Our adorable, sometimes mischievous, four-legged buddies – although subservient and not as intelligent as their human owners – are still rather complex organisms. They possess very similar emotions as us, including: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, pain and even depression and anxiety. Unlike humans, however, dogs cannot verbally tell us what is ailing them so it is our duty as their caretakers to notice the signs of discomfort and remedy it accordingly. Because they cannot talk to us we basically have to play a guessing game with them, which makes it difficult to narrow down what is ailing them. But if we can take an educated guess before taking our pets to the vet then we can save time and money, which can be later spent on more toys and kibble for our puppy.
Dogs, just like humans, express emotional signs that they are in pain including a change in mood. The most obvious signs of pain in dogs include anxiety, agitation, vocalization, trembling, restlessness and increased breathing rate. More subtle signs include increased heart rate, reduced appetite, depression and reluctance to move. With our busy, constantly-on-the-go lives sometimes the obvious can quickly slip through the cracks. The above signs could also be characteristic of an animal under stress whether from a new pet in the house, a move to a new home, etc. A more direct way to determine whether your dog is in pain is to analyze its biological signs. If you notice your dog scratching or biting at a specific spot frequently then first check whether your dog has ticks or lice with a visual inspection.
When walking your dog, notice when it defecates (or a lack of defecation) and see if it is abnormally colored or shaped, which means whether the stool is too hard or too soft or if the dog has diarrhea. This has the potential to indicate either a virus or a parasite. Next check the nose and mouth of your dog and determine if they are overly moist or too dry. This could indicate your dog has a cold that is causing it discomfort. Lastly, do a full body massage of your dog. Specifically feel for any bumps, abnormally clumping hair, or if your dog twitches or reacts when you put pressure on a specific area. If an area reacts to you putting pressure on it, but does not affect the mobile functions of the animal, then it is most likely that it just bumped into it while rough playing and it is just a bit sore.
Always remember that if you're unsure about what is ailing your dog, take them to the vet. It is a common rule of thumb that most problems can be better solved by catching them early. So if you really feel uncomfortable about the potential signs of pain or if your dog is acting out of character then take them to the vet instead of trying to play doctor yourself.