PAWS Chicago News item | PAWS Chicago

There’s help when your dog is hurting.

Jan 24, 2023

Dogs feel pain just like people, and they may be hurting in silence because they can’t tell us. But pain shouldn’t be ignored. Here's how to tell if something is wrong.

By: Tod Miner, PT CCRP  

Dogs try hard to conceal pain because being injured is dangerous in the wild. But pain shouldn’t be ignored. It’s nature’s way of telling us something’s wrong.  

Limping and picking up a paw are obvious signs of pain, but many others are more subtle and can go on for years without us noticing. By learning to catch these less obvious pain signs, we can provide relief sooner, save our furry friends from suffering and even address illness or injury before it becomes life threatening. 

So, what should we look for?  

Being in pain is exhausting and many dogs will sleep more during the day because moving hurts. You may notice your dog isn’t playing with their favorite toys like they used to. They stop going up the stairs and jumping on and off the couch. They stop stretching and avoid slippery tile or hardwood floors. We may just chalk it up to old age and brush it off, but maybe they are in pain.  

They may be restless at night because they have trouble getting comfortable. It may be difficult to lie down, sit or get up. They may not sit as often, sit crooked or with their legs out. You may observe them circling more when trying to lie down. When getting up, they may pull themselves up with their front legs rather than pushing off with their hind legs. All of these are signs of decreased flexibility in the spine and hips.  

Are they having accidents in the house? Increased stiffness and discomfort can lead to a decreased ability to get up and get outside to go potty. In addition, hind leg weakness can lead to incontinence because their anal muscles have also gotten weaker.  

Are they showing increased aggression to humans or other pets? A dog in pain may growl or show their teeth when being touched or moved.  

Do they look off balance? Is their head down? Is their back curved or hunched? When lifting their paws, are they light on their back legs and heavy on their front legs? Are they light on just one leg? They may not be putting weight on that leg because it hurts.  

Are they losing muscle? If they are favoring a limb, it will get weak and lose muscle mass. To find out, gently place your hands around your dogs right and left hind thighs. Is one significantly thicker than the other? Are they both very thin? Are the front legs more muscular than their back legs? These are all indicators of them shifting weight to avoid pain. Are their nails worn down or uneven? This could indicate they are dragging their feet.  

What Can We Do at Home? 

There are a few things we can do if our pet is showing any of these signs.  A heating pad is great for muscle and joint discomfort.  Imagine how good it feels for us.  Place a heating pad on their low back or another area of discomfort.  It can be set on high if you can tolerate it, so can they.  Do it for 15 minutes 2-3 times per day to provide relief.  Gentle massage to the irritated area is also helpful.  Cover any hardwood or tile floors with rugs or yoga mats to avoid slipping which can lead to chronic muscle strains.  Booties or toe treads are also great for giving your pet a grip on slippery floors.  Make sure your stairs are also carpeted or have a non slip grip.  If your pet appears overweight, touch their ribs.  You should be able to feel the ribs easily.  Exercise is also a great solution to improve muscle tone and weight loss.  Be sure to increase activity gradually so they do not get sore.   

We love our furry family members and we will do anything for them. If you have noticed one or more of these signs, your baby may be quietly suffering with muscle or joint pain. A consultation with your local Canine Rehab Provider or veterinarian may help identify drug free, non-surgical solutions for your pet’s pain.  

About the author: Tod Miner, PT CCRP is the owner of Arfit Dog Rehab and Fitness. He has been treating dogs and cats for muscle and joint injuries since 2007. Arfit provides free rehabilitation services to PAWS and other rescue organizations. Arfit Dog Rehab and Fitness 2112 N. Clybourn ave A1 Chicago, il 60614 312-620-4606