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Spotting the Signs of Chronic Pain in Dogs

The signs of chronic pain can be difficult for pet parents to spot, yet dogs suffering from chronic pain experience a serious decline in quality of life. Below, our Greensboro vets discuss the causes of chronic pain in dogs, signs to watch for, and treatments that can help your dog live more comfortably.

Chronic Pain in Dogs

Your dog is a much-loved member of your family, so naturally you do all you can to provide your pup with the best possible care. But as our canine companions age, conditions that lead to chronic pain can develop and lead to a declining quality of life.

Knowing how to recognize the signs of chronic pain in dogs can help you to take steps early to manage or treat your dog's discomfort in order to get give them back their old zest for life.

Signs of Chronic Pain in Dogs

Conditions that lead to chronic pain in dogs, often develop slowly, making signs difficult to spot. This is why regular veterinary exams are essential throughout a pet's lifetime. These pet checkups provide your veterinarian with an opportunity to monitor the health of your four-legged friend over time and spot subtle changes that might otherwise be missed.

If your pet is suffering from chronic pain you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Decrease in appetite
  • Lack of enthusiasm for play, walks or activities
  • Reluctance to climb stairs or jump
  • Difficulty getting up from sleeping position
  • Tail tucked in or lowered
  • Spending more time sleeping
  • Yelping or whining
  • Irritability
  • Limping
  • Overall sad demeanor

Diagnosing Chronic Pain in Dogs

Your vet may utilize the following pain assessment methods in order to diagnose your dog's condition:

  • Veterinary examination
  • Physiologic biomarkers
  • Objective measurements of gait (eg, force plate) and/or activity and movement (eg, accelerometer)
  • Owner assessment of activities of daily living (ADL)
  • Diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound, X-rays or MRI

Conditions That Can Cause Chronic Pain in Dogs

When dogs experience chronic pain the most common cause is Osteoarthritis affecting approximately 40% of dogs. Some of the contributing factors for osteoarthritis include hereditary and other congenital factors which can affect dogs of all ages and breeds.

Other causes of chronic pain in dogs include:

  • Intervertebral disk disease IVDD
  • Cancer
  • Dental Health Problems

Treatments for Chronic Pain in Dogs

Never give your dog medications that are formulated for people. Many medications that are effective for us are toxic for pets. If your dog is diagnosed with a condition resulting in chronic pain, the treatment recommended will depend upon the underlying cause of the pain.

In the case of painful dental health conditions, surgery is generally the best treatment.

Chronic pain related to cancer can be treated a number of ways including surgery as well as narcotics such as Tramadol, NSAIDs such as Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx and Rimadyl, topical medications including lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), or drug-free therapies such as acupuncture or laser therapy.

For chronic pain caused by joint conditions such as osteoarthritis your vet may prescribe a change in diet plus dietary supplements to help fight inflammation, non-drug therapies to help reduce inflammation and soothe joints such as cold laser therapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy or acupuncture,  anti-inflammatory medications such as Galliprant, Rimadyl, Previcox or Metacam, painkillers such as Gabapentin or Tramadol.

The most effective treatment for IVDD (or intervertebral disk disease) is typically surgery but various medications and therapies such as laser therapy and acupuncture may also be helpful in making your dog feel more comfortable and improve mobility.

Laser Therapy to Treat Chronic Pain in Dogs

Veterinary laser therapy is a fairly new method of treatment for symptoms related to various disorders and is most commonly used to help manage pain, inflammation, and wound healing for your pet.

Therapeutic lasers use light waves of a specific wavelength to alter the physiology of the affected tissues. The light emitted by these lasers throughout treatment will help to stimulate the cells within the tissues and allows for faster cellular regeneration.

The wavelength of the laser used will determine the tissue that can be affected. Most commonly used lasers emit near-infrared light with the use of lower wavelength lasers becoming more common. Low-wavelength lasers are used to treat areas near and involving the skin while the higher wavelength lasers are able to focus on deep tissue repair.

Speak to your vet if you would like to learn more about how your dog may benefit from veterinary laser therapy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your four-legged friend might be suffering from chronic pain? Contact our Greensboro vets to book an urgent examination for your dog. 

Signs of chronic pain in dogs. An happy looking, old Irish wolfhound on the beach with blue sky behind.

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