An imaginary dog symbolising the struggles of so many dogs that suffer from chronic muscle or myofascial pain
Imagine if you were struggling with chronic pain or extreme ongoing discomfort, (this is summarised as pain which has lasted for more than 3-6 months).
By understanding a little more about how our dogs perceive discomfort and pain and how they might subsequently view their environment, it will give us an insight into how to help them.
All levels of chronic pain are insidious, it creeps in and invades and impacts on everything you do in your life, along with every little thing you think about doing, along with every movement you make. That is how much it can affect every aspect of your life.
Let’s think about pain from a dog’s perspective, and imagine a day in their life. The dog could be any age, or any breed but they have chronic pain issues, which could be due to any number of pathologies, including perhaps osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia or incredibly painful and underestimated compensatory muscular pain, which is also connected with these conditions.
Meet Archie, he has a lovely deep, soft bed which he loves, but since he has been suffering from chronic pain issues, he is now struggling to get in and out of it. Every time he stands on the bed he finds it tricky to balance, as it’s a bit wobbly and this sometimes causes shooting pains throughout his body. When he eventually gets comfortable, he then finds it really tricky to stand up and get out of it, he thinks it’s a bit like watching the humans getting up and standing on a trampoline! Archie would prefer a bed which he can easily walk onto and is a little firmer, so that standing up is easier. He would also love a pillow so he can support his head and neck!
Eating is one of Archie’s favourite things to do, or at least it used to be. Archie is fed in the kitchen, which in his opinion is one of the best places in the house, as it always smells of yummy things. But Archie now finds the slippery kitchen floor difficult to walk on. He finds his legs slide from underneath him and it’s like trying to stand upright on ice. It hurts every time Archie’s legs uncontrollably slip sideways, and also when he then has to pull his legs back underneath himself. So standing on the slippery floor (like the photo above) while he eats is really uncomfortable, especially when his bowl slides around the floor too. Archie has found that if he eats really quickly and gobbles his food down, then it’s less painful as he doesn’t need to stand still in one position for too long and try to keep his legs in one place.
Some days if Archie is feeling really sore, then he doesn’t try to eat at all, as he just can’t face walking across the kitchen ice rink (like the photo above). Archie is hesitating to move on to the slippery tiles to walk across the kitchen, as he only has grip under his back paws. Archie’s humans can’t understand the days he doesn’t want to eat, but think that perhaps he isn’t hungry or he is getting older and he is losing his appetite.
Archie used to love his daily walks, but recently he has stopped enjoying these too. He used to love running around and seeing all his friends. Now he feels really vulnerable, he is scared in case another dog bumps into him, as he knows this will hurt and throw him off balance. Archie’s humans think that Archie has turned into a ‘grumpy old man’ and always make excuses about him, but Archie would love to play and meet his old friends, but he doesn’t want to risk getting hurt.
Archie is embarrassed to admit that sometimes he doesn’t always make it to the garden for a wee either. He sometimes puts off having to move out of his deep, soft bed as he knows it's going to be painful to get out of his bed and to get moving again. So he leaves it until it’s too late and by the time someone opens the back door, he can’t hold it any more.
There may be lots more things that Archie misses doing and things that he finds too painful to take part in now. Perhaps he misses the Sunday morning lie-in he used to have on his humans bed upstairs, but he can no longer face the stairs or jump up on their bed either. Perhaps he misses playing with his box of toys, which he used to love throwing in the air and catching and then taking to the nearest human as a present. He knows he misses wagging his tail, but even that is painful now as his tail doesn’t seem to do what he wants it to anymore.
All of these scenarios are heartbreaking to read (and write), as all our dogs definitely make our lives whole. But Archie’s and dogs, like Archie, can be made to feel much more comfortable and there are so many ways to help them have a better quality of life.
Small but profound changes, such as putting down non-slip mats, changing their bed, offering them a pillow and a raised food bowl would make small but dramatic changes to their everyday routine.
An even bigger and lasting change can be brought around by Galen Myotherapy; myotherapy treatments can ease the compensatory changes which Archie’s body has made to accommodate the chronic pain. If appropriate our therapists can also offer bespoke rehabilitation exercises that will help a dog regain their confidence in their movement patterns and will help to balance their body, bringing about more flexibility and comfort.
Distance Support Programme: If you haven’t got a therapist nearby then we have the perfect solution, join our Distance Support Programme, where we produce a bespoke report about your dog and teach you how to apply two targeted massage techniques to your own dog. We also give exercise and environmental advice which will benefit your dog in your own home.
We all want what's best for our dogs and to learn as much as we can about how to help our own dogs. On our Galen Myotherapy website we have informative and easily accessible short courses and there are also wonderful organisations like CAM (Canine Arthritis Management) who have lots of free resources and information for you too.
Disclaimer: Archie is a fictional character and bears no resemblance to any dog we know or have treated.