How to Manage Pain in Dogs

With obvious injuries or after surgical procedures, we can assume that a dog will experience pain. However, pain that arises from other conditions is often overlooked because dogs instinctively hide their pain.

The following health conditions can be assumed to be painful:

Arthritis: This condition affects the joints and surrounding tissues. It often involves inflammation of the joint, which affects movement and also causes pain. Because the dog suffering from arthritis is less mobile, there is weight gain and continued disuse of the affected joint results in further deterioration and increased loss of the joint’s mobility. Arthritis in dogs is a common condition and it is a major cause of chronic pain in older dogs. The most commonly affected joints in dogs are the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows.

Gum or Periodontal Disease: This disease is a progressively degenerative condition that results from untreated gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) in your dog’s mouth. It commonly occurs because a film of plaque, or bacteria, accumulates on the teeth and can lead to bone decay and very painful tooth loosening and loss of tooth.

Pancreatitis: This condition occurs when the pancreas (an organ near the stomach that helps digest food and controls blood sugar) becomes inflamed. Pancreatitis results in sharp abdominal pain. This condition can resolve in a few days or longer. Severe cases can result in death.  

Intervertebral Disc Disease: This condition arises from an acute rupture of an intervertebral disc of the spine in the back or neck. This painful condition can lead to permanent spinal cord damage causing partial or complete paralysis.

Bone Cancer: Cancer of various types is not uncommon in dogs and is the leading cause of death in dogs. Bone cancer is one of the most painful types of cancer. This is a severely painful condition that is progressively degenerative and often fatal.


Continual painful experience in an animal can be detrimental to the overall healing process as well as the quality of life of any animal.

Some well-known consequences of untreated pain are:

  • Immune suppression (variable degrees from mild to severe)
  • Catabolism (destructive metabolism, breaking down the tissues)
  • Metabolic acidosis and hyperglycemia
  • Interference with tissue and wound healing
  • Anorexia and digestive troubles
  • Insomnia and anxiety
  • Interference of normal behavior
  • Personality change
  • Loss of quality of life for patient and owner

There have been studies that link chronic pain to inadequate management of acute pain. Therefore, it is important to address pain control at the earliest possible time.


Careful observation will often reveal signs, although they may be subtle, of pain in dogs. Most dogs experiencing pain alter their behavior in some way. Physical and behavioral changes can be identified to uncover aches and pains early before other complications arise.

If signs of pain are observed:

  • Never administer human medications.
  • Don’t try to diagnose your dog on your own.
  • Don’t use dog medications that weren’t prescribed for that specific dog.
  • Contact your veterinarian to book an appointment, even if symptoms seem mild.

Examinations and tests can help identify conditions, diseases, infections or injuries that are causing pain. Some conditions (e.g. infections) can be cured while others (e.g. chronic diseases) can only be managed.

Related Articles

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Pain In Dogs? Read Now

What Causes Pain In Dogs? Read Now

previous arrow
next arrow
Print Friendly, PDF & Email