DOGSDog InsurancePain & Unwanted Behaviour in Dogs

Pain & Unwanted Behaviour in Dogs

Agria supports the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and we’re proud to partner with Veterinary Behaviourist Sophie White, an expert on the link between pain and euthanasia, as she shares her thoughts.

We often think of well-behaved dogs being those who sit when asked, and the “naughty” ones those who bark out the window. But there’s a very serious side to “unwanted behaviours” in dogs which are the leading cause of death in dogs under 3 years old in the UK.

This includes dogs who have been euthanised and those who have died because of accidents attributed to being out of control near a road, for example. This is a huge, and very complex, issue, but the factor Sophie is most passionate about highlighting is the prevalence of pain in dogs showing unwanted behaviour.

Research suggests underlying pain is likely to cause 33-80% of all referred behaviour cases, without even accounting for all those cases which don’t reach referral. The question we must ask is: How many of the dogs being euthanised due to their behaviour are actually in pain?

Dog in pain
Recognising the signs that your dog is in pain

Dogs don’t display pain like us and if ignored, at worst, it can lead to aggression. We must look carefully for evidence as they cannot tell us themselves.

A dog may be in pain and still chase a ball, or eat their food, because they are so highly motivated to. They may suddenly seem better at the vets when, really, their high levels of stress hormones are masking the pain. We may mistake restlessness from pain-induced stress, for pain-free activity because the dog isn’t lying miserably in their bed.

Rarely can we say 100% that pain is causing a behaviour change. However, if it is and we fail to relieve the pain, the dog continues to suffer and the problem behaviour persists. If in any doubt, we should always consult a vet.
Dog looking at owner
We must appreciate that, as happens for us, chronic pain can have a debilitating impact on a dog’s demeanour, affecting their mood and patience. Ignoring this can escalate grumpiness to outright aggression so we must beware.

Causes of pain
Osteoarthritis is the most commonly diagnosed source of chronic pain in dogs but there are other potential culprits:

  • Food allergies/IBD
  • Gastric reflux
  • Ear infections
  • Skin disease
  • Eye conditions
  • Anal gland issues

What you can do
You know your dog best: understand what is normal for your dog’s behaviour. If you notice a sudden, or gradual, change in their behaviour, consult your vet and behaviour specialist as soon as possible.
Dog in bed
It’s important to address the issue quickly, before the situation worsens to the point living with the behaviour is unbearable. “The sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner it will start to improve and the sooner we can work towards a safe and happy household.”

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