How owners can prevent pet suffering by knowing signs

Experts reveal common signs of pain in dogs

By Meaghan St Pierre, WDIV

CANTON, Mich. - Donald Phillips worried his aunt's dog, Ace, would have to be put down after he suffered a ruptured disc that left his back end paralyzed and the rest of his body in a lot of pain. 

"He would grimace and bark, and growl. He was in a lot of pain," Phillips said of the 8-year-old Rottweiler. "It was awful to watch, it really was. My wife would be just teared up. My aunt, she thought we were going to have to put him down, that's what we all thought."

Instead, Phillips brought Ace to Arbor Pointe Veterinary Hospital in Canton to have veterinarian Dr. Michael Petty treat him with acupuncture and pain medication.  Ace was able to walk again by his fifth acupuncture treatment. 

"I wish I could say that every single case turned out this way, but it's medicine and they don't all respond," Petty said. 

Petty, a veterinarian and certified veterinary pain management specialist, told News 6 partner Local 4 that pets can suffer pain at any age and changes in behavior are signs they could be suffering.

Most Common Signs of Pain for Pets by Clickon Detroit on Scribd

Common signs of pain in dogs include: 

  • Decreased social interaction
  • Anxious expression
  • Submissive behavior
  • Refusal to move
  • Whimpering
  • Howling
  • Growling
  • Guarding behavior
  • Aggression, biting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Self-mutilation (chewing)
  • Changes in posture

Common signs of pain in cats include: 

  • Reduced activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Quiet/loss of curiosity
  • Changes in urinary/defecation habits
  • Hiding
  • Hissing or spitting
  • Lack of agility/jumping
  • Excessive licking/grooming
  • Stiff posture/gait
  • Guarding behavior
  • Stops grooming/matted fur
  • Tail flicking
  • Weight loss

Petty said doing research on the breed of dog a person has is important, and if you have a breed that is prone to a particular issue, that is something to have a veterinarian screen for during visits.

Causes of pain can include surgical pain, arthritis and cancer-related.  Acute pain is obvious and sudden, but chronic pain can be subtle and can be confused with a pet getting older or slowing down.

A pain exam with X-rays can help diagnose a pain problem.

Petty said there are several options to treat pain including medications, rehabilitation therapy -- which is a pet version of physical therapy -- and acupuncture.

"It depends on how far you want to go, what works, we try the easy stuff first, the inexpensive stuff first and if we need to, we keep getting more and more complex with our treatments," Petty said.

Pain treatments Petty uses include acupuncture, Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy, laser therapy, manual therapy and massage, stem cell therapy, rehabilitation therapy and medicines including NSAIDs for pets, because they cannot use drugs prescribed for humans.

Petty said don't wait if you suspect your pet is suffering.

"Too often I see clients that have brought their animals in to me when it becomes a problem for them, not when it's a problem for their pet. In other words, the dogs may been suffering a while and nothing has been done about it until they have to pick the dog up to get it up the stairs they have to pick it up to get it into the car, the dog will no longer walk across the floor,"  Petty said.  "That's not to blame pet owners, it's really lack of education. They haven't been told properly how to recognize signs of pain."

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