It’s terrible watching your pet suffer, especially when you’re not sure how they’re in pain. They can’t speak, which means they can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong. Instead, their behavior changes. A dog suffering from chronic pain may exhibit increased aggression, anxiety and lethargy. Or, in other cases, your dog may not show any signs that they’re in pain at all. This is why observation is so important. When something seems off, it’s likely because it is.
If you believe your dog is experiencing chronic pain, it’s best to start investigating right away. Chronic pain that goes untreated can drag down your pet’s health and quality of life.
Specific ways chronic pain affects your pet
Chronic pain affects your dog’s physical and mental health. A dog in constant pain isn’t going to want to exercise as frequently as they normally do, for example. Or, they might display aggression or anxiety because they’re on edge all the time.
In a physical sense, chronic pain may prevent a dog from doing simple things they enjoy, like playing with toys, going to the dog park or going for walks around the neighborhood. In other cases, it may manifest in smaller ways, like an unwillingness to jump or the favoring of one leg over another. Over time, these issues can add up to everything from restricted mobility, to blood pressure issues, to deterioration of muscle and soft tissue.
Dogs experiencing chronic pain may also develop issues with their personality. Some dogs become more irritable, especially if you try to pet them in a spot where they’re experiencing pain. It’s also not uncommon for dogs to develop mental illnesses like depression and anxiety after dealing with chronic pain. They will likely be less willing to play with you and may end up sleeping most of the day.
Spotting chronic pain
Pain in dogs can be easy to spot in some cases and much more difficult in others. It’s important to note that there are two types of pain a dog might experience: chronic and acute.
Acute pain usually comes about after an injury and is marked by yelping, limping and crying. Other things that can cause acute pain in dogs are recent surgeries and illnesses. Acute pain may develop into chronic pain over time if it’s not treated properly.
Chronic pain is a little less obvious than acute, as dogs usually show more subtle symptoms. Symptoms of chronic pain in dogs include staring, limping, stiffness, excessive licking and more. Sometimes, dogs suffering from chronic pain may show more obvious symptoms, including crying, growling and biting when that pain flares up.
Above all, it’s important to look out for new habits and routines that are a departure from the norm. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s because it might not be.
What causes chronic pain in dogs?
As mentioned, acute pain can become chronic pain if it’s not treated. But there are also a variety of underlying health conditions that can cause chronic pain. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is a condition that affects a dog’s joints, causing constant inflammation. Osteoarthritis may be hereditary, but sometimes develops after a dog has experienced a severe joint injury. The joint pain caused by osteoarthritis makes a dog less likely to jump and run around.
Another possible cause of your dog’s chronic pain is intervertebral disc disease, which can lead your pet to lose limb function and even experience paralysis. Signs of intervertebral disc disease in dogs can include a mobility troubles, leg weakness and muscle spasms.
Other issues that might cause chronic pain in your dog include cancer and nonmalignant neuropathies. This is why it’s important to take your dog to the vet for a full evaluation once a year. Spotting chronic pain is one thing, but qualifying and treating it accordingly is another.
Helping your dog manage chronic pain
While chronic pain is a terrible thing for your dog to experience, there are many ways of treating it once you know what’s going on. There are plenty of medications and supplement options out there that can help ease symptoms. While these may not cure your dog’s ailment, they can help reduce their pain and stress. The right joint supplement or anti-inflammatory medication can go a long way toward restoring your pup’s quality of life.
There are also forms of rehabilitation and exercise that may help with a pet’s chronic pain, but you should never start a regimen without running it by your vet first.
Finding the right treatment
The right treatment program for your dog’s chronic pain will depend on the cause of their condition. If your dog is experiencing osteoarthritis, for example, the vet may recommend medications and approved supplements. It’s also important for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis to maintain a healthy diet. This will keep your animal at a healthy weight and prevent them from putting too much strain on joints. If the condition is severe, then a vet might recommend surgery.
Osteoarthritis is far from the only condition that could be causing persistent pain, but it does happen to be one of the most treatable. Dogs experiencing chronic pain due to cancer will have a much different set of treatment options, which might include chemotherapy, medicinal mushrooms or certain medications.
Whatever the cause of your dog’s pain, it’s important to address it the right way. You might not be able to cure or completely stop the pain, but offering some relief is crucial for the sake of your dog’s health, wellbeing and quality of life.