Concerned owners often ask the veterinarian this question. Owners love their dogs and cannot bear the thought of them hurting. But what do dogs do, or not do, when they are in pain? There are the obvious signs like limping or crying out when you accidentally close the door on a tail, but dogs can also be rather subtle when they are in pain.
Listed below are a few signs that may indicate your dog is in pain. One or two possibilities are noted, but be aware there are many, many more potential causes!
Your dog may be eating less, or even nothing at all. This could indicate a dental problem.
Your dog could be pacing. It may hurt to sit down, or your dog does not want to sit down because they know it will be painful to get back up.
Panting can be a sign of pain. Dogs can become anxious when they are in pain and panting can be a sign of anxiety.
Trembling can indicate pain somewhere.
Lip smacking may be an indication of pain. Again, this could indicate a tooth problem, but it could also be the gums or tongue.
Does your dog seem to be head shy all of a sudden? Your dog may be afraid of you petting them because they know if you touch their ear or neck, it is going hurt.
Did your dog used to like it when you pet him, but not anymore? Similar to being head shy, your dog may know that if you pet them, it will be painful.
Not greeting you when you get home anymore could be a sign that it is too painful to get up to say hello.
Going to the bathroom in the house despite being housebroken could indicate it is too painful to get up to go outside.
Going off into another room or part of the house away from the rest of the family could indicate they feel rotten and just want to rest or sleep.
If you suspect your dog could be in pain, take them to the veterinarian right away!
The first thing the veterinarian will note is your dog’s breed, weight, age, sex and whether they are neutered or spayed. Then they will likely need more information, for example: What are you seeing? What is your dog doing, or not doing? Has this behavior gotten better, worse, or stayed about the same? Is this behavior worse at any certain time of the day? Are you aware of any trauma? Your dog will need a full physical exam. Are the skin and coat free of fleas, crusts and mats? Are the lymph nodes enlarged? Are they symmetrical? Is the abdomen distended or painful? Is the heart rhythm regular? Is the heart rate too fast or too slow? Do the lungs sound clear? Is there discharge from the eyes? Are the ears waxy? Do they stink? Are the gums pink and moist? Are the teeth covered in plaque? Are any of them fractured? Is the temperature too high or too low?
Depending on what is found and what you report, certain things will need to be evaluated more closely. For example, an orthopaedic or neurological exam may be necessary. Based on those findings, the next steps can be recommended. Sometimes x-rays, or bloodwork, are needed or sometimes a reasonable starting point is rest and pain medication.
The potential causes of pain are many. If you are worried your best friend is hurting, do not reach in your medicine cabinet, survey your friends on line or consult Dr. Google – take them to the veterinarian right away! We want to help your best friend live a long pain free and happy life with you!