How can I tell if my dog is in pain?

When a dog responds slowly or refuses to respond to a command he knows very well and generally responds to enthusiastically, or grumbles/snaps when touched or handled, he may be in physical pain. It is important to have one’s dog thoroughly examined by a veterinarian before undertaking any dog obedience training or problem-solving.

I once had a boxer that was very reluctant to follow the command “sit”. Even she knew the command, she refused to obey, or seemed to be at least very reluctant. When taking her to an animal trainer the problem got worse, she even started limping. A vet determined that the (young) dog was suffering from osteoarthritis and obviously the sitting down caused her pain.

Sure signs that your dog is sick:

  • Bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, genitalia.
  • Not eating or eating much less than normal for more than 1 – 2 days.
  • Drinking excessively.
  • Inability to urinate or defecate or showing signs of stress when attempting these activities, or even whimpering.

When your animal seems to be sick or feeling uncomfortable check the frequency of his breathing and the temperature first:

An adult dog is breathing 14 – 20 times/minute, puppies 20 – 22 times.
Regular body temperature for puppies ranges between 101 – 102 degrees F, for adult dogs slightly lower. Check also your dog’s ears as they get infected frequently. A dog in pain may also cause some problems for your children or be even a risk, so be extra careful.

To measure your animal’s temperature use only animal thermometers!  Because your dog can not tell you that he is in pain, watch obvious signs that one’s dog may be experiencing pain. As I always say, “When in doubt, trust the dog”. Make sure, though, that your dog, is properly house trained. Read also this post if you have more dogs in your household and you’re confronted with aggression between the dogs.

A dog is like an eternal Peter Pan, a child who never grows old and who therefore is always available to love and be loved.
–Aaron Katcher, American Educator and Psychiatrist

Female Dogs in Heat

Female dogs are only able to mate while “in season”, also called “in heat”. Male dogs can be sexually active all year long but you should know what to do if your dog shows problematic behavior.

A female dog – also called “bitch” will come in heat about every six months. The heat lasts for up to three weeks and the bitch will experience her first heat cycle at around 6 – 7 months. Some larger dog breeds at 8 – 9 months.

A female dog does not show significant behavior changes during heat (contrary to cats) and dogs that had obedience training, usually are easier to control. Signs of a female in heat are:

  • Swelling of the vulval area
  • Vaginal discharge and dripping of blood
  • During the middle of the heat females will allow a male to mate and are more reluctant at the beginning and towards the end.

Females in heat will attract males for the whole period of her cycle. The scent of her urine and the vaginal discharge is a strong, irresistible signal for male dogs. If you have male dogs in your neighborhood it is better to drive your animal to remote areas for her daily walk. Otherwise, your house and surroundings will be of great attraction for every male and recalling your dog won’t help!

If your dog is normally kept in a fenced yard do not leave her outside unattended during this time. Even if you think that the dog can’t escape, males smelling a bitch in heat are quite inventive and go to extraordinary lengths! Don’t let her off leash, consider that the bitch will succumb to hormones, even the best-trained one. The most loving and obedient female can turn into an uncontrollable bundle of hormones during her heat cycle.

Dogs do not experience “menopause”, meaning that if you don’t spay your animal it will be in heat twice a year for as long as the animal lives.

If you know that you will never breed, think about spaying your dog. A good time for spaying is at an age of about 6 – 7 months. Some veterinarians recommend to let the animal go through the first heat cycle, some spay as early as 2 – 3 months. Opinions vary. Most vets though prefer not to spay during a heat cycle due to an increased risk of hemorrhage. In case an “accident” happened and the female is in the early stage of pregnancy, she can be spayed one week after the ending of the heat cycle.

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