7 Most Overlooked Aches and Pains in Dogs

Closeup of dog paw
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Corns, food pad lesions and nail-related injuries can be incredibly painful for dogs.

Headaches? Throat ache? Bellyache? Ever wondered if your dog’s got one? I do all the time.

After all, It’s hard to tell just how much our dogs suffer these simple maladies. Though they’re common enough in humans to consider them likely enough occurrences in pets, we’re not sure how seriously our pets feel them. 

Other aches and pains, however, we veterinarians know more about. When we see patients arrive bearing specific signs of discomfort, we tend to know where they’re coming from, and we have more than an inkling as to how much they hurt.

But that doesn’t mean most dog owners do. In my experience, owners can often miss the many subtle signs of pain dogs exhibit: a slight change in appetite, a newfound reticence to interact with others at the park, an occasional unwillingness to jump on the sofa or run recklessly down the stairs.

To be sure, pain can present itself dramatically — especially in cases where sudden traumas mean serious injury. But most aches and pains don’t fall into this category, which is why dog owners should know there are plenty of conditions to consider when their dogs just aren’t acting up to snuff.

When Pain Goes Unheeded

Here are the seven most overlooked or misunderstood maladies I tend to observe in my canine patients:

1. Corns and other foot pad lesions. Limping may be obvious but corns aren’t always. That’s because owners don't often know dogs can get them (especially  Greyhounds). What’s more, few understand how painful, insidious and life-altering foot pad lesions can be. Burns, scrapes, calluses and corns are murder on a dog.

Nail-related injuries in dogs (as with rips, snags and cracks) and ingrown toenails can also prove impressively painful.

Signs of a potential foot pad or nail issue include limping and excessive licking at the paw. Painful corns may be removed, but they can come back. And because paws are so often in the dirt, care must be taken that none of these lesions becomes infected.

2. Panosteitis. When a young dog starts to limp, most owners tend to think about strains and sprains. Savvy veterinarians, however, are quick to pick up on the telltale signs of panosteitis, a condition plenty of pet people like to refer to as “growing pains.”

Severe pain when palpating the “long” bones of the limbs (usually the ulna, radius, humerus or femur) is the most obvious sign (especially in large or giant breeds), but some pups can be remarkably stoic and show no evidence of pain save a quieter demeanor. An X-ray or two may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Thankfully, this condition eventually resolves on its own, but pain medications and rest are often called for in the meantime.

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