What we have to remember is that dogs don't talk, well only in the movies. A lot of people say to me, "I wish he'd tell me. I wish he told me that he was in pain. If only they could speak," well, they do. They do speak, but they do it visually. What we need to be doing is looking out for the clues that they're giving us. We're going to run through some of them now.
Walking with an unusual gait. That means the dog that looks like it's drunk, or it keeps stumbling, or tripping, or it just doesn't seem to be coordinated. They have a jerky movement, they don't place their feet so well. Just to illustrate the point, I've got a beautiful dog, Holly. She's now nearly 16, and she's a Border Collie, and they're famed for their agility and fluid movement. They can tackle anything, rivers, to fences, very agile. Unfortunately, she's got a form of arthritis called lumbal sacral disease, and now she walks like a robot. That's sadly because she's suffering pain. I do my best to try and control it, but it's tough. She walks irregularly. She doesn't whine and she doesn't limp, she gets on with it.
Becoming withdrawn. They're in fear that they might get knocked and it might hurt. They've got throbbing, dull aches, and they just have to go and deal with it on their own. They just can't tolerate noise and intervention. Maybe they become a bit fearful, but they take themselves away, or the opposite. They become more needy. They become anxious, they cling to you.
When identifying the signs of chronic pain, what you're looking for is change. If you have a dog that was once very needy and loved social interaction, but they start taking themselves away, that's something to be worried about. If you've got a dog that was very independent, but now sticks to you like glue, that's something to be worried about and you need to speak to your vet.
Changes in the way that they position themselves. These are called transitions, if you want the technical term. Changing the way that you're going from a sit to a stand, a lay to a sit, the way they choose to lay, the way they actually choose to sit. If you look at this dog here, you can see that he's not sitting comfortably with his knees bent. A dog will sit in a position that they can shoot up into a stand and get going. He's not going to be able to do that with his foot out there, and that's because his knee is painful, but he doesn't whine. When he's up and walking, it's very hard to see, but the way he sat really screams, "My knee is painful."
Stumbling or losing balance. This picture, to me, is quite obvious, but it's a harder one for people to interpret. Look at the way that this dog's back legs are very close together. He hasn't chosen a very good position for his back legs. They've all gone all over the show, that's not a very stable way to walk. Look at his tail, it's counterbalancing, because he knows that he's wobbling and he's lost his balance. This dog's also got a very thick neck, and that's because these back legs are weak and the front legs have been compensating. They become very henched in the front, and a little bit piddly in the back.
Behavioral changes. This one really is a heartbreaker. They often change the way that they respond to certain behaviors. Fearful of pain, or because it actually is inducing pain. What we have to remember is that they can remember pain. If something that you did once before hurt them, they're going to prevent themselves being hurt again. They might grumble, they might show their teeth, they might have a fearful reaction.
The story, to illustrate this point, is a Jack Russell that I saw. He got named Mr. Grumpy when he was 10, because he just started being intolerant to the rest of the family. When he was 15, he went off his back legs, he couldn't walk. They rushed him to the surgery, and imaging was done, he had an MRI, and they found that a disc in his neck had been pushing against his spine, and it had just given, and really compressed his spine. The great news was they could surgically reduce it, but when the surgeon went in, he said that the damage that had been done meant that this dog had this prolapsed disc for years. Mr. Grumpy was not Mr. Grumpy, he was Mr. I'm In Pain.
Licking or chewing paws or joints. A lot of people relate this to skin rashes, insect bites, allergies, etc. A lot of dogs will lick an area that is offering the discomfort. This dog's wrists might be uncomfortable, but there's also referred pain to consider. The problem might be in a different region, and this dog is just getting the pins and needles, or you might even find that this is a coping strategy. If you think about it, if something is really grating on you, really throbbing, you do something to distract yourself away from it.
Changes in the way that they sleep. Now, my dog does this. There's a real curvature to the lower back, and they're bringing the back legs forward. My dog does it because her spinal nerves are being compressed. By laying like this, she relieves the compression on her spinal nerves, and it gives her a sense of ease. It takes away the pain for a period of time.
Changes in normal daily activities. I hope we can all see that this dog is hardly off on the floor. He's collapsed into a squat. He doesn't have strength in his back legs to position himself. He might have been a dog that used to cock his legs, and he can't do that anymore, he can't balance on one leg. He's chosen to use a squat, and even that's hard for him.
Often, a lot of these signs all lumped together with this terminology, "He's just slowing down." That's a bit worrying, because that's not a diagnosis. That's just an observation. It's an observation that there's something that needs to be looked at.
"She's just getting old." These phrases actually haunt me now. I hear them and I might [inaudible 00:15:24] "Let's go find it." If I don't find a problem and the dog is in its senior years, there's no reason to explain that behavioral change, then I might come close to accepting it and trying to improve that dog's quality of life the best I can.
Until I've checked, I don't feel that, that is an acceptable thing. We do not believe an animal's just getting old or just slowing down, without being sure that they are not in pain.