How to tell if a dog is in Pain
January 18, 2022
Reactive Dog Walking

Dog Training Edinbugh – Is My Dog In Pain?

It a strange question isn’t it? Surely you’d know if your dog was in pain or discomfort, they’d tell us humans right? Well its not always obvious, it can cause complex behaviours to emerge and it can go undiagnosed for  weeks, months and even years.

If you’d like to know more about having a Movement Assessment for your dog then book a free call with me by clicking here.

Sleeping dog

If you asked me about my dog Erick, 6 months ago, I would have sworn up and down there was nothing wrong him, hes just getting on and slowing down. Thats me speaking as dog trainer and Behaviourist.

Erick is a very happy (if in his opinion always hungry) 8 year old, Old English Sheepdog.

He has a good life, lots of walks, cuddles, groomed weekly, treats, he has a Vet check up every 6 months, I take him to the Vets when hes Ill.

But by studying his walk, trot and postures I found there was a problem with his back left leg when he walked, it was really subtle too. The Vet diagnosed Arthritis based on the observations I recorded.

His diagnosis wouldn’t ever have been picked up until he was in considerable pain and his mobility really impacted. His Arthritis is now being managed, there is no more slow Erick – hes back bouncing around!

Dog Gait Analysis

I did a Movement, Posture and Behaviour Assessment on Erick aka Dynamic Dog Assessment. This allowed me to see that he is in some form of discomfort and I hate to think how long its been bothering him.

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Wouldn’t our dogs tell us they’re in pain?

I swear I could scream when it comes to dogs and being ill or in pain, they are such stoic animals. Pain and discomfort just becomes part of their daily life and we don’t see signs of them until something serious is going on.

Take Erick for example, I could place my hands on any part of his body and he wouldn’t flinch or be at all bothered. My mum touched a wrist and Erick snapped at her, which is highly unlike him. The Vet did the same thing and he hit the roof growling at her. His wrist is one location of his Arthritis, yet with me his owner I could place my hand there and there would be no reaction.

Well we can’t very well walk around asking other people to touch our dogs to check for pain, that’s just asking for a whole heap of trouble, isn’t it?

Dog Gait Analysis
Dog Gait Analysis
Doggy Tells of Discomfort

While the information in the next section isn’t exhaustive it also doesn’t mean your dog is in definite pain. You need to speak your Vet if you feel there is a pain problem with you dog, only a Qualified Vet can legally diagnose a health problem with your dog.

Reactivity/Unwanted Behaviours – This is a pretty common problem with dogs in general. But it could also be a symptom of pain ie a dog with a sore hip, who gets run into by another, the impact causes the hip pain to flair up. This could cause the dog to now see all dogs as potential causes of pain, so he barks at them all to keep them away.

Sound/noise Sensitivity – Have you ever got a fright from a sudden noise, I bet you tensed up? Imagine tensing up and your back going into spasm… ouch right? Now imagine its your dog who has the fright and spasm, that could cause them to be anxious about noises or over react at slight noise.

Growling/snapping – when this happens at random times, it might be your dog telling you to get lost because they’re in pain and don’t want to be handled.

Being reluctant to go for walks – If your previously bouncing off the walls at the mention of a walk dog, is now reluctant or showing less enthusiasm for their walks, its worth investigating whats caused the change. Same goes for no longer playing their usual games with toys or other dogs.

Slowing down/sleeping more – is it just age related or is something else bothering your dog.

Random Changes – you can’t predict the change and you can’t see any rhyme or reason to why their behaviour is different one day to the next.

They Move Away from you – When you sit down on the sofa next to them, they move away immediately. Maybe they are preventing you from touching their painful area, which you don’t realise you do.

Have they stopped jumping on or off the sofa/bed or into the car? Could be a sign that something has change and they don’t feel able to do the action anymore.

Restlessness – Maybe your dog is struggling to get comfy and forever moving around. Or when they should be tired after a long walk they’ve got Zoomies. Both are signs that could signal pain is preventing them settling.

Their walk or run has changed – Maybe they already walk differently compared to other dogs or has the change been gradual? Your dog changing how they move and stay still is likely a sign there is something going on with them physically.

There is no definitive way to diagnose chronic pain, it can only be done by your Vet, but you need to tell them everything you’ve noticed that different or odd about your dog.

If we don’t deal with your dogs pain, then any behaviour modification or training you do won’t completely work because you aren’t dealing with the cause of their problems. This is a problem I am seeing more and more of.

If you’d like to know more about having a Movement Assessment for your dog then book a free call with me by clicking here.

Further Reading

How to Change Your Reactive Dogs Behaviour

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How To Help Your Reactive Dog

How To Help Your Reactive Dog

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Dynamic Dog Case Study: Brodie

Dynamic Dog Case Study: Brodie

The problem isn't always straight forward, check out Brodie's Red Herrings. Brodie is a very handsome and playful Old English Sheepdog, his owners reached out to me over problems they were having, with Brodie growling and barking towards his family in the home, at...

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