How do you comfort a dog in pain? Is animal pain different from human pain, and should we respond differently?
We’ll answer these questions, and more, below!
How to Comfort a Dog in Pain
At first, we want to coddle our dogs. Our human instinct is to treat them like injured children and hold them close! We want to use the softest, most soothing voice to tell our dogs everything is going to be alright!
In other words, we automatically feel that ‘motherly instinct’, even if we are men. There is one problem with this way of thinking.
Dogs are not human children. They are predatory animals. A sudden, drastic change in our behavior wouldn’t necessarily tell our dogs everything will be alright. It is more likely to tell them there is a problem their human parents don’t know how to deal with.
This sudden change in our behavior, this sudden coddling, could make a dog in pain feel more anxious.
Act Completely Normal
Act completely normal, like you’ve got everything under control and there isn’t anything to worry about! Your dog doesn’t need to fear anything. Sure, he is a predatory animal (in his mind) and his survival might depend on his strength, but he has you to protect him, to feed and shelter him!
No other predator can stand up to you!
This is likely your dog’s true fear. Dogs probably don’t have a concept of death because they were never taught what that is. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution has taught them what a predator is though, and they are susceptible if injured.
You want to give your dog the impression of strength and security. He is always safe as long as you are there!
Dogs instinctively don’t like to show weakness unless 100% comfortable in their surroundings and will often try and hide or diminish their discomforts.
Treat the Cause of Your Dog’s Pain
The absolute best way to comfort a dog in pain is to treat the medical cause and make the pain go away! This seems almost obvious, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, it might or might not be that simple.
You’ll have to first determine what is causing your dog’s pain before you can begin to treat it. A medical evaluation, and subsequent treatment plan, is probably going to require a visit to the veterinarian.
Veterinarians are doctors of veterinary medicine, after all! They are far better equipped to treat your dog’s pain than you are (unless you are a veterinarian), both with the knowledge and tools required.
If you treat the disorder or injury causing the pain itself, the pain will eventually go away. You won’t have to worry about comforting your dog!
Pain Relievers and Painkilling Medication?
When should you consider painkillers, or other medications designed to relieve pain?
The answer is- only when your veterinarian prescribes it! Most of these medications are designed for human use, and humans are much larger than the average dog. Some medications that we humans use without a second thought can be dangerous to dogs.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) for example, is dangerous and shouldn’t be given to dogs at all. Veterinarians might decide to prescribe it in very specific, rare circumstances, but even a small amount can build up over time to toxic levels.
Stronger opiate pain relievers require a veterinarian’s prescription anyway, and many vets won’t prescribe them except for post-surgical situations.
What is Palliative Care?
Imagine you are caring for a hospice or terminally ill dog at home. Maybe he is at an advanced age, and his organs are beginning to shut down. Maybe he has trouble moving at all or is suffering from some form of cancer.
- Cancer is a common illness in geriatric dogs. Some say around 50% of dogs over 10 will develop a form of cancer.
It’s safe to say your dog is nearing the end. He is suffering, and his quality of life isn’t what it used to be. You’ve spoken to your veterinarian, and they’ve told you there isn’t much you can do at this point.
So you have two options. This is very hard for any dog lover to imagine, but we will all have to decide at one point.
Euthanasia done humanely will offer your loved pets a peaceful, painless end to their suffering. An overdose of anesthetic is given, sending your unconscious pet into cardiopulmonary arrest, and ultimately ceasing life functions.
Your dog won’t feel this and won’t suffer in any way. Instead, he will slowly fall asleep with either you or a nurse at his side.
Whether your pet experiences fear or not will honestly depend on your own reactions. Do you remember what we said about acting completely normal? Can you offer your pup the impression of strength and unshakable security during this emotional time?
Emotionally breaking down is our instinct as human beings and how our brain responds to traumatic losses like these, but you really want to stay as strong as possible.
How do you comfort a dog in pain at the end?
You can also bring your terminal dog home and make him as comfortable as possible until the end. Your pup is going to pass soon; that much is guaranteed. You want to make these last few days or weeks pain-free and as pleasant as you can!
You’ll be raising your pup’s quality of life to the utmost possible during these last few days!
- This could mean narcotic painkillers prescribed by your veterinarian, so your ageing boy or girl doesn’t feel any pain during these final days.
- It could mean long walks in the park or at the beach, if your dog can comfortably walk.
- It could mean plenty of your dog’s absolute favorite meals every day!
You’ll try to make these final days or weeks as enjoyable as they possibly can be! Depending on what your veterinarian says, junk foods may not matter so much now as long as they make your companion happy.