Accidents and naturally occurring health concerns are always a possibility with any pet in the home, and both seem to generally happen sooner or later despite any pet parents’ best attempts at keeping their furry companions safe and healthy. Here’s what you need to know to determine if your dog is in pain or discomfort and how to proceed.
What are some signs that your dog is in pain?
It’s worth noting that every dog is an individual, and not all canines respond the same to every health concern or injury. However, there are quite a few obvious signs that a dog is in pain that you can keep an eye out for, as well as some that are more discreet and may slip under the radar.
The most straightforward and apparent sign your pet is experiencing pain is vocalization. When your pup yelps, whimpers, or otherwise makes a clear vocal indicator of distress or discomfort, this is the simplest way to know something is causing them pain. They may also show signs of agitation or anxiety, being unusually on edge and sensitive when there is no apparent cause.
Trembling is another similar indicator to those, with the dog unable to stop shaking when there would typically be no apparent reason for them to be frightened, cold, or affected by something obvious. Some dogs may also be restless and unable to settle, pacing or constantly shifting and readjusting in their dog bed or otherwise displaying behaviors indicative of being unable to relax and get comfortable. They also may be breathing more rapidly than normally without exerting themselves.
Less obvious signs of your dog being in pain are a couple of things you’ll be able to notice, as well as a few you may need your veterinarian’s help to assess. The more difficult signs include your dog experiencing a higher heart rate, which you may or may not be able to detect on your own at home, along with what appears to be depressive symptoms.
Depending on your pup’s usual temperament, this may or may not be immediately apparent. However, a change in your dog’s behavior and personality is always something to note to determine if something is going on. Your dog may also experience a change in their appetite, with this change often being a decrease in their overall appetite and food intake. Sometimes, life or schedule changes may cause your dog to change up how often or how much they’re eating, but when this remains a consistent issue, it can indicate a serious problem.
Of all the signs a dog might display when experiencing pain, the most notable and significant is their inability to move. If your pup is unable or willing to lift themselves or move, this may mean that they are in an overwhelming amount of pain and that something very serious is going on. This symptom should never be taken lightly!
What Should You Do If Your Dog Appears to Be in Pain?
If your dog exhibits any of the above signs that they’re experiencing pain, your best bet is always to consult your veterinarian. Not every health condition is something that an untrained pet parent will be able to detect at home, and seeking proper veterinary care ensures that your dog receives the appropriate diagnosis and care as quickly as possible.
If the situation doesn’t appear to be a serious medical emergency, there are some things you can do to help your canine pal while you wait to be seen by the vet.
The easiest thing you can tackle while waiting to see the vet is helping your dog feel comfortable. Depending on your pup’s preferences and what may be going on with them, helping them be comfortable may look different in many ways. It may be providing them with a comfortable bed or another makeshift area to lie down and rest until care can be sought, or it may be providing them with plenty of cuddles and attention to ease their mind. Use your dog’s body language to help determine what might be best for them and act accordingly.
Suppose your dog has previously experienced health issues that have left them with some dog-safe pain medications prescribed explicitly for your pup. In that case, these are often safe to use unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise regarding when and how the medications should be taken. You should never give your dog medication not prescribed for them nor more than what’s labeled as safe on that prescription without explicit instruction by your dog’s vet.
When Your Dog Has Chronic Pain
If a new injury isn’t the cause of your dog’s pain, there are quite a few things you can do to help alleviate their pain when the health concern is something long-term, such as arthritis or another joint or chronic pain issue.
One of the best ways to address the pain that isn’t fixed with a simple vet trip or procedure is to modify your dog’s diet. Providing them with a veterinarian-approved diet appropriate for their breed, size, and age is the best way to ensure they’re getting as healthy as possible from the inside out. Providing your dog with the proper diet is the best way to ensure their overall health is excellent and helps prevent an extensive range of issues that might otherwise arise.
For those who require exercise and therapy to manage their conditions, there are many physical therapy programs for dogs to help them safely and effectively move their bodies and provide pain relief, whether this is something like therapeutic swimming (hydrotherapy), canine massage, or procedures like laser therapy or cryotherapy.
When You Should Take Your Dog to See a Vet
When your dog is distressed and in pain but still able to function, you should contact your vet clinic immediately to seek help. However, suppose your dog is unresponsive, unable to move, or appears to be in serious condition. In that case, emergency medical care should be sought immediately, whether with your dog’s primary veterinarian or another emergency vet clinic near you.
The Dos and Don’ts of Pain Relief for Dogs
To keep it simple, here are the dos and don’ts addressed in this article so far for easy viewing as well as a few additional helpful tips:
- Call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Keep your pet comfortable.
- Note all symptoms (and ideally with time frames, too!) to provide for your dog’s vet.
- Seek emergency medical care if your dog’s symptoms become very concerning.
- Pay attention to your pup’s body language.
- Take preventative measures to keep your pet healthy and safe.
- Provide your dog with medication prescribed for another pet.
- Give your dog non-canine medications. (Some of these are toxic and can be fatal!)
- Attempt any medical treatment yourself unless you’re trained and have experience doing so.
Unfortunately, having your pup get sick or injured is bound to happen eventually, but there are at least ways to help manage the discomfort until a vet can be seen, too. Suppose your pup is on the struggle bus and either awaiting treatment or recovering at home and needs extra TLC. In that case, we here at Space Coast Pet Services provide plenty of drop-in visits to check on your fur baby and ensure they’re comfortable and doing well while you need to run to work or run a few errands. We can even chauffeur your canine pal to their checkups if needed! To learn more, contact us today.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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