In humans, palliative care is provided to patients to help relieve symptoms of chronic or serious illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. This type of treatment includes pain relief but also stress relief to enhance quality of life.
Palliative care is also available for dogs and is a viable alternative to immediate euthanasia when the vet and the family feel that the dog still has quality of life and any pain can be managed.
As a canine massage and rehab practitioner, I get involved in palliative care cases. Some dogs are at the palliative care phase when I am called in. Others have been my clients for a while and their life situation has changed. Using acupressure, massage and/or low level laser, I’m able to help with pain management and give the dog a bit of TLC. I often play relaxing music for the dog to make the time even more special.
In my experience, palliative care can be a very positive, transitional phase for the family. It’s a time to say goodbye. If there are children in the household, parents are able to explain what will happen when a dog is put to sleep and the children learn to understand the vulnerabilities of a dog who is old or who is ill.
It will never be easy to say goodbye, but thanks to quality veterinary care and a greater understanding of pain management, more owners can opt for a palliative care phase for their dog – so they can enjoy as much time together as possible.
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.
Posted in dog care, research
Tagged acupressure, aggression, Autonomous University of Spain, behavior, behaviour, Bobtail, Catalan Sheepdog, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman, dog massage, dogs, german shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, health history, hip dyplasia, Journal of Veterinary Behavior, ligament, low level laser, massage, mastiff, muscle, NSAIDs, pain, Pit Bull, research, tendon, therapies, veterinary acupuncture