Dear Daisy Dog
Shadow, my 8-year-old retriever mix, doesn’t complain, but sometimes I think his neck, back and leg hurt. What signs will tell me when he is in pain?
We dogs try to hide our pain, because our genes program us to believe that displaying weakness reveals our vulnerability to potential predators.
My brother Sam limps when his leg hurts, and he licks and chews his painful joints. Like many dogs, he continues to wag his tail when he is in pain.
My other brother, Jack, manifests pain more subtly. When his back hurts, Jack becomes less energetic, lacks enthusiasm and loses interest in what’s going on around him.
His facial expression becomes strained, and his eyes lose their sparkle. His body posture changes, and his appetite wanes.
Sam and Jack display most of the typical signs of musculoskeletal pain, but there are a few others you should look for, too.
Watch for changes in activity, whether decreased or increased. If Shadow is in pain, he may become lethargic and withdrawn like Jack – or restless and agitated like Sam.
Some dogs get up and lie down frequently, as though they can’t find a comfortable position. They can’t relax, and they may stand, sit or lie down in an awkward position.
Shadow might manifest pain through stiff movements. He might arise and lie down slowly, or act reluctant to walk up or down steps.
Some dogs guard the painful area, and some pant when they hurt.
However, we dogs rarely whimper, whine or cry when we are in pain.
If you think Shadow might be uncomfortable, see your veterinarian for an exam and pain medication.