September 12, 2023

Crucial Clues: How to Tell if Your Dog is in Pain

September marks Animal Pain Awareness Month, a dedicated time to raise awareness about a critical issue for every dog owner. At Countryside Veterinary Services, we are deeply committed to ensuring the well-being of our loyal canine companions. Dogs, known for their resilience, may sometimes hide signs of pain, posing a challenge in recognizing their suffering. Moreover, many medications effective for pain management in other species may not be safe for dogs. In this blog post, we delve into the various aspects of canine pain, including its types, identification, and treatment options.

Types of Pain in Dogs:

Similar to humans and other animals, dogs can experience various types of pain, broadly categorized into acute and chronic pain:

Acute Pain: This type of pain is sudden and often results from injuries, surgery, or trauma. It is intense but usually short-lived.

Chronic Pain: Chronic pain persists over an extended period and can result from conditions like arthritis, dental problems, or cancer. It significantly impacts a dog's quality of life.

Understanding Canine Arthritis:

Degenerative joint disease (DJD), commonly known as canine arthritis, is a prevalent chronic pain issue among dogs. DJD occurs when the protective cartilage covering the ends of bones within a joint deteriorates. This loss of cartilage in the joint leads to chronic and sometimes excruciating pain, significantly affecting a dog's quality of life.

DJD typically affects joints such as the hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and lower back. Contrary to popular belief, even young dogs can develop DJD, though symptoms may not manifest until the condition worsens with age.

Identifying Signs of Pain in Dogs

While it's often clear when a dog is in pain due to visible injuries, some signs can be more subtle and require careful observation. Our mission is to ensure your pets' health and happiness, and being able to identify pain is crucial for achieving this goal. Here are some essential signs to watch for:

  1. Appetite and Water Reduction: Pain often leads to reduced food and water consumption. Dogs may eat and drink less, and they may even drop food or water from their mouths, especially if the source of pain lies in their mouth or teeth.
  2. Breathing and Heart Rate: Pain can lead to changes in a dog's breathing and heart rate. You may notice rapid, shallow breathing, panting, or alterations in chest and abdominal movements.
  3. Eye Changes: A dog's eyes can provide valuable insights into their pain. Changes in pupil size, whether dilated or constricted, can indicate pain, depending on the underlying cause.Dogs may squint, paw at their eyes, or show signs of eye redness or discomfort.
  4. Tail Position Changes: A tucked or lowered tail, reflecting unease.
  5. Energy Level: More frequent periods of rest and sleep. Diminished interest or enjoyment in play and exercise.
  6. Vocalization: Yelping or whining asa response to discomfort.
  7. Behavioral Changes: Dogs in pain may exhibit behavioral alterations. They might become irritable or aggressive, particularly when their painful area is touched or approached. Guarding behavior, such as protecting a painful body part, is not uncommon.
  8. Limping: Obvious favoring of a particular limb or walking difficulty.
  9. Movement Hesitation: Reluctance or avoidance of activities such as climbing stairs or jumping.
  10. Body Contour Changes: Swelling, especially on the legs, body, or face, can indicate underlying pain, such as inflammation, infections, or tumors.

Treatment Options for Pain Management in Dogs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are a group of drugs with pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. They are commonly prescribed to manage pain and inflammation in dogs with conditions like osteoarthritis. These drugs are also used to manage post-surgery pain. While these medications can greatly improve a dog's comfort, it's crucial to use them carefully due to potential side effects, some of which can be severe. All NSAIDs for dogs are available only by prescription. Your veterinarian will assess if an NSAID is suitable for your dog and monitor their health during treatment.

In the United States, approved NSAIDs for dogs include:

  • Carprofen (multiple brand and generic names such as RIMADYL)
  • Firocoxib (PREVICOX, FIROX*)
  • Grapiprant (GALLIPRANT)
  • Meloxicam (multiple brand and generic names)
  • Robenacoxib (ONSIOR, for a maximum of 3 days)
  • *Indicates an FDA-approved generic animal drug.

Before administering an NSAID to your dog, consult your veterinarian regarding:

  • The reason for prescribing the NSAID
  • Dosage instructions
  • Duration of treatment
  • Potential side effects
  • Medication interactions or dietary adjustments
  • Necessary tests before and during NSAID use
  • Frequency of re-examination
  • Your dog's medical history, including any prior adverse reactions to medications
  • Other products or medications your dog is currently receiving

Potential NSAID Side Effects: While most side effects are mild, some can be serious, including stomach ulcers, kidney or liver problems. Common side effects include:

  • Reduced appetite, anorexia or vomiting
  • Altered behavior, such as increased lethargy or changes in demeanor
  • Diarrhea, which may contain blood
  • Jaundice (yellowing of gums, skin or eyes)
  • Altered drinking patterns (increased or decreased thirst)
  • Skin issues like scabs, redness or itching

What to Do in Case of Side Effects: If you suspect your dog is experiencing side effects, stop giving the medication and contact your veterinarian.

Disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOADs)

DMOADs, such as Adequan® Canine, have emerged as a promising approach to treating osteoarthritis in both humans and dogs. Unlike traditional pain relief medications that primarily manage symptoms, DMOADs are designed to alter the progression of osteoarthritis by targeting the underlying factors that contribute to joint degeneration.

These substances work by enhancing the overall health of critical components within the joints, such as articular cartilage and synovial fluid. Here's a closer look at how DMOADs function and why they are gaining attention as a valuable primary or adjunctive treatment for osteoarthritis:

  1. Articular Cartilage Maintenance: DMOADs play a pivotal role in preserving and restoring articular cartilage—the smooth, protective tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. They promote the synthesis of essential compounds like glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans, which are vital for maintaining cartilage structure and function. By preventing further cartilage degradation and fostering repair, DMOADs help prolong joint health and mobility.
  2. Synovial Fluid Enhancement: Another key aspect of DMOAD action involves improving the quality and lubricating properties of synovial fluid—the fluid that surrounds and nourishes joint tissues. By optimizing synovial fluid composition, DMOADs aid in reducing friction and wear and tear within the joint. This, in turn, can alleviate pain, stiffness, and discomfort associated with osteoarthritis.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Many DMOADs possess anti-inflammatory properties, which are particularly beneficial in osteoarthritis management. Chronic inflammation contributes to joint damage and pain. DMOADs help mitigate inflammation, creating a more favorable environment for joint healing and maintenance.
  4. Slow Disease Progression: One of the most compelling aspects of DMOADs is their potential to slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. By intervening in the disease process at an early stage, these drugs can prevent further joint degeneration and, in some cases, reverse damage that has already occurred.
  5. Adjunctive Therapy: DMOADs are often used alongside other treatment modalities, such as physical therapy, weight management, and lifestyle modifications. Combining these approaches can provide a comprehensive strategy for managing osteoarthritis and improving a dog's overall quality of life.

While DMOADs offer promise in osteoarthritis management, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your dog. Your veterinarian can assess the severity of your dog's osteoarthritis, recommend suitable DMOADs, and establish a comprehensive approach to address their specific needs.

Exploring Hydrogels: The Case of Synamid®

In the realm of innovative arthritis treatments for dogs, polyacrylamide hydrogel products have emerged as a groundbreaking option to combat lameness and the torment of joint inflammation. While a select few are available in the US market, they exhibit distinct differences in composition, manufacturing quality, injection techniques, and their capacity to interact with the surrounding tissues. These distinctions hold the key to gauging the safety and efficacy of each hydrogel.

Among these, Synamid®, an exceptional 2.5% polyacrylamide hydrogel, sets itself apart. Upon injection into the joints, Synamid® exhibits a unique characteristic – it adheres to the synovial lining by leveraging its remarkable water molecule exchange capability. Over a span of 14 days, this gel seamlessly integrates into the synovial lining and the adjacent inner capsule tissue. This integration is achieved through a combination of cell migration and vessel ingrowth, culminating in the formation of a resilient, cushion-like membrane. This membrane comprises a gel that's harmoniously integrated with vessels and enveloped by a novel, hypercellular synovial cell lining.

Here at Countryside Veterinary Services, we have been seeing some incredible results since we've started using Synamid earlier this year. Ask us if this is an option for your dog.

Non-Invasive Pain Management | Laser Therapy

Here at Countryside, we provide cutting-edge Class IV laser treatments that usher in a new era of non-invasive pain management for your beloved pets. Laser therapy stands as a testament to the power of technology in alleviating pain, reducing swelling, expediting healing, and revitalizing your furry companions.

Understanding the essence of healing reveals that it commences at the cellular level. Laser therapy harnesses the potential of near-infrared light to deliver an essential boost – heightened blood flow and increased oxygen supply to cells. This process culminates in cellular bio-stimulation, a fundamental aspect of the healing journey. Scientifically proven, laser therapy treatments hold the promise of elevating activity levels, enhancing mobility, and effectively managing both chronic and acute pain.

With our commitment to delivering non-invasive and cutting-edge solutions, laser therapy emerges as a beacon of hope for pet owners seeking pain relief for their cherished animal companions. It's a gentle yet potent approach that brings comfort and rejuvenation to the forefront of your pet's well-being.

Lifestyle Changes for Effective Pain Management in Dogs

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can exacerbate joint pain and arthritis. Consult your veterinarian for a suitable diet plan and exercise routine to help your dog maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Regular Exercise: Gentle, low-impact exercise is crucial for maintaining joint health and muscle strength. Activities like swimming and short walks can help without putting excessive strain on joints.
  3. Orthopedic Bedding: Provide your dog with a comfortable, orthopedic bed to support their joints and ensure a good night's sleep.
  4. Physical Therapy: Consider physical therapy or rehabilitation exercises under the guidance of a veterinary professional. These exercises can improve mobility and reduce pain.
  5. Joint Supplements: Consult your vet about joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements can support joint health.
  6. Dietary Adjustments: Some diets are specially formulated to support joint health. Discuss dietary options with your veterinarian.
  7. Environmental Modifications: Make your home more accessible by adding ramps or stairs to help your dog navigate obstacles like stairs and furniture.
  8. Alternative Therapies: Explore alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage, which can provide pain relief and improve overall well-being.
  9. Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your dog's condition and make necessary adjustments to the pain management plan.
  10. Reduce Stress: Minimize stressful situations and environments for your dog, as stress can exacerbate pain. Create a calm and comfortable living space.
  11. Quality Nutrition: Feed your dog high-quality, balanced nutrition to support overall health, including the health of joints and muscles.
  12. Hydration: Ensure your dog has access to fresh water at all times to prevent dehydration, which can worsen joint pain.
  13. Anti-Slip Flooring: If your home has hardwood or tile floors, consider using rugs or non-slip mats to prevent slipping and falls.
  14. Behavioral Observation: Continuously monitor your dog's behavior for any signs of pain or discomfort. Early detection allows for prompt intervention.

Remember that every dog is unique, and their pain management plan should be tailored to their specific condition and needs. Consult with your veterinarian to create a comprehensive strategy for your furry friend's pain relief and improved quality of life.