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Pain in Dogs

By: Dr. Rhea Morgan

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Causes of Pain

Any cause of tissue damage or inflammation is potentially capable of causing pain. Examples of such causes include the following:

  • Trauma - fractures, sprains, dislocations, wounds, muscle tearing, blunt forceful injuries
  • Exposure to heat – flame, hot water, heating devices
  • Exposure to extreme cold – frostbite, cold surfaces, cold weather
  • Tissue inflammation – from infections, from pathologic conditions or diseases, from physical changes
  • Necrosis of tissue – death of the tissue
  • Ischemia – loss of blood supply to the tissue
  • Stretching of tissue – especially of round or hollow organs
  • Spasm of tissues – especially of muscles or muscular organs

    Organs That May Manifest Pain or Become Painful

  • Bones
  • Joints and ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Skin and soft tissues under the skin
  • Tissues of the mouth

  • Portions of the brain and spinal cord
  • Tissues within and around the eye
  • Certain components of the ear and ear canals
  • Certain structures within the chest, particularly the esophagus and tissues lining the chest (pleura)
  • Many abdominal organs, including those of the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, reproductive tract, and the tissues lining the abdomen (peritoneum)
  • Tissues near the anus and tail
  • External genitalia

    What to Watch For

    Manifestations of pain are highly variable in animals. Some signs are obviously related to pain, while others are more subtle. The individual personality of the animal and its tolerance for pain also affect the clinical manifestations of pain. Animals in pain often present with a wide variety of signs. Some signs that are associated with pain include the following:

  • Altered behavior – quieter than normal, avoidance of other animals or people, hiding, aggressive behavior, fear biting, mental dullness and depression, agitation, restlessness, pacing

  • Altered movement or gait – lameness, reluctance to move, reluctance to get up, wobbliness, abnormal carriage or use of one or more legs, stiffness

  • Vocalization – growling, howling, yipping, moaning, groaning

  • Decreased or lack of appetite (anorexia)

  • Increased respiratory rate

  • Increased heart rate

  • Shock, collapse

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