As animal chiropractors, we frequently see dogs in pain. Often, an owner brings their pet in because they aren’t using stairs, aren’t jumping on or off furniture, and/or are lethargic. When we examine their spine, the muscles often spasm and the dog is sensitive. The owner is often shocked to see some of the indicators of discomfort that a chiropractic exam reveals. However, dogs rarely show signs of pain so it can be difficult for anyone to figure out when they are hurting. In this article, we will discuss why dogs don’t show pain, what are some signs, and what we can do.
Why don’t dogs show pain?
Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to hide signs of pain. Before humans added them to our families and provided regular meals, dogs needed to hunt. As predators, they weren’t at the top of the food chain. Therefore, it was advantageous to hide signs of pain so that larger predators wouldn’t target them. This instinct is well instilled in them and the primary reason our dogs are so stoic. While the signs of discomfort aren’t obvious, there are a few symptoms pet owners can look for.
What are some of the signs of a dog in pain?
All dogs are different, just like people. Some are more open to showing signs of pain relative to others (although the majority still hide it). In addition, some might be open to showing discomfort at home and when you bring them to the veterinarian, they hide it. However, there are a few things you can look for that are often indicators. These are:
- Excessive grooming – dogs frequently groom themselves. However, if you see your pet focusing on one localized area it could be a sign of discomfort.
- More vocal – if your dog is more vocal than normal, it could be an indicator.
- Loss of appetite – this is one we see frequently in our practice. Dogs that are in a pretty good amount of pain might refuse to eat.
- Increased aggressiveness – if you have a friendly dog that is all of a sudden nipping and showing signs of aggression, it could be a sign of pain. This can even be focused toward owners in addition to strangers and other dogs.
- Panting – this is fairly common for a lot of the cases we work with.
- Issues with movement – if your active dog all of a sudden won’t do stairs or jump on/off furniture any more there may be an issue.
- Hiding – a lot of dogs will hide when they aren’t feeling well.
- Shaking – a great indicator, we see this in acute back and neck pain.
Your dog is a master of hiding pain. They often won’t show signs until the pain is fairly advanced. However, if you see some of these signs there’s a good chance something is bothering your dog.
What can we do as dog owners?
Many of our patients visit their primary veterinarian before coming to see us. Your vet will try to identify the cause of pain, and suggest a prescription to help relieve discomfort. If it is joint related, they may suggest visiting a board certified animal chiropractor. The IVCA and AVCA are the 2 major board certifications in the United States. We recommend trying to find a board certified animal chiropractor if you are interested in care for your pet as they have been trained appropriately.
Are there any additional ways to help?
There are a number of different ways to help with discomfort for your dog even without a prescription. This includes:
- CBD oil – we have numerous clients that use CBD oil and claim that it is effective. It is often retailed in holistic pet shops.
- Golden paste – if you have an older dog and joint issues are a problem, you can utilize golden paste to see if it helps. It is a combination of turmeric, coconut oil, and a little black pepper. This is a great anti-inflammatory. Make your own by following this recipe or you can purchase made options from your pet store if they retail it. Fish oil can also be a great complement.
- Joint supplements – these can help with joint issues as well. Glucosamine on its own is great. However, we recommend a supplement such as Connectin Hip and Joint which contains anti inflammatory herbs in addition to cartilage protecting nutrients.
- Essential oils – while we aren’t the foremost experts on essential oils, many of our clients use them and claim they are effective.
We recommend visiting your veterinarian first to determine the cause of pain. During your visit, you can ask about natural remedies such as these.
It would be great if we could talk with our dogs, for a number of reasons. However, a huge benefit would be to know when they are in pain and could use some help. Unfortunately, they are excellent at hiding pain due to their evolution. However, there are subtle signs as we mentioned previously that can indicate discomfort. If there is discomfort, a visit to your vet will help in addition to numerous other natural remedies. Dogs are an integral part of our family. If you see any of these signs it could be an indicator of pain, and your dog will appreciate you for noticing and helping them!