Symptoms of pain and illness in dogs
Dog owners, who recognize the first signs and symptoms of illness or pain in their dogs, will not only alleviate the suffering of their loved ones, but can also save an expensive trip to the vet. Not only is it important to recognize these signs early to alleviate pain and suffering, it is much more effective in treating a disease when caught early.
The dog owner must keep an accurate and detailed account of their dog’s symptoms to help the vet correctly diagnose and effectively treat the dog’s disease or condition. Most canine diseases are detected by a combination of several signs and symptoms:
Temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate
A newborn puppy will have a temperature of 94-97º F. which will eventually reach a normal adult body temperature of 101.5º F. by the age of 4 weeks. Be careful when trying to take your dog or puppies temperature, as the thermometer can easily break in the dog’s rectum. In addition, any form of excitement can cause the temperature to rise 2-3º when the dog is in normal health. If your dog’s temperature reaches 105º or more OR 96º or less, take him to the emergency vet immediately.
An adult dog will have a respiratory rate of 15-20 breaths per minute (depending on variables such as size and weight) and a heart rate of 80-120 beats per minute. You can feel your dog’s heartbeat by placing your hand on his lower rib cage just behind the elbow. Don’t be alarmed if the heartbeat appears irregular compared to a human’s heartbeat, it is irregular in many dogs. Have your vet check him out and get used to how he feels when normal.
Any change in behavior that is not associated with a change in the home atmosphere, such as jealousy over a new pet or child, can be an indication of an illness. Signs of behavior changes can be:
o Fall / Trip
If your dog shows any of these signs, you should watch him closely for a few hours, or even a few days, until positive signs develop or he’s back to normal. Do not try to exercise the dog or put it in any situation that could cause stress. Most vets will want you to keep a record of when symptoms first appeared, if they are getting better or worse, and also if symptoms are intermittent, continuous, or increasing in frequency.
Dogs in pain will likely indicate that they are in pain by giving you clues as to where the area of discomfort is. For example, a dog that has abdominal pain will continually look down at its belly, bite or lick the area, and will not want to get out of bed. The dog may stand hunched over or adopt the “prayer position”, which is when a dog crouches on its front legs with its hind legs still standing, due to pain in the abdomen area.
Dogs cannot tell you that they are in pain or cry real tears, but a dog can vocalize his pain in a different way. A dog that is suddenly injured (as if being stepped on) will yell or whimper in pain. This also happens when an external or internal injury (such as an organ) is touched. Unprovoked whining or vocalization can also be due to an internal injury. Some dog breeds (such as the American Pit Bull Terrier) have a higher pain threshold and need to be watched more closely for signs of pain. Breeds with a high tolerance for pain are more likely to endure pain without vocalization.
Another sign of pain is a change in temperament. A dog in pain may show signs of aggression. Take note of this before concluding that a dog has become vicious and notify your vet so that the correct treatment can be administered. Also women in general (even humans!) Have days where they are simply in a bad mood for no obvious reason. Make a note of the days these mood swings occur, as well as any events that triggered them.
Other signs that your dog may be sick:
o Ears: discharge, debris, odor, scratches, crusty tips, spasms, or tremors.
o Eyes: redness, swelling or discharge.
o Nose: runny, thick or colored, crusty discharge.
o Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or gagging.
o Shortness of breath, irregular breathing, or prolonged / heavy wheezing
o Evidence of parasites in the dog’s stool, strange color, blood in the stool, or lack of bowel movements (constipation).
o Loss of appetite or not drinking as much water as you normally would.
o Weight loss.
o Urine of strange color, small amount of urine, straining, dripping or not going as often as usual.
o Bad smell coming from the mouth, ears or skin.
o Hair loss, wounds, tumors, dandruff or change in skin color.
o Biting the skin, parasites, scratching or licking the skin frequently.
The previous article was intended to help educate you on the signs and symptoms of probable pain or illness in your dog. If any of these symptoms occur over an extended period of time, seek the help of a veterinarian. I hope this article helps to emphasize the importance of keeping an eye on your dog’s health patterns and the importance of keeping an accurate and detailed health record for the convenience of your veterinarian.