Establish whether a dog is suffering pain or cannot be simple. Assessing the dimension of that pain is a complex task. We must bear in mind that, although the signs of pain in animals are well known, none of these signs – alone or together – provide definitive evidence of pain.
Usually, if an animal undergoes a procedure that would cause pain in a human, it is assumed that it causes similar intensity of pain in the animals.
There are differences if a dog is suffering from acute pain or chronic pain
It is good to know that, in pets, the signs of acute and chronic pain may differ. In severe acute pain, animals may have signs of anxiety, dilated pupils, restlessness or lameness, in addition to changes in his personality, increase or decrease in physical activity, self-mutilation and vocalization.
They are also signs of acute pain: excessive salivation, increased respiratory rate and heart rate. Additionally, Changes in blood biochemical parameters are manifested: increased blood glucose levels, cortisol, ACTH and catecholamines.
In chronic pain, the answers include protective behaviors. These behaviors are adaptive responses to pain and can be seen in how it moves and what position it takes.
Usually, the dog seeks to avoid aggravating influences of pain, for which it takes care of the painful region. In dogs suffering from chronic pain it is common to see signs of stress that include weight loss and loss of appetite.
The advantage of using behavioral indicators to assess the intensity of pain in dogs is immediacy, unlike physiological indices, which take time to quantify.
How is pain intensity assessed in dogs?
At present, The methods that assess the intensity of pain in pets are based on behavioral assessment. Various questionnaires have been devised that assign a score to each parameter evaluated. The result is assessed according to a pain scale, which allows the veterinarian to suggest the most appropriate treatment.
Typically, behaviors that reflect pain include factors such as changes in posture, as well as changes in your body activity such as refusal to move, lie down or change position. Further, changes in locomotive activity, vocalization, appetite, urination and defecation habits, or their response to manipulation are weighted.
Currently, there are various pain scales. It should be noted that there is no scale that can be considered the ‘reference’ in the assessment of pain. Among the pain scales developed primarily for the dog are those of Melbourne or Glasgow.
What posture changes are observed when a dog is suffering pain?
Typically, a rigid body posture is observed: When a dog has pain on one side of the body or on the other, it is easy to know. The first sign is usually lameness.
In cases where the pain is central or bilateral, it may happen that the dog does not favor the use of a particular side. In these cases it is when it is important to observe the level of stiffness. It is common for you to walk like a ‘gingerbread cookie’, with your ears back, and show hesitation to turn your head or bend your spine and lie down or sit tense.
The social context of the animal is also an important factor to consider. If you live in a pack, the isolation of group members may be an early symptom of pain.. Thus, shy or fearful behavior is common in animals afflicted with pain. Instinctively, animals tend to hide their pain in the presence of a predator in an effort to mask their vulnerability.
It has been suggested that, Because humans can be perceived as predators, an animal may not manifest its pain in front of its owner. However, it has also been reported that a pet with pain may manifest excessive attachment or desire for constant attention from his person.
In the end, being your dog’s best friend, you know your dog’s behavior better. You are the one who will know if something seems out of place and you can act to try to treat your dog
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