog (named Guy Wigglebutt) who lives in my colony. The first night I found Guy, he was wailing in pain (I am guessing he was in a fight with other dogs). He could barely get up. He would not have lasted beyond a few days if I did not tend to his pain immediately. He had a huge swelling on his right thigh and would cry if he had to move it even an inch. His leg is better now however, he still has a severe limp. I am hoping with regular care and massage with arnica oil, he will be back to his former self soon.
A note of caution: Never attempt to treat your dog’s pain yourself especially with human medications. Furthermore, medications which are prescribed for your other animals can be very dangerous to your dog. Always consult your vet in case of doubt.
Thus coming back to the topic at hand, what are the signs, a dog is in pain?
One of the clear signs, a dog is in pain is if the dog does not come to greet you at the door, tries to avoid contact or becomes aggressive. If you see your dog hiding away or your dog suddenly stops playing with you, other family members or other animals in your household, take it as an indication that he/she might not be feeling well and suffering from pain.
Changes in drinking eating and sleeping habits
When dogs are in pain they tend to sleep more. This is their way of healing. Another case scenario could be that it’s difficult for them to move around due to the pain. When in pain, your dog may face a loss of appetite. The water consumption may also be different than normal. If your dog is having difficulty in eating firm chews or dried food, this could be an indication of dental pain.
Increase in vocal behavior
This is another clear sign a dog is in pain. If you notice that your dog suddenly adopts a more vocal attitude like snarling, growling or even howling, this could be a sign that your dog is suffering from an incredible amount of pain. If your dog is yelping, it’s a sure-shot way of letting you know that he or she is in pain.
If your dog suddenly starts to lick a particular place on his or her body, It’s likely that he or she is attempting to provide some soothing effect to the region which is hurt. This behavior is often displayed in case of external as well as internal wounds. If it is external, you can easily spot it. However, if the wound is internal then that excessive licking should be taken as a sign of discomfort and pain.
Altered breathing pattern or heavy panting
Panting is considered to be normal in dogs. However, if you notice that your dog is panting without any obvious physical exertion, you should take it as a warning sign that he or she might be in pain. Also, in case of the severe pain, it might be painful for your dog to breathe, thus the shallow breaths.
Trembling or shaking
If you notice that your dog is trembling or shaking without the weather being cold, it can be taken as a sign of pain. Trembling or shaking can also be a symptom of pancreatitis, kidney disease or even poisoning.
Difficulty in sitting
It has been observed that dogs move in circles before they choose a spot to sit. However, this movement can be taken as a sign, a dog is in pain when the dog keeps circling, tries to sit, then gets up again and circles. If you frequently notice this behavior from your dog, then it is an indication that you must visit a veterinarian.
Sudden changes in the posture and movement
If you observe swelling in the face, legs or paws, It could be an indication that your dog is in pain caused by an infection, inflammation or cancer. Dogs have the tendency to go into a rigid stance while others generally assume prayer position with front legs touching the ground and bottom in the air. Your dog will most often take the prayer position in case he or she is suffering from abdominal pain. This posture generally allows them to stretch the abdominal area.
Reluctance to walk on slippery surfaces.
Dogs don’t mind walking in water or other slippery surfaces. Some dogs even love to get into every puddle they see on the road during their walks. However, reluctance to walk on slippery zones is a sign, the dog is in pain.
This is a pretty obvious symptom. If your dog is in pain due to sore paws, injury or arthritis, he or she may exhibit signs of stiffness and limp. Your dog might be slow in getting up or show reluctance in climbing stairs. You may also notice some lethargy compared to his or her usual active self.
Placing the body weight on the front legs:
Due to the pain in the hip or the back legs it may becomes difficult for your dog’s back legs to support the weight of the body. In such case, you will notice that the pup tries to manage the body weight on the front legs. This is called as the forward leaning stance. In this case, the dog angles the front leg in the way that it is tucked under the chest to support the weight of the chest.
Seeking or disregarding affection
Just like us, every dog responds to pain differently. Some may prefer to be left alone or hide while others may constantly want affection and cuddles.
More accidents around the house
This particular sign, a dog is in pain is most commonly observed in geriatric dogs. This happens when it is extremely painful for the dog to look for the guardian to be led out, go down the steps to the backyard or reluctance in facing the outside temperatures. In such circumstances, a lot of dog guardians feel that their dog has forgotten the house training. However, dogs are very smart. They do not do things without reason. Thus, if your dog is reluctant to go out, it could be due to an underlying medical condition.
Difficulty in resting
It is difficult for us to sit or lie down comfortably when we are in pain. Similarly, dogs find it difficult to sit or lie down when hurting. If your dog is sitting or laying down in an unusual position and is facing difficulty in maintaining one posture for a certain period of time, it may be a sign that your dog is in pain.
If your dog is suffering from an eye problem, you will observe frequent squinting. Alternatively, if your dog is suffering from pain in other parts of the body you will observe his/her pupils be expanded.
If your dog’s tail, which normally stays uprights, seems to have sagged or between his/her legs, it’s an indication your dog is not feeling comfortable and might be in pain.
Showing selectivity in what or where to jump from or jump to.
Jumping is extremely difficult when dogs are in pain. if you notice that your dog is jumping at specific angles or refusing to jump from a specific place, it is an indication that the dog might be in pain. The reluctance towards the jump may either develop in a gradual manner or suddenly. Your dog may decide that the jump is not worth the treats.
Tries to stand up on the front legs
Most dogs stand up by putting the weight on their back or hind legs first, followed by transferring the weight to the front legs. However as a sign, a dog is in pain when he or she tries to stand up by putting the weight first on the front legs instead of the back legs. This type of behavior is exhibited if the dog is facing problems in the hind legs and is finding it difficult to put the body weight on the back legs.
Refuses to play
If you notice your dog refusing to pay with his or her regular toys or with his or her playmates, it is a clear sign that your dog is suffering from some sot of pain Pain makes it hard for any of us to play or engage in physical activities.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language and you may see the symptoms at the early stages.
Why is your dog in pain?
There are several reasons why your dog might be suffering from pain. The two most common types of pain are acute and chronic.
If there is a sudden injury or illness which results in pain, this pain would be referred to as acute pain.
However, if your dog is suffering from pain due to a long-term disease like arthritis or tooth problems, this pain would be referred to as chronic pain.
Sprain/strain due to excessive exercise or activity
How can you help your dog?
If your dog is displaying any symptoms of being in pain, do not panic.
In case the pain is due to sudden injury, it may resolve itself with time. If you observe that your dog is behaving normally the next day then there is nothing to worry about.
However, if your dog shows symptoms of pain for more than two days, immediately schedule an appointment with your vet.
Stop engaging your dog in play, or any other kind of physical activity until you can consult your veterinarian. You may need to get some diagnostic tests done like x-rays, blood tests or an ultrasound to get a clear picture of the underlying cause of the pain.
Make videos of your dog when he or she is showing signs of discomfort or pain. Make sure to note down the timings, what had your dog eaten just before and what was he or she doing when the pain occurred. You can show the videos to your vet for him or her to get a clear picture of what your dog is experiencing.
Never administer any pain medication or NSAIDs to your dog without your veterinarian’s prescription or consultation.
Common pain treatments
There are many treatments which can reduce or eliminate the pain your dog is suffering from. Talk to your veterinarian to find out which therapy is the best option for your dog’s pain.
The most common pain treatments are
Ice or heat packs
Supplement or herbal therapy
Now you know the signs, a dog is in pain, don’t hesitate to take the pup to the vet if you notice the signs and symptoms. Your dog cannot tell you what he or she needs, so you have to be his or her voice and get his or her pain and difficulties understood by the vet. If you think a second opinion is needed, do not be afraid to get one. A second opinion is nothing compared to living with the guilt of what you could have done when the time was appropriate.
You must be very careful and decipher the behavioral changes in your dogs in the right manner. An intervention and veterinary assessment at the right time can prevent your dog from facing more unnecessary pain.
Even once the signs of being resolved, make sure to book an appointment and get your dog checked so that you can be sure that the pain doesn’t become a long-term problem.
Once the reasons behind the pain has been diagnosed and the initial pain has reduced to lower degrees, you can start administering some home remedies for pain to your dog,. Herbal remedies do not show the side effects of NSAIDs while keeping your dog from suffering more pain.
I honestly cannot stress this enough, if you do notice signs, a dog is in pain, take him or her immediately to the emergency vet clinic.
Remember, you have to be the voice of your dog. He or she relies on you for love, care and affection.
Dogs in pain commonly display signs like: -Difficulty in getting up -Difficulty in sitting down -Refusal to play with toys -Refusal to play with other dogs -Over or under sleeping -Yelping when touched at specific regions -Favoring specific sides of the body over other -Refusing to go out or go up and down the stairs
What to do if the dog is in pain?
Take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. Once the underlying causes have been identified and treatment started, the pain will reduce.
Can I give painkillers to my dog?
NO! Never give any painkillers or NSAIDs to your dog unless you have had a consultation with your veterinarian.
My dog is in pain can I give it Tylenol?
Never give your dog any over the counter medication unless you have spoken to your vet.
I pull the scruff of my dog and he yelps. Does this mean he is in pain?
Yes, this most definitely means he is in pain and a vet consultation is needed.