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How to Limit Pain for Your Dog

You can do some things to limit your dog’s pain.

Part of being dog owners is learning to speak the language of our canine friends. Since they don't talk with words but rather with body language and behavior, it's something we all need to learn and doesn't necessarily come intuitively.

One big thing dog owners need to learn to recognize and manage in their dogs is pain. We don't want our dogs to be in pain, and if they have a painful condition, we want to minimize that discomfort and get them feeling better quickly.

Here are some tips for recognizing and limiting pain in your dog.

Learn the Canine Body Language That Indicates Pain

In the wild, dogs that are hurt or sick usually do what they can to hide it, especially in the early stages. If they don't, they might be attacked by stronger pack members or predators. Because of that, it's important that dog owners learn to recognize the subtle signs of pain in dogs so they can act quickly. Here are some things to look for. Visit your veterinarian with your dog right away if you see them.

Most of the time, dogs don't cry when they're in pain like we might expect them to. Some dogs are more prone to crying than others, and sudden pain might cause a dog to cry out, but a dog that isn't crying might still be in pain.

  • Limping
  • Dragging a limb
  • Difficulty or stiff appearance when getting up from a lying position
  • Lethargy
  • Shaking
  • Fast respiratory rate
  • Excessive or heavy panting
  • Labored breathing
  • Scratching or rubbing at the eyes or ears
  • Licking or chewing excessively at one area of fur or skin
  • Biting, snapping, or snarling that is abnormal for the dog
  • Postures that are unusual for the dog

Learn more here: "Signs of Pain in Dogs."

You should watch for and note any unusual behavior or body position that you see in your dog and consult a veterinarian right away to determine whether pain is the cause.

Use a Dog Crate When Necessary

Keeping your dog in a crate is a great way to help him stay safe when you aren't home or can't supervise him. This can decrease his chances of being injured, ingesting or chewing on something toxic, or swallowing a foreign body that might cause an intestinal obstruction.

If your dog has had surgery or is being treated medically for a painful condition, a dog crate for confinement to a small area can be a crucial part of recovery. Dogs don't know how to limit their movements to rest the body parts that need it, and they might also lick or chew out stitches. Confinement can force the rest that's necessary for your dog to get better and it can also limit pain.

Give Medications As Directed

If your veterinarian prescribes medications to your dog for pain or to treat a painful condition, don't stop them early without consulting your veterinarian. Here are two of examples of why you should always finish prescribed medications:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may be prescribed for certain painful conditions related to swelling of tissues. They can relieve pain quickly, but it takes longer for all of the inflammation to be successfully resolved. Stopping too early often causes the condition to return.
  • Antibiotics can relieve the signs related to bacterial infections pretty fast, but the infection isn't actually resolved until a full course is given (the amount of time differs per medication and per condition). Stopping antibiotics too soon can result in a resurgence of the infection, and the bacteria involved might also then be resistant to that antibiotic.

If you feel your dog is having an adverse reaction to a prescribed medication, it is fine to stop giving it until you are able to contact your veterinarian to report the signs you're concerned about and receive further instructions.

Never give medications to your dog without talking to your veterinarian first. Many human medications are toxic to dogs.

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