By Dr. Andrew Jones
Our dogs have signs and symptoms of pain much in the way that people do, but often this pain is unrecognized, not diagnosed, and hence not treated. In this article I will show you how to check if your dog is in pain, and the most common symptoms found in dog pain. I will cover the more common causes of dog pain, and lastly show you the most important safe solutions that you can give to treat your dog’s pain at home.
Unfortunately our dogs can’t talk, so it is up to us to recognize the signs and symptoms of pain in dogs. Signs of pain are often very subtle and can be difficult to see. Some dogs may just be reluctant to move, to jump up, or have difficulty rising after lying down. They may tremble, eat or drink less, be generally depressed, or be panting more. More obvious signs of pain are obvious lameness, pain on palpation of a specific area of their body, increased heart rate and breathing, and vocalization. Some dogs have strictly behavioral changes, such as being more aggressive, or not really reacting to being petted and groomed.
Causes of pain in dogs can be many, but arthritis is at the top of the list. Most dog arthritis is due to joint wear and tear, loss of the protective cartilage, and subsequent joint inflammation and pain. Back disorders such as spondylosis ( vertebrae fusing), disc disease, and pinched nerves are increasingly being recognized as chronic sources of dog pain. Chronic allergies with inflamed skin will cause irritation and pain in your dog, and closely related to allergies are ear infections, which can be extremely painful. Dog cancer affecting the bones, skin and organs has many signs, one of them being pain. Dental disorders, such as a tooth root abscess can be very sore, and your dog may just be reluctant to eat.
So if you suspect that your dog is in pain, what can you do? Clearly a diagnosis of the cause of the pain is best, and this means you performing a basic exam of your dog, or visiting your veterinarian. If your dog has a more chronic condition, such as arthritis, then I would suggest some of the safer home remedies, before using the potent, conventional veterinary drugs.
Glucosamine hydrochloride is the most important supplement to add to your dog’s diet. The dose is 100 mg once daily per 10 lbs of body weight. It helps to rebuild the cartilage and delay further cartilage breakdown, appearing to have some anti-inflammatory properties. It can come in a variety of combinations, with the most effective combinations including chondroitin and MSM. You should look for the chondroitin dose to be at least 50% of the glucosamine level. For example, a 50lb dog should be dosed at 500mg of glucosamine, and 250mg of chondroitin.
Aspirin is safe to use with dogs, but never with cats. The ASA dose is 325 mg (1 regular tablet) per 40 lbs of body weight given twice daily. Give 1/4 tab to a 10 lb dog. If side effects are seen, such as diarrhea or vomiting, then stop. I recommend uncoated regular aspirin, as the coated aspirin may pass right through your pet. Be cautious using aspirin if your dog has liver disease, kidney disease or is on additional veterinary medications; in those situations consult your veterinarian before using ASA.
Of all the herbs, valerian is the most helpful one for sudden pain. This very effective herb is used to release the muscle spasms that can be triggered from a compressed disc. The dose of the tincture is 0.1 ml per 10 lbs given twice daily. Other herbs are more useful for chronic pain seen in arthritis, and these include willow and devils claw. Devils claw is used in traditional African medicine and has scientific studies to back its effectiveness, give 100 mg or 10 drops per 10 lbs of body weight.
Homeopathic remedies can be surprisingly effective for pain relief in your dog, and even more importantly come with no side effects. Arnica is used for trauma, sudden pain, including back pain, such as prolapsing discs and spondylosis. The dose being 1 30C capsule per 20lbs every 1-2 hours. Arnica is also available as a gel, and in combination with other homepathics, such as Traumeel; the topical cream is very beneficial for locally painful areas, such as a painful knee.
An often overlooked home remedy is a topical compress; the type of compress depends upon the injury. For a sudden injury accompanied by inflammation, ice is helpful. Apply a block of frozen ice wrapped in a towel for 15 minutes 2-3 times daily for 2 days. When the injury is more long-term, then applying heat is more appropriate. Wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and apply it 2-3 times a day for 15 minutes to the affected area.
Chinese Medicine in the form of Acupressure can give your dog some instant, side effect free, pain relief. The two areas I have found to be most helpful include, the BL60 and KI3 points. These are found on the outside (BL60) and the inside (KI3) of the webbing of the hock joint. KI3 is also good for tonifying the kidney and strengthening the vital life force, the Chi. Another option is palm acupressure in which you place the palm of your hand over the affected area for 30-60secs twice a day.
You should now have a good understanding of dog pain, including how to check if your dog is in pain, with the most common symptoms, such as depression, behavioral changes, and panting. Arthritis is the most common cause of dog pain, although many health conditions, including infections and cancer, exhibit pain as a symptom. There are many at home remedies for treating your dog in pain, and I encourage you to try some of the above suggestions if your dog is experiencing pain now.
Dr Andrew Jones
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