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Dear Daisy Dog

How do I know when my dog is in pain?

Daisy Responds

We dogs hide pain, because our ancestral brains warn us that any show of weakness or vulnerability might incite a competitor to attack.

So instead of making it clear that we hurt, as you humans often do, our pain manifests as subtle changes in behavior.

When my cat family members hurt, they hide.

I know my canine sister Rebecca’s arthritis bothers her, even when she doesn’t limp, because her appetite and energy wane.

She has difficulty sitting, getting onto the couch and climbing stairs.

She gets up slowly, lags on walks, has trouble squatting to eliminate, and tires more easily.

Another dog might become anxious or snappy around boisterous children and dogs, afraid they’ll bump into him and hurt him.

But most of us hide our pain.

In one study, researchers videotaped dogs 24 hours before and after spay surgery.

The tapes showed that before surgery, the dogs lay quietly. But after surgery, they were restless, frequently getting up and lying down in an attempt to find a comfortable position.

Still, when humans entered the area, the dogs greeted them with wagging tails, as though they were fine.

Despite our stoic behavior, you should bear in mind that our nervous systems are the same, so anything that would hurt humans also hurts animals.

Pain impairs healing, suppresses the immune system and causes a myriad of other problems.

Moreover, untreated pain hypersensitizes the nervous system, so future painful experiences are felt more severely than they otherwise would.

If you suspect your dog may be in pain, work with your veterinarian to address it.

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