How Can I Tell If My Dog Is In Pain?

I know this article isn’t really a training article, but I thought it would still be helpful.

Lately, with the release of a very nice anti-inflammatory/pain medication (called Rimadyl), people have been wondering if the drug would be appropriate for their dog. I have had calls from owners saying "My dog is favoring his hind end, but he doesn’t seem to be in pain. I wonder if this Rimadyl is something I should try for him?"

Think about us as humans…Many of us suffer from arthritis, or lower back pain, or frequent headaches. Unless the pain is sharp and sudden, you wouldn’t know that the person next to you on the bus is was even in pain! This is the same for dogs!

I guess this is where behavior and training can be a part of this article…
Sometimes you may talk to another person and that person will snap a smart and nasty remark at you. Later, that same person may approach you and apologize for his behavior and explain that he has the worst sinus infection in the world. Pain can drive people and animals to act crossly!

Say you have an older dog (sometimes this can pertain to dogs of any age), and your dog snaps at you for no reason. This behavior has never happened in the past. Have your veterinarian first look for any physical cause and then for a mental or training problem. Growling/snapping because you touch his side may mean pain there (it may also mean "Don’t touch me there!") .

Dogs cannot tell us when they feel poorly - in words at least.
We veterinary professionals must look at the dog and see what he tries to tell us in his actions and demeanor .

All of the following can indicate pain:
Limping
Scratching
Favoring
Licking an area
Unusual mouth movements
Turning the head to look at an area frequently
Running in circles
Erratic movements
Snapping at people, other dogs or self
Reluctance to get up or lie down
Reluctance to climb stairs or climb into a car (usually an older dog)
Panting for no obvious reason
Sometimes even just an odd look to the eye or face

Remember, more often than not, you will not see your dog cry out or verbally express himself when he is in pain!  You need to watch for the signs.

 

Pam Young, LVT CDBC CPDT  
Dog Gone Good LLC
Dog Behavior Consultant
Personal Dog Trainer