Knowing what your dog's behavior might tell us about their pain level is important. We want to keep our fur-babies as happy, healthy and comfortable as possible. Massage therapy is one way of treating pain your pet is experiencing. Pet Perennials knows pets are family, and continues to provide you with information that will assist you in maintaining your pet's health & well-being.
This guest blog posted with permission from Emma Young, RVN and the UK Canine Massage Therapist Guild. Additional information may be found at http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/dogs-behaviour-can-tell-pain/#
What Your Dog’s Behaviour Can Tell You About Pain
When our dog is in pain, how do we know? Usually it is because we have noticed a change in their behaviour.
Pain, and fear of pain, place physical and emotional stress on our dog which puts them physiologically and psychologically out of balance. Acute pain (sudden onset, short-term) is adaptive – it makes our dog aware that they are ill/injured so that they slow down/stop, helping to protect their body from further damage and enabling their body tissues to heal. Chronic pain (on-going, long-term) is maladaptive – the prolonged stress it places on our dog’s body maintains high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to multiple detrimental effects including suppressing the immune system, reducing the ability of body tissues to heal and maintaining the pain.
‘Behaviour’ can be defined as ‘the externally observable activity of a living creature in response to changing internal and external conditions’. ‘Activity’ includes the way our dog postures and moves, their patterns of eating, sleeping and toileting, and the vocalisations they use. Behaviour is adaptive, and reflects an animal’s attempts to cope with changing conditions to reduce stress and maintain physiological and emotional balance. So, like us, when our dog is in pain (or fear of it), they will try to protect themselves by attempting to avoid the conditions that trigger or exacerbate the pain/fear, and by engaging in activities that help to relieve their pain/fear.
Behaviour changes that may indicate that your dog is in pain or in fear of pain
Way of moving/posture
Every behaviour is context-specific, and there may be other reasons for your dog displaying some of the behaviours outlined above, however it is important to rule-out pain as a causal factor given the detrimental impact pain will have on your dog’s well-being.
Remember, pain can be acute or chronic, a behaviour may have been going on for a long-time but this does not make it normal or less likely to be causing your dog pain and/or distress. Dogs are often very good at hiding pain, by the time we’ve noticed a change in their behaviour our dog may be in a lot of discomfort. Also, dogs will often continue to go about their favourite activities like chasing and retrieving balls even when they are in pain, since their motivation to play is so high and they are not aware of the increasing damage they are doing to themselves.
If you become aware of any short-term or long-term behaviour change which may indicate that your dog is in pain, take them to see their vet.
Massage therapy for the treatment of pain
It is the soft tissues (e.g. muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments, skin) of your dog’s body that hold his bones and organs in place and enable him to move. Injury and illness can cause pain in these soft tissues, both through primary damage (e.g. muscle tear/strain sustained during play) and through secondary damage (e.g. soft tissues that shorten and thicken to help stabilise an arthritic joint become tight, congested and more vulnerable to further injury).
Massage is a natural, drug-free, hands-on therapy which involves the manual manipulation of the soft tissues of your dog’s body. With approval from your dog’s vet, massage provided by a Canine Massage Guild therapist can be used incredibly effectively to relieve, manage and prevent pain (and fear of pain) caused by injury and/or disease by:
In the same way that your dog’s behaviour can tell you when he is in pain, equally his behaviour can tell you when his pain has been reduced or eliminated. Joyfully, for pain-inflicted dogs who have received 1 to 3 sessions of massage therapy, countless owners report afterwards that they have noticed clear, positive changes in their dog’s behaviour, for example that their dog:
So, be vigilant in observing your dog’s behaviour, he may be trying to tell you he’s in pain, and if he is, it may be that massage provided by your local Canine Massage Guild therapist could be just what your dog is waiting for to help him live a happier, healthier life.
Author: Sara Alan-Smith
For more information please see Sara Alan-Smith‘s biography
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