Mar 1, 2010

Does Your Dog Hurt? Arthritis Pain or Other Causes?

Posted by Bob under dog arthritis, from the vet, pain in pets

Guest Blog by Dr. James Gaynor:

Is it hard to tell if your dog hurts?  Sometimes.  A limping dog or a dog not using the leg may be obvious.  Dogs do not bear full weight on a leg for 1 of 3 reasons:  1- it hurts; 2- it is unstable (maybe from a fracture); 3- it has neurologic problems (this may be more likely to be seen as dragging rather than limping).  The problem is that dogs may hurt in many more places than just their legs.  The key to recognizing pain is to realize that any CHANGE in your dog’s BEHAVIOR may indicate a painful condition like arthritis caused by hip or elbow dysplasia.

Here are some examples:
A friendly dog who now is grouchy with kids or at the dog park may have some significant pain.  She may be protective to try to keep herself from hurting.  A dog who no longer jumps in the car or goes up stairs my have rear limb, hip or back pain.  A dog who does not want to go down stairs may have front limb or neck pain.

Don’t expect your dog to cry or whimper when in pain. Vocalization can mean many things.  It may also be one of the last signs a dog shows when painful.  This is no surprise. Most of us do not cry or whimper when we hurt, even when hit by cars.  We just change how we act to try to lessen the pain.

If you think your dog might hurt, take him to your veterinarian for a COMPLETE physical examination.  It might be pain from arthritis or many other causes.

There are so many treatment options after determining the problem, but you need the diagnosis first. For more information, see my website at

James S. Gaynor, DVM, MS
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists Diplomate,
American Academy of Pain Management Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist

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  1. Tina Said,

    I have 3 goldens who all react different to pain. The older mother dog doesn’t wimper or anything. She actually was going into shock before we knew that she had a severe urinary infection. Since she’s older (11) we were use to her just laying around. We found her one day and thought she had a stroke, couldn’t walk, hold her head up, wet all over herself and was just “out” of it. We rushed her to to the emergancy vet where they ran a load of test and didn’t know what was wrong. Took her home so I could take her to her regular vet in the am and they ran a urine test and found out she had a severe infection (possible a stone). We were preparing ourselves for having to “do the right thing” and it turned out to be a urinary infection. Got meds and now she’s fine. She has bridge arthritis down her back and doesn’t “bounce” around like she use to as much. The Rimadly does keep her up and moving.

    Older male (7) has hip problems, allergies and seizures. He is a regular at the vet. Now he is constantly chewing himself until he bleds. I think it’s due to the pain in his hips, doc isn’t sure. This is a never ending cycle. The only thing that helps him is long term antibiotics.

    Both of these two are on Rimadyl. Now their daugher is starting to walk funny. She is 5 yrs old and whiny when she hurts. Her issue seems to be her elbow.

    This just goes to show you that even with three dogs, they all react or show their pain differently.

  2. Bob Said,

    Tina, what a great comment. You are so right. Every dog shows pain differently. And cats almost never show pain! It also shows how important to see you veterinarian if you suspect that you pet has a pain or any medical problem. Often caught early, the problem can be effectively treated. Often it is also not what seems obvious and good diagnostics really help. Each animal responds differently to pain and to various treatments. Thanks for being a great and responsible “Pet Parent” and keep searching for the best options for improving the quality of life of your buddies.

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