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Senior dogs make some of the most loving and loyal companions, and in return, it’s our duty as dog owners to ensure we keep our old pups comfortable in their old age.
As your dog ages, they will probably start to experience more aches and pains. Some of these can be due to health conditions, such as osteoarthritis, which is common in old dogs. However, some are simply the result of bones and joints aging.
It is our responsibility as dog owners to spot the signs that our senior dogs are in pain, so we can step in and ensure a good quality of life moving forward and potentially catch health issues early.
My senior dog, Honey, has helped me learn the best ways to recognise when an older dog is in pain, so today, we will guide you through the telltale signs of discomfort in senior dogs together!
Less of the ‘old’, please, Stephanie! I prefer the term ‘distinguished’. But you make some important points, so let’s carry on…
There are many ways to tell that your senior dog might be in pain. From behavioural changes such as aggression, lethargy, and withdrawal, to physical signs like limping, dilated pupils, mobility issues, and restlessness, any symptom that might indicate discomfort should be checked out by a vet.
Although any of these signs would be concerning at any age, taking them seriously with senior dogs is especially important because of the increased risk of canine health conditions in old age.
Keep your dog comfortable as they age by taking them to doggy massage classes and offering them joint supplements. Ask your vet for more information on what’s right for your dog entering their golden years.
Often, dog owners don’t think to look for behavioral changes as a sign that their dog is in pain, but this is often the first indication that something is wrong.
For example, when Honey had stomach issues a few months ago, the change in her behavior was noticeable before any physical symptoms like vomiting or whining. She suddenly didn’t want to be picked up and stopped running to the door to greet people.
Being in pain can definitely make a dog a little grumpy! Unfortunately, our stomachs get more sensitive when we reach a certain age, which is why I’m not allowed table scraps anymore…
Sorry, Honey! It’s for your own good! Anyway, some behavioural changes you might notice if your senior dog is in pain include becoming more withdrawn and an increase in aggression (more growling or maybe even snapping).
When Honey wasn’t feeling well, one of the clearest signs that something was wrong was that she started whining when anyone touched her stomach. If you touch your dog somewhere and they whine or whimper, it’s a pretty obvious sign that they have pain in that area.
Any significant increase in vocalisation from your dog is worth a visit to the vet, whether it’s related to touch or not. Sure, it could be due to excitement or stress, but it could also be your dog letting you know something hurts.
Dogs often groom themselves more when they’re in pain. Grooming a specific spot is particularly common when there is an external wound, such as a cut or a bruise.
We senior dogs might also groom ourselves more often if we have internal pain. Just because you can’t see anything physically wrong on the outside doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.
Thank you, Honey; that’s important to remember! And it’s actually relevant to our next sign as well…
Senior dogs might experience mobility changes, which is often just a natural part of the aging process. However, if your dog suddenly starts limping or struggling to climb the stairs, you should have them checked out by a vet.
Difficulty moving in a senior dog can sometimes be due to stiffness, and a certain amount of that is normal in old age. However, a visible limp or inability to do something they’ve always done with ease before could be a sign that they have pain somewhere.
You might not think much of your dog panting a lot, especially if it’s hot outside or they’ve been running around. With that being said, if you notice that your pup’s panting more than usual or the panting seems both shallow or too fast, your dog could be stressed out.
Now, there are many reasons why your dog might feel stressed, so excessive panting doesn’t necessarily signal pain, but it’s one of the possible causes, so it’s worth considering.
That’s true! Senior dogs might pant more when we feel a little… ruff! Get it?
Yes, Honey, we got it… Now, onto the next sign…
While reluctance to move around is a telltale sign that your senior dog could be in pain, the opposite can also be true: some senior dogs respond to pain by getting restless.
This makes sense when you think about it. For example, if you have a bad back, is it easy to get into a comfortable sleeping position? Probably not. The same is true for dogs – especially older dogs, who might already struggle more with their joints than younger pups.
If you notice your senior dog turning around in their bed or shifting constantly when they try to lie down, you should schedule a vet appointment, because your dog is likely experiencing some discomfort.
When we think about the types of pain senior dogs might experience, our minds usually go to joint pain and stomach discomfort first. However, painful eye conditions such as lenticular sclerosis and ocular hemorrhage are also more common in older dogs.
If you notice your dog squinting, it could mean that their eyes hurt. Pain in other parts of the body can also manifest in dilated pupils, so if you think your eyes pupils look larger than usual over a period of time, it’s also worth having this checked out.
Squinting is also a common sign of eye pain and infections in dogs of any age, so make sure to take your dog to the vet if you spot this, no matter how old they are!
Whether you believe your dog is in pain or not, if they’re eating less than usual for more than a day, you should schedule a vet appointment.
Reduced appetite, with or without weight loss, can indicate several health conditions, and it can also be one of the clearest signs of pain. If your dog has pain in their stomach, mouth, or throat, they will be less likely to enjoy their food, and they may start to lose weight as a result.
For example, Honey loves her food, but when her stomach sensitivity started, she became much less interested in his food. That’s when I knew it was time to take her for a check-up.
Greedy?! I wasn’t the one in the cookie jar at 2 o’clock this morning! But yes, loss of appetite is an important sign of pain in dogs that owners should know about.
Evie Randall is a talented writer at KnowMyDog.com who specializes in creating content that provides senior dog owners with the knowledge they need to take care of their furry friends. Her passion for dogs and her exceptional writing skills have enabled her to create engaging and informative articles that cover a wide range of topics related to senior dog care, from the importance of regular veterinary checkups to tips on managing age-related health issues.
Through her writing, Evie has helped to build a community of dog owners who rely on KnowMyDog.com for guidance and support in caring for their aging pets. Her dedication to providing high-quality content that is both informative and easy to understand has earned her a loyal following among dog owners, who appreciate her expertise and her ability to make complex topics accessible. Overall, Evie’s work at KnowMyDog.com has made a significant impact in the pet industry, and her commitment to helping senior dogs and their owners is sure to continue benefiting countless pets and their human companions for years to come.