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Think of the patient old Labrador plodding along with a persistent limp. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t whine, growls, or refuse his dinner; so his own reasons the dog is limping but not in pain.
But, and it’s a big ‘but’, why is the dog limping? Unfortunately, the number one reason is likely to be a sore or painful leg. Indeed, one of the cardinal signs a dog is in pain is altered gait, stiffness, or reluctance to exercise
Taking this a step further (see what we did there!) and consider an arthritic Labrador taking pain-relieving medication. How can you tell if the meds are still working?
Things get confusing because arthritis (or indeed hip or elbow dysplasia) involves remodeling of the joint’s anatomy. These physical changes alter the dog’s gait even when he’s pain-free. Think about this and you realize how difficult it can be to spot when pain meds no longer work. Worrying, isn’t it?
Signs a Dog is in Pain
For many reasons, it’s vital a pet parent learns to recognize signs of pain in the dog.
Some are obvious, such as a limp or crying, whilst others are more subtle, such as restlessness, sleeping more or excessive licking.
The old, established method of detecting pain relies on noticing certain physical or behavioral traits. These are well-recognized and reliable, but they come with a drawback: You have to be there to see them. This is tricky if the dog is in pain at midnight. Happily, there’s now another, new option…and you don’t even have to be in the same room.
First, let’s get up close and personal with the traditional signs that indicate a dog is experiencing discomfort.
1. Lack of appetite:
One of many explanations for poor appetite is a pain. If you’ve ever had a toothache or an earache you’ll know how pain crushes any interest in food.
As well as limping and reluctance to exercise, issues such as walking stiffly or difficulty jumping in the car are indications of discomfort.
3. Body Language:
A dejected looking dog with a hunched back, especially with a lowered head, could well be in pain. Some postures are strong indicators of abdominal discomfort, so as the sawhorse stance with the legs braced or the praying position with the rear end of the air.
4. Facial Expression:
A furrowed brow or anxious expression (pugs and bulldogs excepted!) can be an outward sign of inner discomfort. Those big eyes also give things away, with the pupils either large and dilated, or small and contracted depending on the severity of the pain.
5. Short Temper:
When something hurts a dog has limited ways of warning you not to touch. No matter how sweet-tempered the dog usually, when injured or in pain, he may growl or snap unexpectedly. When a dog acts out of character and is unusually grumpy or short-tempered, you should always consider pain.
6. Character Change:
Pain affects a dog’s habits and reactions. When in discomfort many dogs feel vulnerable and withdraw from normal family life. The dog that is suddenly shy and hides away or no longer welcomes you home, maybe trying to conceal something other than a chewed slipper.
7. Lots of Licking:
Much like a child sucks a thumb, some dogs lick to comfort themselves. Repetitive licking releases natural feel-good hormones, called endorphins. Thus, a dog may either lick a joint to ease the pain or lick excessively to get a natural high and feel better
Whether a dog has a belly ache or an aching tooth, he’ll find it difficult to settle. This is often the case at night when in the quiet darkness there’s little to distract him nagging discomfort.
9. Whining or Vocalization:
Uncharacteristic crying or whimpering can indicate physical distress.
It’s normal to pant after exercise or on a hot day. However, panting at rest both hints at anxiety or pain, and should not be overlooked.
11. Racing Heart:
A dog in pain feels vulnerable and this triggers his fight or flight reflex. In turn, all that adrenaline and cortisol whizzing round his system makes the heart speed up.
12. Heat, Redness, and Swelling:
If the dog has a hot, red, swollen place on his body, odds on it hurts. From arthritic joints to tooth root abscesses; pain, heat, redness, and swelling go hand in paw.
All of the above are general signs strongly suggestive of pain, and any change from normal is best checked out by your vet.
Imagine a scenario where your dog is in pain during the night, whilst you are fast asleep upstairs. In the kitchen, he paces and pants heavily, unable to settle because of discomfort.
The flaw in the traditional methods of spotting pain is you need be present to see it.
But happily, there’s a new way to understand what your dog is going through, using the Pet Pace collar. The Smart Collar registers and records the dog’s heart rate,
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respiratory rate and activity levels, instantly transmitting the data to an app on your smartphone.
Now you know remotely if your dog is restless, breathing heavily, or has a racing heart. This information is recorded and available for you or the vet to see, at a time that is convenient for you. As a result of being alert to the problem, you are empowered to help and protect your beloved pet from any suffering or discomfort.
From the elderly arthritic dog to one recovering from surgery, how certain are you that your best buddy isn’t in pain?
Do your pet pal a favor, be alert for the signs…old or new.