Recognising pain in Older Dogs
Pain is often described as acute or chronic. Acute pain is abrupt in onset and often severe but may be relatively short in duration.
Chronic pain persists beyond acute trauma and is difficult to diagnose. It is characterised by nonspecific signs such as reduced level of activity, depression, anorexia, character change and or anxiety. Pain can be debilitating and may cause weight loss or muscle loss. Examples of chronic pain include osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease, medical or cancer and their related conditions spinal or nerve pain.
Pain is a subjective and individual experience. As in humans, different individuals may express their feelings differently in respect of pain. Monitoring and communication are central to a proper care plan. Medications are usually used to treat pain. Some dogs will communicate that they are in pain; others can be very stoic and make that determination difficult. However, often dogs will hide their pain as a natural survival mechanism.
The most obvious sign of pain is limping. If a leg is causing pain, the dog is less likely to use it. Dogs in pain will typically move around less – which is often put down to the ageing process rather than being in pain.
Other mobility changes may be noticed, such as having trouble getting up, particularly after a period of rest or moving around more slowly. Hesitance to go up or downstairs, run or jump can be a sign of pain – not just a sign of ageing.