In most cases, being able to guess correctly how your dog is feeling is the key to taking good care of your dog. This is especially true of senior dogs, who experience more health problems than most. Therefore, it’s good to know how to spot pain – pain is a common symptom of most health issues. So, let’s see about it.
How do I know if my senior dog is in pain?
You can know if your senior dog is in pain by observing for behavior changes. Symptoms such as limping, reluctance to walking and rising, sitting, or shifting body weight to one side of the hip, are easy giveaways as far as pain is very likely involved.
However, what complicates our ability to know if senior dogs are in pain is that dogs are quite skilled at hiding their pain. To overcome this challenge, it helps to know your dog’s normal behaviors. For example, if your dog is usually not very active, reluctance to play or walk may not be an easy symptom to notice – but if your dog is very active, a sudden change may be important to look into. So, keep in mind that the symptoms noted above and others to follow below should be put in context, according to your dog’s behaviors.
Signs That a Senior Dog Is In Pain
There are common symptoms that point to pain in senior dogs. They include.
1. Lameness or limping while walking or running
Difficulty walking up and down the stairs may also be an indicator of pain.
In terms of lameness, it is good to watch out for weakness and lethargy. These two signs (weakness and lethargy) may point to pain in the internal body organs – and, hence, can be symptoms of serious underlying diseases such as heart disease, tumor, and osteoarthritis, among others.
Keep in mind, though, that senior dogs typically show fatigue more often. Therefore, while noting weakness and lethargy, try to put it in context as a notable behavioral change. Changes in a senior dog’s mobility may be contributed to many conditions and should be assessed by a pet professional.
2. Reluctance to walk, sit, raise his head, or turn the head to one side.
Restricting their movement in any way may be a sign your older dog is in pain. The may slow down how fast they move or avoid turning in a direction to avoid pain. Always pay attention to changes in your dog’s posture or movement. There may be an underlying cause that needs to be check by their vet.
3. Shifting the bodyweight away from a painful limb, so that he develops a wobbly walk.
For instance, when hip dysplasia is involved, the dog is reluctant to apply pressure on the limb experiencing pain. Steps may become hesitant or a dog’s gait may change when they’re in pain.
4. Aggression caused by pain
Growling and biting incidents when one area is touched may indicate that he is experiencing pain in that region. This is especially the case when an accident is involved. Other vocalizations such as barking incessantly and crying/whining may also be a sign of pain.
4. Difficulty in breathing
Struggling to breathe may also be seen with heavy breathing, a persistent cough, and gagging can indicate pain as well.
5. Restlessness is also a sign of pain
A dog in pain is not capable of sitting or lying comfortably. They may seem restless or shift their bodies often when trying to get comfortable.
6. Urinary and fecal accidents
Incontinence issues such as when the dog is walking may also point to signs of pain. In this case, the dog is unable to control bowel movement and could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue associated with pain.
7. The dog is reluctant to be groomed
In cases where the pain is significant, the dog may tend to avoid grooming even though the area being groomed does not necessarily experience the pain. This is because sensitivity tends to spread to those areas of the body as well.
8. Changes in appetite
As with human beings, the desire for food may be affected by pain. The dog may be reluctant to eat or drink when he is experiencing pain. For instance, when the pain is associated with arthritis, the dog may be trying to avoid the movement involved in getting to the food and water. Loss of appetite may also be a standalone symptom of pain.
9. Changes in body posture
Sometimes the dog may adopt a hunched or rigid posture that is quite different from how he is on a normal day.
A posture where the dog keeps the front legs on the ground and the hind area up in the air may point towards abdominal pain, as the stretching enables him to relieve some of this pain.
10. Shaking or trembling may also point to pain
Dogs will often shake when exposed to a cold climate. Sometimes, though, shaking may point towards something worse, for instance, poisoning – eating chocolate, food with the sweetener called xylitol, and moldy compost.
Sometimes, you may notice a combination of the above symptoms, such as laziness/lameness, changes in body movement such as a wobbly walk, and restlessness. A combination like this may present a clearer clue towards the pain your dog may be experiencing.
What To Do When a Senior Dog is Experiencing Pain
The first and most important thing is to consult your veterinarian. An unfortunate course of action may be to try to diagnose the cause of the pain from internet searches. Yes, we do it for ourselves and it is understandable.
But the difference is that human beings usually have a good knack for knowing when the condition is worsening – dogs do not. So, to avoid the underlying condition worsening, it is good to consult the vet as soon as you notice one or a set of the above symptoms.
Hopefully, this article has shed some light on some of the indicators of pain in senior dogs. This is only the first step in taking care of your senior dog. It is an important step nonetheless. Because now that you know what to observe for in your senior dog’s behavior, you are more equipped to spot, get a diagnosis, and treat medical conditions that may be causing pain.
Painful conditions such as arthritis as progressive – meaning that they get worse and the time ticks by. An earlier diagnosis places the vet in a better position to manage the diseases before the affected limbs deteriorate further. Therefore, being able to spot pain in senior dogs is almost necessary. Good for you!