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Could My Dog be Suffering from Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain significantly impacts a dog's quality of life. However, diagnosing chronic pain conditions can be challenging. In this post, our veterinarians in Jackson discuss chronic pain conditions in dogs, their symptoms, and ways to help your pup manage their pain.

What is chronic pain in dogs?

Chronic pain can severely affect a dog's quality of life. Unlike acute pain, which is usually short-lived and often the result of an injury or illness, chronic pain persists for an extended period, sometimes even for the rest of the dog's life.

Most dog owners aim to ensure that their furry companions receive optimal care. However, some conditions cannot be prevented. If your dog experiences conditions that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis, neurological issues, or certain types of cancer, you may notice changes in their behavior and movement.

It is essential to have your dog accurately diagnosed by a veterinarian so that appropriate treatment and pain relief measures can be implemented.

Other Types of Pain in Dogs 

Depending on their injury, illness, or condition, dogs can experience various types of pain that require specialized treatment.

Generally, five types of pain can be felt in different body parts and at different times. These types of pain respond differently to various pain medications and therapies.

  • Somatic pain is a pain in the skin and bones, such as surgical pain, fractures, bumps, and bruises.
  • Visceral pain arises from the body's internal organs, such as the intestines, bladder, or pancreas.
  • Neuropathic pain arises from nerve and spinal cord issues, such as nerve damage, certain cancers, slipped discs, phantom limb pain, or peripheral neuropathy.
  • Acute pain arises from recent injuries or illnesses. It's easier to identify the cause, short-lived, and usually resolves with time and treatment.
  • Chronic pain lasts more than three months and is often associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis. 

How to Recognize Chronic Pain in Your Dog

If you suspect your dog is experiencing chronic pain, it's essential to note any signs or symptoms you observe and bring your pet for a comprehensive examination to rule out underlying causes. Recognizing chronic pain in pets is crucial but not always straightforward.

Animals may not always exhibit obvious signs like trembling, whining, hobbling, or limping. However, certain unusual behaviors may indicate chronic pain, such as:

  • Unusual weight loss or gain
  • Uncommon movements or postures
  • An ordinarily energetic dog becomes lethargic
  • Inappropriate elimination habits
  • Emotional or cognitive changes such as depression or confusion
  • Change in affection towards human interaction

Causes of Chronic Pain in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is prevalent in dogs, affecting around 40% of them. It is a significant cause of chronic pain in dogs. Several factors can cause it, including hereditary and congenital factors, chronic pain from arthritis, neuropathic pain due to nervous system damage or dysfunction, and inflammatory pain from gum infections.

What are the types of tests to diagnose chronic pain in dogs?

If you suspect your dog is experiencing chronic pain, take them to the vet for a thorough examination.

Your vet may use the following methods to diagnose your dog's condition:

  • Physiologic biomarkers:  Biomarkers play a crucial role in diagnosing, monitoring, and managing chronic pain in dogs. These physical indicators, assessable through laboratory tests like blood tests, urine analysis, and imaging studies, offer valuable insights when combined with clinical assessments and behavioral evaluations. This integrated approach empowers veterinarians and pet owners to attain a deeper comprehension of chronic pain in dogs, ultimately enhancing outcomes and the quality of life for affected animals.
  • Measurements of gait: Assessing a dog's gait is crucial in diagnosing and monitoring chronic pain conditions, especially those affecting the musculoskeletal system. Observing the dog's walk enables veterinarians to identify abnormalities in gait and functional impairments associated with chronic pain, leading to accurate diagnosis and targeted management strategies.
  • Multifactorial clinical measurement instruments: Clinical measurement instruments, such as pain score systems, quality-of-life assessments, and physical examinations, are essential for veterinarians. They help to evaluate different aspects of pain, including changes in behavior, physical signs, and functional impairment, thus providing a thorough understanding of the pain experienced by dogs. These tools enable veterinarians to assess and monitor chronic pain in dogs more comprehensively.

How can I help my dog with chronic pain?

Managing chronic pain in dogs requires a comprehensive approach, including medical treatment and lifestyle adjustments. Here are some things you can do  to help your dog cope with chronic pain: 

  • Consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment methods, such as cold laser therapy
  • Create a comfortable home environment with a designated area for their bed, toys, water, and food
  • Ask your vet how you can safely manage your dog’s weight, if necessary
  • Make sure your dog gets gentle exercise tailored to their abilities
  • Consider alternative therapies
  • Make modifications to your home to support accessibility and safety
  • Regular monitoring of your dog's condition

Cold Laser Therapy to Treat Chronic Pain in Dogs

Veterinary cold laser therapy is a relatively new treatment method for pain, inflammation, and wound healing in pets. Therapeutic lasers stimulate cellular regeneration within tissues, aiding in pain management and faster healing.

Speak to your vet to learn how your dog may benefit from this treatment. 

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.

If you're concerned about your dog's chronic pain or want to find ways to manage it at home, contact our Jackson veterinarians for an appointment today.

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North Madison Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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