Feel the Pain
Recently I was asked a behavioral question, that in my opinion came down to something more important that I believe the owner over looked (obviously not on purpose).
She told me her 4 year old Bulldog who suffered from hip dysplasia had lately started peeing on her own dog bed (even in the crate), the couch, the floor and carpet, and even their bed. Sometimes she doesn’t even get up.
She also has access to a doggy door and sometimes uses it.
It seemed to me that the behavior was fairly new, and not that this dog had always had a peeing problem.
As a trainer, I often have to “decode” behavior by the simple information I am given.
I am sure that sometimes I am off the mark, because I may not have all the information and I cannot see it with my own eyes.
I just kind of have to think about the information and go with what I know from my experience of working and training with dogs and also what I know from my life as a vet tech; which has been a tremendous gift to my knowledge as a trainer!
This is a new behavior, so we have to determine WHY the dog’s behavior has radically changed.
Something has changed about the dog or her environment (sometimes trauma like a move or a change in an owner’s schedule, an attack etc. can change behavior).
The owner mentions that she has hip dysplasia, which is unfortunately fairly common in this breed and other breeds of big dogs.
And my first thought with a radical change in behavior is health.
I figure either this dog has a raging bladder infection, or she is in dire pain.
And the fact that she is not getting up to pee and sometimes just lets it go; tells me it is more likely pain from her hip dysplasia.
Bladder infections, although painful, usually cause a dog to squat more often and drink large quantities of water, neither of which was mentioned.
The dog hurts when she squats.
Have you ever worked out so hard, or done something so strange with your legs that the next day you feel like you can’t move?
I am an avid P90X and Insanity lover! And, when I take a break from working out and then hit it again… I often get so sore it is difficult to walk the next day.
Squatting down to sit on the toilet is even more excruciating as those muscles hurt… and once down there it is pure pain getting up again.
As I told her owner, sometimes I consider peeing myself when I am in this pain, so I can totally understand how the dog feels.
I am sure some days it’s just easier to pee where she lays than to get up, go to the doggy door, go outside, squat, get back up, and come back inside… not to mention if there are any stairs involved.
Pain Changes Behavior
Pain changes normal behavior.
If you have ever been in severe pain, you will know what I mean.
You don’t want to get up or go out or be touched and sleeping is what you desire because it gets your mind off the pain.
Pain also makes us cranky.
Because you are dealing with a constant pain, it is hard to deal with the normal annoyances of life so crankiness abounds.
I was called to do an evaluation of a 9 month old puppy, who had seemed to get extremely cranky with his family overnight. He had bitten 2 of the three children and had drawn blood more than once.
He was also becoming extremely possessive and territorial.
And, he had stopped climbing the stairs to sleep with the parents at night; instead he preferred to sleep downstairs on his bed.
I was 22 and still a fairly new trainer, and so when I went to his house I didn’t require him to be on a leash. I just assumed, that even though I was there for an aggression consult, he wouldn’t bite me.
He taught me a lot that day, as they gave him a bone he immediately put it in the corner and then came and attacked me.
I never again went into a house for a behavior consult without the dog leashed!
But he acted stiff and sore, in my opinion, and he had not been neutered all which I thought could add to this sudden change in behavior.
Even at that time, before I had had any formal veterinary experience, I recommended hip x-rays.
They got him into the vet that week and when the vet called he had bad news.
From a 1-10 with 10 being the worst possible hip dysplasia; one hip was a 10 and the other was a 9.
Due to the fact that the dog had already bitten their children and they didn’t have the money for two total hip surgeries, they decided to put him to sleep.
It taught me that sometimes behavior isn’t as easy as it may seem. It is not always about a stronger correction or better alpha or even desensitization and positive reinforcement. Sometimes pain dictates behavior.
But there is Good News
As a tech I once went to a continuing education seminar on dysplasia and pain, and the veterinary specialist Dr. James Gaynor made it very clear that a dog should never be euthanized for pain alone.
There are so many different kinds of pain medications out there, and injections that can help lubricate joints, even their own plasma can be broken down and used to help alleviate their pain (for more on that brilliant innovation click here for the study). http://www.animalmedcenter.com/faqs/category/platelet-rich-plasma-therapy
Acupuncture, cold, and laser therapies and even stem cell therapies can help!
In some cases narcotics can be used effectively to ease canine pain.
If you have a dog that you suspect is in pain, you don’t have to let him suffer go to your veterinarian, find a veterinary college, or seek a veterinary pain specialist.
And, even though Dr. James Gaynor is in Colorado, your veterinarian can still call and do research as to what tools he and his staff have found effective in the management of canine pain.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.