As our dogs get older, it can be normal to see them slowing down a bit. But when does it become more than normal aging? Arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs. It is estimated that 80% of dogs over 8 years old are affected and surprisingly, that potentially up to 35% of dogs of all ages are also affected.
Arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes inflammation within a joint and it affects the entire joint structure. If left untreated, it can lead to complete failure of the joint and is very painful. While there is no cure for arthritis, there are many things that can be done to help the symptoms such as medication, environmental changes, weight management, low-impact exercise, acupuncture, laser therapy, and more. However, early identification and intervention is key to slow the development of this disease.
Signs to Look For
Identifying when your dog is in pain can be difficult. We often assume that if our dogs are in pain, it would be obvious; they would be limping, whining or vocalizing, or they would not get up or move around. However, dogs express pain in more subtle ways. Like many animals, dogs will often hide or mask when they are in pain or uncomfortable. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense. In some species, weak or injured individuals get less access to resources and are often the target of predators, so masking underlying pain is necessary for survival.
Thankfully, our pet dogs do not have to deal with “survival of the fittest,” but this means that we need to familiarize ourselves with how to identify when our dogs might be in pain. Being able to identify these signs means we can help them BEFORE the more obvious indicators like limping or yelping.
Here are some signs that indicate your dog might be in pain (from Canine Arthritis Management):
· Licking joints
· Postural changes
· Behavioral changes
· Decreased tolerance to handling
· Depression/Low mood
· Sleeping more than usual
· Changes in temperament
· Changes in coat - color, direction of the hair
· Reluctant to walk
· Hesitating using stairs
· Difficulty getting comfortable
· Difficulty going to the bathroom
It is important to note that this is not a full list, but it gives you an idea of how varied the subtle signs of pain can be. If you are noticing these signs or suspect your dog might be in pain, book an appointment with your vet to have them evaluated. Our hope is that by sharing this information, we can help our clients identify when their dogs aren’t feeling their best, so they can get help sooner.
- Canine Arthritis Management - https://caninearthritis.co.uk
- Why Don’t You Listen?: A Story About How to Recognise When Dogs are in Pain (book written for children, but also great for adults) - https://www.dogwise.com/why-dont-you-listen-a-story-about-how-to-recognise-when-dogs-are-in-pain/
- Canine Arthritis Resources and Education - https://caninearthritis.org
- Is My Dog in Pain? Checklist - https://caninearthritis.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Is-My-Dog-In-Pain-Quiz_new.pdf