Whenever I take on a new client, I use a health questionnaire that covers current conditions as well as the dog’s health history. One of the issues I address is any recent changes to the dog’s behaviour or living conditions.
What I am trying to ascertain is if a dog is in pain or having adjustment difficulties. There is a clear link between pain and aggression and this has been supported in a recent study by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.
In the Spanish study, which has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 12 dogs that were brought in by their owners for ‘aggression problems’ were studied. All were found to have pain-induced aggression with eight diagnosed as having hip dysplasia.
The breeds in the study were: a Giant Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Pit Bull, Dalmatian, two German shepherds, Neapolitan Mastiff, Shih-tzu, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow and Doberman.
The researchers concluded “if the pet is handled when in pain, it will quickly act aggressively to avoid more discomfort without the owner being able to prevent it.”
So, when a dog is behaving differently or is “out-of-sorts”, a visit to the vet is recommended. Behaviour changes can be the first indicator that something is wrong and your vet can help to run appropriate tests to see if there is an underlying health problem.
Dogs have a way of not telling us they are in pain until a problem is more pronounced because their natural instinct is to protect themselves by not exhibiting any noticeable vulnerabilities. Therapies such as massage and low level laser (which I employ in my canine rehabilitation practice) are useful in helping to manage pain through appropriate stimulation of acupressure points and managing muscle, tendon and ligament condition. I’m also a strong supporter of acupuncture and refer clients to a local vet who is trained in veterinary acupuncture.
These complementary therapies can be employed alongside traditional pain medications such as NSAIDs to support your dog’s quality of life. When pain is managed, quality of life improves for everyone in the household.
Source: Plataforma SINC. “If your dog is aggressive, maybe it is in pain.” ScienceDaily, 13 Jun. 2012. Web. 15 Jun. 2012.