Pain in Dogs
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of Wisconsin declares pain as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage." Pain is very subjective and difficult to measure. In fact, it not uncommon to see a dog hobble in to the hospital, happily wagging its tail as it holds up a limp and fractured limb, while another dog with the same type of fracture frantically yips and cries in extreme panic and pain. One patient obviously needs medication, but how does one judge the pain in the stoic patient?
There are situations where we can safely assume a dog is experiencing pain, such as with obvious injuries or after some surgical procedures. If the evidence is more subtle, we have to trust our intuition and train ourselves to be keen observers.
Most dogs that are experiencing pain will change their behavior patterns. We will see them reluctantly climb stairs, observe them becoming more withdrawn and inactive, or notice them reacting negatively to being held or picked up. These subtle changes in behavior may be our only clue that the dog is hurting. Back pain is common in mature dogs and anyone who has witnessed an older dog struggle to arise or even refuse to stand after laying down knows the discomfort these arthritic dogs must endure. Look for these or other similar yet subtle behavioral changes, as they may be the only way your dog communicates a need for pain management assistance.
Treating Pain At The Animal Hospital
If your dog is undergoing a surgical procedure, do not be timid about asking questions. "What type of pain management will you be providing for my dog, Doctor?" Quite honestly, some surgery cases do not require postoperative pain management (while performing the surgery there will be a local or general anesthetic administered). Wart removal or minor suturing of a laceration are common examples. However, if your dog will be undergoing major surgery, you can and should inquire about post-procedure comfort for your dog.
Surgical pain is not the only type of pain our dogs can experience. The chronic pain of osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease can be difficult to manage but can it can be done with teamwork between the veterinary staff and owners. The right method or combination of methods can be found to keep your dog comfortable.
In the case of an acute injury such as a cruciate tear your veterinarian will usually start with pain medications to control the inflammation of the original injury while a decision is made regarding having surgery or not.
Treating Pain In The Home
Our knowledge of how to reduce pain in dogs has taken some very positive strides in the last ten years. As a dog owner you have a number of products from which to choose to keep the quality of life where it needs to be, even in the face of the degenerative effects of aging and the traumatic damage inflicted by accidents.
That said, we need to be aware of the nonverbal clues the dog provides regarding its discomfort. Once we intuitively determine that a dog would benefit from pain management, we need to provide safe and effective products to assist our canine friends. From medications to supplements, physical therapy to non-invasive pain management such as laser therapy or the Assisi Loop, the many ways to help can be found on our treatment options page.