These are words I often hear from people during a conversation. Working with dogs I am obviously asked information or advice about other people’s dogs. As much as I am happy to talk to anyone about their dog and how, perhaps their dog’s life can be enhanced, this invariably is not as straight forward as ‘my dog is lame, what do I do?’ but much more along the lines, ‘my dog does this’ or ‘my dog doesn’t do this’ etc. Quite often these conversations include a behavioural trait that could so easily be driven by a pain response. However, more often than not I am met with this following statement after I have explained how or why their dog may be behaving in such a manner ‘oh no my dog is not in pain’! Believe me, I do not want to hear that their dogs’ are in any form of pain but so often what they report to me are behavioural traits that can so easily indicate pain. Alarmingly, I do also hear ‘my dog is lame but he is not in pain’!
So I suppose the question really is ‘what is pain?’ I do believe that often people cannot consider anything in their dogs’ life to be pain unless it is overt and obvious, in other words, they are vocalising pain, hobbling lame, whining or reluctant to leave their bed; in my opinion these actions are not just ‘pain’ they denote a form of agonising event in a dog’s life, more akin to acute pain. These type of behaviours should be instantly followed up with a trip to the vet.
What I am talking about is the type of pain that is relentless, niggling, similar to a tooth-ache in the body, life diminishing, chronic pain. The type you wake up with in the morning and go to bed with at night, the type that your body becomes so used to that it becomes part of your life. They type of pain that occasionally flares up so that for a day or a few hours it reaches greater heights and so you become consciously aware of it and then it subsides. The type of pain that is like ‘white noise’ in your life. That is what I am talking about!
Chronic pain in dogs is an area that is so difficult to diagnose for vets and for owners; I know that from talking to vets, from all the articles written by vets for vets trying to give pointers as to how to identify these signs and most of all from all the dogs that I treat that have had years of accumulating discomfort resulting in deep muscle pain. For the owners, this type of pain is often so slow to manifest it just becomes part of your dogs ‘normal’.
This is the type of pain that is insidious, it builds slowly, allowing the body to become accepting of the pain pathways that then appear to work in the background of a dogs’ consciousness but the body is still receiving these signals and is having to manage and deal with them. The results of this can manifest in so many different ways but if one starts to emphasise with this through one’s own experience/s, then it becomes so much easier to relate to, and how your dog might be feeling and responding.
How any dog responds to this nagging pain, day in and day out, are not straight forward, exactly the same as no two humans respond in the same way to pain. But the common factor is that it will have an impact and the dog’s perception of the world and this will determine how they respond to the world in which they live. These can be as diverse as aggression, suppression, lack of play, self-mutilation, resistance to perform an activity, disobedience, being ‘naughty’, being ‘too well behaved’! MUSCLE PAIN DOES NOT ALWAYS SHOW THROUGH LAMENESS!
We are obsessed with joint pain and joint disease; of course these are huge issues but time and time again dogs diagnosed through radiographs of an arthritic problem in one or many of their joints and these dogs improve immeasurably after treatment, far more than with the medication received specifically for joints. Joint disease is a huge problem but how did it start? What are the resultant effects of joint disease? Joint disease, in my opinion, is caused through an incorrect load, therefore an incorrect wear on the joint and then subsequent secondary effects of the joint responding by arthritic changes. Where did the incorrect load originate? Trauma? Compensatory issues? Environmental repetitive strains? Yes, to probably all or one of these, the common cause in all of those is the muscular element. So when we treat our dogs specifically for a joint condition the muscular aspect of that pain is so rarely be challenged and therefore still remains in the body but exponentially increasing.
Shelley’s front right has the arthritis; this can be seen by how she is placing her foot. However, it can also be seen that the rest of her body and most importantly her face, looks happy, relaxed and portraying a good posture in ‘sit’ (something she volunteered and was not asked to do).
One of the many thousands of great examples of this is one of my long term clients ‘Shelley’. (yes I did say thousands!) She is such a classic example of the type of dog that Galen Myotherapy can not only help but also improve their lives beyond measure.
Shelley is now a 11-year-old Golden Retriever, when she was 4 years old she was diagnosed with elbow arthritis and was put on anti-inflammatories. Sadly the medication really didn’t do very much for her lameness but they improved it slightly. She was also diagnosed with epilepsy and due to the severity of this condition had also to be medicated. Her owners at this point were desperate as this was a young dog with an apparent awful prognosis for the rest of her life, along with a predicted reduced longevity.
The vet nurse in their practice mentioned Galen, so they brought Shelley along as they thought it would do not harm!
Shelley is now an 11-year-old, happy, full of life dog that enjoys walks and fun. Her arthritis is obviously still apparent in her elbow (where it was correctly diagnosed 7 years ago) and this has now reduced her movement within that joint to maybe 10% of what is should be BUT the rest of her body is maintained through a treatment every 8 weeks that maintains the integrity of her muscles and helps to prevent the painful and wearing overloading. She has enjoyed this quality of life from 3 months after her first treatment to today’s date, with the odd dip but when she has had 8 – 10 weekly treatments she has been consistently mobile.
Shelley’s owners said to me this week at one of her 8 weekly treatments ‘Where would Shelley be without these treatments? She is healthier and more active now than she was at 4 years old!’
Not only that but in Shelley’s case her epilepsy has reduced over the years that from a dog that was having regular episodes of around 3-4 a year, she has not had one now for 18 months. I have found that the dogs experiencing seizures that I have treated, these have reduced during a Myotherapy treatment program. This is something that we should most certainly investigate further!
We are excited to announce that we have moved our offices and training facilities to our new ‘home’ in Bolney, West Sussex. Go to our website to see the new offices on https://www.caninetherapy.co.uk/about/new-site-and-office-for-galen/