How to Know the Pain Level of Your Dog (don’t let them suffer)

Knowing if your dog is in pain is important, being certain that it is well controlled and being able to monitor their pain levels is just as vital.

It’s not always easy, but here’s how.

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How can you get a pain score from a dog?

And the next question is from Gloria, who asks, how can I get a pain score from a dog?

This was in response to a piece on monitoring the effects of treatment on the comfort levels of an arthritic dog, but it could apply to any painful condition.

Arthritis is complex and progressive

So really, the reason for this is that arthritis is a dynamic disease and a treatment plan can involve many different facets. So painkillers are one part of a treatment plan but also we've got supplementation, dietary supplements, we've got weight management, exercise, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, environmental management. So there's an awful lot to a pain treatment plan.

Arthritis, it's also a progressive disease so it will get worse with time, as well as having flare ups where a dog becomes much more uncomfortable before settling down to their previous level.

So we really need to keep an eye on comfort levels of your dog (and this also goes for cats) just so that you know that the treatment you're giving is actually helping to begin with. This is especially important if you're only giving supplements and other management strategies.

Don’t fall for caregiver placebo

There is also the possibility that although you might feel that there is a benefit to the treatment you are giving, when you look at giving a pain score you could find that your dog is still in pain. This is an effect known as caregiver placebo.

So we want to know that the treatment's working to begin with and also that it's continuing to work to the degree that it always has done as time goes by as the disease progresses. Having a pain score allows you to really add interventions and modify the treatment plan if your dog seems to be becoming more painful.

Pain chart

Now there aren't many good, easy to use, monitoring systems out there that I'm aware of that have been validated and proven to show that they correlate really well with pain levels in dogs when used by dog owners at home. Now that said, I have produced a simple pain-monitoring chart myself. It asks a few questions, that you then kind of circle a score and then that gives you an overall score, which gives you an indicator of whether your dog might be in pain at all.

You can download this chart in the Knowledge Vault.

Now it might not correlate well with all dogs, but it should give you a rough idea of their comfort levels. If they have a really high score, or if they have a consistently low score and then this starts to rise after being stable for a period of time, then that really should prompt a re-evaluation of their treatment plan.

It’s really important that we treat our painful dogs effectively. There's no point in saying, well, I'm doing X, Y or Z and leave it at that because your dog might still be in pain. There's no one treatment that will guarantee them to be living a pain free life, being comfortable and having the best quality of life possible.

We should always be monitoring, and monitoring is one of the most important parts of an arthritis treatment plan (or a treatment plan for any condition at all) just to make sure your pet is living their best life possible.

If your dog has arthritis and you want to be sure you are giving them the best treatment possible then my free arthritis mini-course gives you simple, actionable information to improve their comfort and quality of life. Sign up today!

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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