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Is Your Dog Suffering From Chronic Pain?

Dogs are known for their stoicism, and even the most loving owner might miss signs that their pet is suffering. Progressive, persistent pain that creeps up on a dog is often tricky to spot. Referred to as chronic, it can dramatically impact their quality of life.

Understanding the Differences Between Acute and Chronic Pain

Acute pain is usually pretty obvious. There might be crying and other types of vocalization, a pronounced limp, a change in mobility, or a known event, like surgery or an accident. Acute pain is seen as having a protective purpose, it’s often accompanied by redness, swelling, or heat.

Chronic pain is often insidious, and a dog may have to tolerate it long term if the owner doesn’t recognize the early signs. The pain of chronic pain is no longer protective. It has become the disease itself, and the symptoms look very different.


How Can You Tell a Dog is Suffering From Chronic Pain?

Diagnosing chronic pain is tricky as dogs don’t usually present the obvious indicators associated with acute pain. It’s rarely the same between two dogs. It is vital as a dog in chronic pain may not be willing to go outside on a walk or to poop


Often changes in behavior are the most significant indicator of a problem. Sometimes, these changes are noticeable and a big red flag. Perhaps your typically greedy dog has gone off their food. Or, it could be that an ordinarily affectionate dog might growl, flinch, or hide when you try to touch them.


Severe chronic pain can induce depression and anxiety in dogs, just like it can with humans. Your dog could become noticeably more withdrawn and less likely to seek out interaction or contact.


Chronic Pain Among Older Dogs

Older dogs are more likely to suffer from chronic pain. Many times, however, owners attribute certain subtle changes in behaviors to natural age-related slowing down. Often there’s a chronic pain component that’s pushing them into slowing down more abruptly.

Maybe they won’t want to walk as far on their walk, or they might struggle to jump into the car or climb the stairs. Dogs that used to love toys may no longer play with them, and they could become more sleepy or struggle to get comfortable. Even things like excessive licking and small postural changes are sometimes indicative of pain.


Diagnosing The Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is typically complex and multifaceted. Try to classify their pain into a few categories, and that helps to design a treatment plan. The primary pain will be;

  • Neurological

  • Inflammatory (like arthritis)

  • Myofascial causes

Arthritis is one of the leading sources of chronic pain, particularly in senior dogs. Adopting a multimodal treatment plan for chronic pain can, in many cases, greatly improve a dog's quality of life and long-term prognosis.


Ensuring Your Dog is a Healthy Weight

Following a comprehensive 2018 survey, The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimated that over 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. Being overweight isn’t just a physical burden on the joints, but fat tissue itself is also inflammatory. Having a lot more inflammatory tissue is going to make something like arthritis, that’s inflammatory in origin, much harder to control. This means that weight loss is a critical part of the conversation.


For dogs with ongoing chronic pain issues, it can be advantageous to seek the support of a pain management or rehabilitation specialist.


Dr. Lindsey Fry is a Veterinarian and Co-owner of Red Sage Vets in Colorado. The practice specializes in pain management and rehabilitation.


GROW is designed to be a resource and an entertaining publication for the whole family, by utilizing real and authentic family life experiences to challenge, encourage, inspire, and GROW families.


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