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Pain & behaviour

There are many musculoskeletal conditions that can cause our dogs to suffer pain.

These can include but are not limited to:

  • Elbow or Hib Dysplasia

  • Osteoarthritis

  • IVDD - Intravertiable disc disease

  • Lameness

  • Neurological conditions such as FCE (Fibrocartilaginous embolism)

  • Ruptured Cruciate

To find out more info specifically about these conditions or any other I would encourage you to go to Fitzpatrick referrals website. Loads of info there about various conditions, and videos too.

You may notice some changes in your dog's everyday behavior or how they go about life. For example, they may start becoming reluctant to jump into the car. Become sensitive to touch showing signs of aggression. Struggle to sit or lie down, problems transitioning through positions.

Dogs are AMAZING at masking pain, and therefore it may not be obvious that there is something wrong. There can also be some confusing elements when it comes to pain such as the fact that despite your dog possibly being diagnosed with a condition, you may question why they still chase the ball and love it. That is because when they engage in ball play it releases certain hormones which mask the pain. So while they are in the midst of ball games the pain signals are shut off for short periods. Therefore your dog keeps wanting to play the game. Dangerously though we are then causing further damage to the injury, which will then cause the dog more pain when in rest and not playing ball.

There is also another confusing factor. The story of a dog who is constantly busy and on the go, can't seem to settle, always looking for the next job or activity. This is often confused with behaviour and lack of training. HOWEVER, it can be again a way in which the dog copes with pain. Sometimes it is less painful for the dog to keep moving than it is to stay still. Ever suffered with back pain, I have, and I know that if I sit for too long it will start hurting, I have to move regularly.

If a dog presents sudden signs of moodiness, aggression, or touch sensitivity, guarding their space. Then undiagnosed pain may be a cause.

There is a fascinating research paper 'Pain and Problem Behavior in Cats and Dogs' by Daniel Mills et al 2020 found...

A review of the caseloads of 100 recent dog cases of several authors indicates that a conservative estimate of around a third of referred cases involve some form of painful condition, and in some instances, the figure may be nearly 80%.

In simple terms, 80% of behaviour cases had undiagnosed conditions that caused pain and therefore affected behvaiour.

To see the full paper use this link:

I personally have had many reactive cases where I have significant question marks over whether there is potentially something physiological going on for the dog. This means it affects the prognosis of the case and of course means that the dog is still suffering in some form despite the behaviour mod and training applied.

Recently I enrolled to become a Dynamic Dog Practicioner ( I am still under study). A Dynamic Dog practitioner is knowledgeable in gait, posture, and conformation of dogs. Through various observations, they are able to highlight where there may be potential for physiological conditions that need further investigative work such as X-ray or CT scans.

If pain is a question over behaviour I would advise you to seek an assessment from either a dynamic dog practitioner or a physio vet. Not your normal vet as these do not have the knowledge of gait, posture and movement like these other professionals do. They will also struggle to observe all the things necessary in their ten-minute consult.

I will be providing much, much more on this subject so keep your eyes peeled. I guarantee it will have you questioning your dog, and may even light up some light bulbs for you.

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