It is not easy to tell if a dog is in pain. Because one of the natural protective mechanisms of animals is to hide pain as much as possible because signs of weakness in the wild can mean death. Yes, don’t show anything so as not to be excluded from the pack, that’s the motto. However, certain behavioral changes, which often develop over some time, can be signs of pain.
How can you tell if a dog is in pain?
A dog expresses its feelings primarily through body language. It is therefore important for the owner to observe the dog and correctly interpret its body language. The following behavioral changes can be signs of mild or moderate pain:
- Dogs are increasingly looking for their owner’s closeness
- Altered posture (slight lameness, bloated abdomen)
- Anxious posture and facial expression (head and neck lowered)
- Look at the painful area / lick the painful area
- Defense reaction when touching the painful area (possibly with howling, whimpering)
- Deviations from normal behavior (inactive to apathetic or restless to aggressive)
- Decreased appetite
- Neglected grooming
Pain management in dogs
Dog owners should go to the vet immediately at the first suspicion because the pain is often an indication of a serious illness such as arthrosis, hip problems, or gastrointestinal diseases. The behavioral warning signals help the vet to determine not only the disease itself but also the extent and cause of the pain and to initiate subsequent pain therapy.
Timely recognition of pain can also prevent acute pain from becoming chronic over time. In addition, the early administration of medication prevents the phenomenon of the so-called pain memory, in which the affected dogs continue to suffer from pain long after they have recovered. Pain therapies can also significantly improve the quality of life in older and chronically ill dogs.
Pain therapy during surgery
The administration of painkillers is also useful for surgical interventions. While people used to think that pain after an operation was beneficial because the sick animal then moved less, today we know that pain-free animals recover faster. It is scientifically proven that pain before the operation also has a significant effect on pain sensitivity after the operation and must therefore be controlled.
Especially in recent years, modern medicines have been developed for dogs that can relieve acute and chronic pain and are well tolerated in high doses and some cases throughout life.