Pain Awareness-Recognizing Pain In Our Companions

September is Pain Awareness Month.

Just like Humans, Dogs and Cats both suffer from pain, but until someone invents a device that allows them to tell us they are in pain, we are stuck guessing. We are forced to interpret based on their behavior if they are in pain.

How Common is Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is probably the most significant source of pain in our dogs and cats.  

The Largest source of Chronic Pain in Dogs is from Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia. Over 60% of canine supplements sold are for Bone and Joints.

The most oft-cited estimate for Arthritis is 20% of dogs. However, most vets agree that it is underestimated.

When looking at Hip dysplasia, the Statistics from the OFA show the percentage to be 14.1%

Note that there is an extreme possibility that this number is vastly lower than the true percentage of dogs suffering from Hip Dysplasia.

One Reason is that a large percentage, if not a significant majority, is made up of dogs considered to be breeding prospects and thus intact.

The Risk of developing hip dysplasia is higher in dogs spayed or neutered early, which is a significant percentage of dogs from shelters and rescues as many states make it a requirement.

That being said, here is a table of the most popular Pure breed dogs and some breeds commonly found in shelters (Completely Unscientific Look at And Yes, I know Breed Identification by Shelters and rescues is by no means accurate.

Breed Percent with Abnormal Hips
Labrador Retriever 11.6%
French Bulldog 32.7%
Golden Retriever 19.6%
German Shepherd Dog 20.6%
Poodles 11.9%
Bulldogs 70.3%
Beagles 19.4%
Rottweilers 21.2%
German Short-Haired Pointer 3.9%
Dachshunds 5.2%
Pembroke Welsh Corgi 20.9%
American Pitt Bull Terrier 23%
American Staffordshire Terrier 26.4%
American bully 43%
Staffordshire bull terrier 15.4%

For the above reasons, the percentage of dogs with hip dysplasia is likely to be significantly higher than the 14.1% in the OFA Database.

Tools to Measure Chronic Pain

Because dogs and cats can’t tell us they are in pain, it is up to us to interpret a dog or cat’s behavior to determine if and how much they are in pain.

Luckily there are a couple of validated tools to measure and track chronic pain in dogs. Some of them are extremely easy to use and can be an excellent resource for both owners and veterinarians.

You can also do them occasionally over time so that you can more readily notice those small changes in behavior. After all, Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia can develop and worsen slowly, making the change in behavior less discernable and easier to miss.

They can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of any treatment or supplements your dog is receiving.

The most significant advantage in filling them out over time, is that you are more likely to notice the early signs of pain, Allowing you and your vet to take steps to manage the pain.

These are all vastly superior to the completely inaccurate 1-10 scales. Unfortunately, like other professions, many Veterinarians are slow to adopt newer tools. Many are still using the completely outdated, inaccurate, and subjective Visual and Numerical scoring scales. Many are likely unaware of these newer diagnostic tools. This means it’s essential to discuss them with your veterinarian.


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