Monday, February 13, 2017

Pain & Dogs

Dogs are extremely good at concealing pain from us.  Why do they do this?  As pack animals, not showing their suffering has clear survival benefits. The ancestors of modern dogs would commonly leave behind a member of the pack who was in pain and slowing down the group as a whole.  Each pack member needed the pack to survive, hunt and eat ~~ so without a pack, it was a death sentence.  As a result, dogs have learned to hide their pain very well, despite all the breeding we have done and changing of their genetic make-up.

And as dogs age, just like with us humans, nature takes its course.  Depending on the SIZE (and NOT human years), our canine pets move out of adulthood and into becoming a senior citizen, complete with the issues of growing older. While a large breed dog is considered "old" at 7 or 8 (human) years, smaller sized canines are really "old" until they reach 9 to 12 (human years).  As they change, we should be changing our care of them as well.

Side Note about Seniors: Food for seniors will have a lower fat content and a bit higher in fiber.  Protein levels will remain the same. Once a senior dog, they should be switched to a senior formula food accordingly. A good senior formula will have slightly higher levels of glucosamin, chondroitin,and other elements to support joint function. With many senior Chihuahuas, supplements of Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin C are more important than ever. 
We have a great sheet on how to recognize dog pain on our website in the resources section HERE.

Four of out of five large breed dogs over the age of 8 are suffering from some kind of joint pain or arthritis.  With the smaller sized canine breeds, this usually is between the ages of 9 to 12 (human) years.  Fortunately, there are some subtle signs we can look out for:

Top 6 Signs of Canine Osteoarthritis

  1. Weight Gain: Obesity is often an indirect sign of arthritis, as dogs become less active due to the pain.
  2. Difficulty in getting up to greet you: This is one of the most often cited signals. If your dog usually jumps up to greet you or visitors when they first walk in the door, but suddenly stops this behavior, there may be something wrong.
  3. Limping: Often arthritic dogs experience limping right after getting up from lying down. The limp may not last for long, and might only occur a few moments after getting up.
  4. Decreased energy: If your dogs overall energy has taken a turn for the worse, they may be feeling the pains of arthritic joints.
  5. Irritability: If your dog has become irritable for no apparent reason, they may be suffering from a hidden pain of some kind.
  6. Increased licking, biting, or chewing: Pay attention to where your dog is licking or grooming themselves. Excessive or unusual attention in one area of the body might be a result of joint pain.
Sadly, most dogs will be affected at one time or another by osteoarthritis, joint pain, or hip & elbow dysplasia. There are many factors influencing when or how bad the symptoms might be.  In general, the larger the breed of dog, the more likely they are to suffer from joint pain, and the earlier you need to start preventative measures.  

The following breeds in particular are prone to more severe joint problems. Many veterinarians recommend supplementation for these breeds as early as 3 years old: German Shepherds, Goldens, Labs, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Dachshunds, Newfoundlands and St. Bernards.  In the case of the Dachshund, we humans have bred the spinal column so long to create the confirmation of the dog, we have created a weakness there that requires early supplementation (even if the dog is not large in size).

Many veterinarians recommend supplementing with a high quality glucosamine, MSM, and Chondroitin supplement. In recent years, turmeric has also become a popular ingredient for joint support.  For more information on the use of turmeric, see this piece by Dogs Naturally Magazine.  The dosage of turmeric is 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per day for every 10 pounds of dog weight ( 1/2 to 1 tsp for a 40 pound dog).  And with anything natural, please don't fall into that mindset of 'if one is good, two must be great and three must be fantastic' we humans are known for.

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