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Chronic Muscular Pain

What is the difference between Acute  and Chronic pain?  Acute pain from a dog will result in a sudden vocalisation, such as a yelp, resulting is something that is easy to visualise such as a limp.  This pain is short term and is reflexive and something that is adaptive.  Chronic pain is a continuous pain that more often than not will worsen with time and will become slowly debiltating causing the dog to slow down, sleep more, sleep in a positions that would would consider awkward.  On the whole the tell tales signs are intermittent.  If pain is chronic this will generally lead to compensatory issues.

So what does chronic pain look like:

Physical Signs:

  • Difficulty getting up after rest

  • Stiffness

  • On going or intermittent lameness

  • Excessive licking or nibbling of the body

  • Changes in coat condition or pattern 

  • Muscle spasms

  • Postural changes

  • Difficulty getting comfortable 

  • Difficulty going to the toilet

  • Reduced activity levels or activity avoidance 

  • Groaning when lying down or getting up again

  • Propping their neck up

  • Hanging neck over the arm of a chair or soft cushion 

It is therefore obvious that if a dog is in pain there are bound to be behaviour indicators, these being:

  • Low mood/depression 

  • Lethargy

  • Reluctant to play 

  • Sleeping more than usual

  • Changes in willingness to interact

  • Seeming disinterested or distant

  • Changes in temperament 

  • Snappy behaviour 

  • Increased anxiety 

It is worth bearing in mind that chronic muscular pain can manifest in subtle signs and often playtime or excitement will take over logical reasoning!!



Compensatory Issues

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The term compensatory issues is found throughout this website but what is meant by this term?  With many conditions, injuries and chronic muscular pain the discomfort felt leads to adaptive changes within the dog's posture and the way the dog walks.  The altered walking pattern then results in the muscles and surrounding soft tissues becoming overworked because they are being used in a way that they should not be worked.  Over time these compensatory issues can lead to secondary pain and can become worse than the original pain source.  

A simple scenario to demonstrate would be a dog with osteoarthritis to the hip.  The dog would shift the weight to the front legs and also over the neck region.  The reason for this is the dog then uses the neck and head for forward movement and balance because using all the power from behind causes pain.  The dog's tail will also start to help with balance and help with forward motion - eventually the tail will stop wagging due to pain and tension. As a result of the weight shift there will be compensatory issues in the neck, front legs as well as the back leg that does not have arthritis and the tail.  The primary issue is now not causing all the pain it is the compensatory and adaptive changes that is making every day tasks such as walking, playing and jumping painful.