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Chronic Pain Conditions in Dogs

Some dogs suffer from chronic pain and experience a significant decline in quality of life. However, even the most attentive of pet parents can have difficulty spotting signs of chronic pain and health conditions in their dogs. Today, our Lexington vets explain chronic pain in dogs, signs and treatment options that can help your dog live more comfortably. 

What is Chronic Pain in Dogs?

While we always hope to love and care for our canine companions as if they were one of our own human family members. Though we can do a pretty good job of looking after our pet's health, there may be conditions that we just aren't able to prevent. Chronic pain is one such condition that not only causes your dog pain but can also drastically decrease your quality of life. 

How to Know if Your Dog Suffers from Chronic Pain 

Are you concerned that your canine companion is suffering from chronic pain? If so, you'll want to note any signs or symptoms you see and book a full examination for your pet to rule out any other potential causes. 

Your vet may use these pain assessment methods to diagnose your dog's condition:

  • Veterinary examination 
  • Physiological biomarkers 
  • Owner's assessment of activities of daily living (ADL)
  • Objective measurements of gait (ex: force plate) and/or movement and activity (ex: accelerometer) 
  • Multifactorial clinical measurement instruments 

Causes of Chronic Pain in Dogs 

Here are common causes of chronic pain in dogs:


The most common cause of chronic pain in dogs is osteoarthritis, which affects about 40% of dogs. Contributing factors for osteoarthritis include hereditary and other congenital factors that can impact dogs of all breeds of ages. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Also referred to as a ruptured, bulging, herniated or slipped disc, Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is an age-related, gradual degenerative process that can affect your dog's spinal cord and causes several painful mobility issues. 


Cancer can develop in any part of your dog's body, and may cause unnecessary discomfort. Dogs with cancer can experience many types of pain, including chronic, acute or intermittent, and different severity levels (dull or severe). It may occur gradually or soon after treatment sessions.  

Dental Health Issues 

Dental disease can be painful for animals, along with causing aesthetic issues. Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and other serious issues such as oral tumors, tooth root abscesses and fractured teeth can cause chronic dental pain for dogs. Signs of pain include pawing at the mouth, excessive drooling, dropping food from the mouth while chewing and others. 

Treatments for Chronic Pain in Dogs

Never administer medications to your dog that are formulated for people. Many medications that help alleviate symptoms in humans are toxic for pets. If your dog is diagnosed with a condition that causes chronic pain, your vet will recommend a treatment based on the underlying cause of the pain. 

Chronic pain can sometimes lead to veterinary emergencies, which our compassionate veterinarians are trained and prepared to treat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

In the case of painful dental health conditions, surgery is generally the best treatment.

Chronic pain related to cancer can be treated a number of ways including narcotics such as Tramadol, NSAIDs such as Metacam, Previcox, Deramaxx and Rimadyl, topical medications including lidocaine, benzocaine, cortisone, or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), or drug-free therapies such as acupuncture or laser therapy.

For chronic pain caused by joint conditions such as osteoarthritis your vet may prescribe a change in diet plus dietary supplements to help fight inflammation, non-drug therapies to help reduce inflammation and soothe joints such as cold laser therapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy or acupuncture,  anti-inflammatory medications such as Galliprant, Rimadyl, Previcox or Metacam, painkillers such as Gabapentin or Tramadol.

Laser Therapy to Treat Chronic Pain in Dogs

Veterinary laser therapy is a fairly new method of treatment for symptoms related to various disorders and is most commonly used to help manage pain, inflammation, and wound healing for your pet.

Therapeutic lasers use light waves of a specific wavelength to alter the physiology of the affected tissues. The light emitted by these lasers throughout treatment will help to stimulate the cells within the tissues and allows for faster cellular regeneration.

The wavelength of the laser used will determine the tissue that can be affected. Most commonly used lasers emit near-infrared light with the use of lower wavelength lasers becoming more common. Low-wavelength lasers are used to treat areas near and involving the skin while the higher wavelength lasers are able to focus on deep tissue repair.

Speak to your vet if you would like to learn more about how your dog may benefit from veterinary laser therapy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog is suffering from chronic pain? Have your primary vet refer you for a diagnostics appointment or contact Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency. 

Emergency Care

Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency is open 24/7 for emergencies and is accepting patients for advanced diagnostic appointments. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lexington companion animals. 

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Contact (859) 268-7604