Let’s begin with a definition.
The definition of pain is “a general term that describes the experience of uncomfortable physical, mental and emotional sensations in the body, often associated with tissue damage.”
Pain can range from mild localized discomfort to generalized agony. Pain is never only physical, mental, or emotional – pain always is experienced in all of these dimensions of experience or consciousness at the same time.
If you have a dog who has pain that you don’t even know about (and this is way more common that you might think), then there is no opportunity for you to take action to treat your dog’s pain.
This is why it’s so important for your dogs that you:
• Understand pain in your dog
• Learn all of the signs that indicate your dog may have pain
(some are very subtle)
• Realize the importance of regular hands-on pain
assessments for your dog
Pain is an experience created in the brain in response to input of information from
sensory nerves. The deep purpose of pain is survival. Pain is all about preservation and protection of the body from harm. Pain triggers avoidance of harmful behaviors or signals that there is something wrong. Pain causes changes in behavior that preserve life and protect the physical body or whole being from harm. Pain is very important and very valuable, BUT it also leads to suffering if the root causes of the pain are not understood and cared for appropriately.
You can’t avoid your dog experiencing pain, but once you understand how to tell when they are in pain, there are many steps you can take to relieve their suffering.
Fascia is one of the most important organs in your dog’s body. It is a three dimensional, intricate interwoven and interconnected web of connective tissue and is the main sensory organ of pain. There is a three dimensional ‘spiders web’ of fascia throughout the whole body. Just like when you touch one tiny fibre in a spider’s web, every strand is moved. Your dog’s fascial network has a very high number of sensory nervous receptors throughout so neuro-fascial pain is very common in the dogs.
I believe that neuro-fascial pain is often missed by vets and other pet health care professionals, as well as by most dog owners. This is no reflection on vets, rather a reflection of the fact that they have never been taught how to assess for neuro-fascial pain effectively.
Neuro-fascial pain does not respond well to the more generally accepted veterinary
treatments with anti-inflammatories or pain killers. The most effective treatment for neuro-fascial pain is neuro-fascial bodywork.
Why do so many dogs in pain show no signs humans can understand?
I think that the main reason is that we humans vocalise about our pain – we can talk
about it, and describe just where it hurts, how much it hurts, and how this makes us feel. This is so much a part of how we function that we tend to project how we function onto our dogs. We expect them to be like us. We expect our dogs to make a noise, to whine, to groan, or to whimper when they experience pain. And when they don’t, we assume that they must be fine.
To treat the cause of soft tissue (neuro-fascial) pain, there are a range of treatment options, such as a hands-on method, hot and cold packs, infrared treatments, acupuncture, appropriate low impact exercise, hydrotherapy, stretching, strengthening exercises, rehab, and physio as supportive treatments. In my experience hands-on work is the most effective – engaging skillfully and gently with the tissues treats the cause of soft tissue pain.
Signs of pain in dogs
Knowing that something undefinable simply isn’t right with your dog.
Behavioural changes – your dog becoming grumpy or snappy, not wanting to be touched, not wanting to be near humans, becoming distant or disconnected, avoiding other dogs and children, not wanting to play.
Tremors, trembling, shaking.
Slow to get up and down from lying – stiff and awkward. Often their eyes will be wide open and worried looking as they do this.
Flickering and twitching of the skin when patting or stroking your dog.
Warm or hot areas along the spine or anywhere on the body.
Your dog reacts uncomfortably to being touched in certain areas.
Sensitivity to touch and/or movement from people or other dogs (possibly also unexpected or out of character aggression).
Not wanting to play at all (or as much as usual).
Being stiff and slow after play and/or exercise.
Seeming to not want to eat or drink (sometimes they will eat and drink happily if you put their bowls up on a low bench - this is because it hurts to bend their head down so far).
Having trouble going to the toilet (which may lead to constipation and/or urinary tract infections).
Lameness – if your pet has a chronic limp and x-rays etc can’t find a problem, it may be neuro-fascial pain.
Tail held down low in an unusual position, not wagging the tail, guarding the tail from being touched.
Not shaking from the head all the way down to the tip of the tail (this is an important one!).
Not stretching regularly.
Changes in posture, holding their body differently (e.g. hunched back).
Reluctant or unable to jump on the couch/bed or into the car like they used to.
And finally- tension in the facial muscles – the ‘pain grimace’ – this will become noticeable with moderate pain, and becomes more pronounced the worse the pain gets.
The following signs indicate a serious problem, if you see them get to a vet ASAP!
Obvious lameness or a mild lameness that lasts longer than a week.
Won’t or can’t get up at all.
Aggressive when you touch or try to move them.
Yelping or moaning when moving or when touched.
Wobbly, weak, unable to walk properly, may fall over.
Dragging a foot or feet.
Collapse, unable to rise.
Knuckling over of a foot or feet, progressing to not noticing when this is happening.
Paralysis of limbs, possibly of the whole back end.
I will be launching a home study course to show you how to assess your dog using hands-on techniques as well as basic neuro-fascial massage to relieve pain and stress. Sign up for my newsletter to get notified as soon as it's released (and get pre-launch discounts!)