Tag Archives: dog health

How to know your dog’s in pain

Animals try to hide symptoms they don’t feel good. In the wild, it’s a survival trait. When it’s our pets, we have to pay attention to know when a dog’s in pain.

There are some obvious signs. The most notable in our experience happened years ago. One day when we got home from work, our Boston Terrier Daemon screamed when we touched him. The shrieking was terrifying. Off to the emergency vet we went, in a blizzard. It turned out Daemon had gas. We’re grateful that’s all it was. But it was one of those moments when you really wish dogs could talk and we could have handed him a Tums.

Subtler signs

Most of the time, the signs your dog’s in pain will be much more subtle. 

Within the last few weeks, we noticed that Torque (Hope’s French Bulldog) had some muscle/skin twitching when we petted him along his side. If we hadn’t been watching at the time, we may not have noticed. We weren’t too bothered by it – we’d noticed him slip on the melting ice and figured he probably had a bruise or strained muscle. When we checked again the next day the twitching had stopped. 

With a fleeting pain signal like the twitching, watching it over the course of a day is probably safe, according to most veterinarians. If it persists, at least give your veterinarian a call and get her recommendation. 

photo of a bandaged stuffed dog in pain

Physical symptoms of pain in dogs, other than the muscle twitching may include: holding their head low, shaking or trembling, arching of the back, and panting.

Mobility issues can also be signs that your dog’s in pain. Reluctance to lie down or get up, limping, walking slowly, or sitting abruptly, could all be caused by pain.

Behavior changes that may indicate your dog’s in pain

One pain indicator that may be misinterpreted is restlessness, or an inability to calm down. It’s such a vague reaction that you may think your dog’s just being annoying, especially if you have a high-strung dog. 

Other signs may include: reluctance to eat, avoiding touch, constant licking or whining, and even aggression. 

The other day at the shop we had a customer come in to talk about her 16-year-old Yorkie. Her dog used to be wonderfully-behaved for grooming, including nail trims, tooth-brushing, and hair-trimming. But now the dog is cringing and even growling when the owner tries any of it. It’s quite likely the dog is suffering some pain, probably from arthritis at her advanced age, and the owner is going to talk to her vet about getting some relief for her dog.

Help with the diagnosis

If you think your dog may be in pain, one of the most helpful things you can do is keep track of what’s going on. These days, when many people are still unable to accompany their pets into the veterinarian’s office, a journal of symptoms may be extremely helpful in making a diagnosis. 

If you note that your dog is having trouble getting up after a nap, the vet may know to look at a specific part of the body. Same thing if your dog now prefers his/her bowl raised up off the ground. Or, like our customer with the Yorkie, something that’s changed over the last few months. With an issue like arthritis, the changes may be gradual over time and your observations can help.

Treatment options

There are many possible treatments for pain in dogs. These can range from watching for a day or two, to pain medication, to physical therapy and/or massage, to acupuncture, to surgery. But the first step to relieving it is knowing the signs when your dog’s in pain.

Don’t accept dog farts as normal

Hope’s dog Torque is a French Bulldog. One of the most popular breeds in the world now. And one notorious for dog farts. 

Any funny or cute meme about French Bulldogs will mention their gas issues. The French Bulldog groups Hope belongs to always have people talking about room-clearing flatulence from their dogs. The jokes go on and on.

Not normal

Here’s the thing – it’s not okay and no dog has to suffer from constant flatulence. Torque is Hope’s third Frenchie and none of them have been gas passers. The most common offender in the house is actually Booker, Fran’s Boston Terrier. And we know why – he’s the boy with the most sensitive stomach in the house.

Think about it – when you have gas or bloating, how do you feel? Pretty rotten, right? It’s painful and uncomfortable and you wish it would go away. You probably realize what’s causing it and you can take something to help with the symptoms and alleviate the problem. But your dog can’t tell you. He may not even know it’s not the way he’s supposed to feel, because he always feels that way.

Bears repeating

If your dog is a fart factory, she may not know what feeling good feels like. Isn’t that sad?

Cartoon of a pug dog farting

If you’re looking at things with a slightly different perspective now, the next question is what do you do about it? How can you change things so your dog will feel good? And you won’t need high-speed fans to fumigate your space!

Causes of flatulence

According to the experts, there are a few causes of flatulence. Almost all of them are caused by food; either how it’s absorbed, or components that fail to break down.

You already know some of them – foods that are known to cause gas: broccoli, beans, brussels sprouts, etc. should be avoided. 

Others, like peas, soybeans, milk, and high-fat foods, are not easily digested by dogs and may ferment in their guts, producing gas and discomfort.

And some dogs, like some people, just are sensitive to certain foods. Our grandfather loved cucumbers (so do our dogs), but you didn’t want to be anywhere near him if he ate any!

Changing your dog’s food may go a long way to relieving everyone’s discomfort. It’s not an easy or fast process. Take a week or more to gradually change from one kibble to another to avoid further gastrointestinal upset. 

Behavior changes

The other side of the coin is how your dog eats. If your dog is a gulper, she’s taking in a lot of air along with her food. And what goes in, must come out. 

Slowing down your dog’s eating may be as simple as putting a ball or rock in the bowl so huge mouthfuls aren’t possible. There are also all kinds of slow-feeding bowls out there. When you’re shopping, be aware that plastic bowls can be a cause of canine acne, and stick to ceramic or stainless steel bowls for everyday use.

Some people swear by “snuffle mats” – usually fleecy mats with lots of fringes that allow you to scatter the food and the dog has to find it. This will work to slow them down, but we wonder if it reduces the amount of air going in their systems. We haven’t tried them, so it’s up to you if this is a good answer. 

Our favorite means of slowing down our dogs is to hand-feed them. Not all the time, and not every meal, but we use their food as training treats and have fun with our dogs.

Other factors

Short-faced dogs seem to be more prone to gas attacks, and again, it’s taking in a lot of air that seems to be the issue. So if you also have a Frenchie, Boston, Pug, or other brachycephalic breed, slowing down your dog’s eating is a top priority for dealing with dog farts.

Flatulence also seems more common in obese, or sedentary dogs, according to the experts. The answer there is obvious – get moving with your dog! Measure out your dog’s meal, transfer it to a plastic bag or pouch, and get out for a nice long picnic walk with your dog. Your nose will thank you for it!

Soothing their guts

One food additive we found particularly beneficial for Booker was Flax Seed Gel, which you can make at home. Pour ⅓ cup of boiled water over 1 tablespoon of flax seeds. Stir for one minute, let sit for five minutes. Stir again, strain into a covered container. Give about a teaspoon in each meal. Keeps, covered, for about a week in the fridge.  Actually, flax is so good for dogs that we think everybody should add it to their dogs’ food. Can’t hurt, may help!

Your dog’s eating habits – change isn’t good

Have your dog’s eating habits changed? Is she fussier than she used to be? Is he turning up his nose at used-to-be favorites?

Cause for concern

It’s an old joke that “habit is the most powerful force in the universe.” But there’s also a lot of truth to it. And dogs are even more entrenched in habits and rules than people! Dogs love schedules. They love rules. And habits make them happy.

Changes in eating habits are significant. The reason may not be serious – but it’s always worth checking out.

Seasons & reasons

The cause for the change could be anything:

  • Normal appetite suppression in hot weather
  • A bitch coming into heat
  • Food recipe has changed and isn’t as palatable
  • Toothache
  • Tummy ache
  • Feeling ill
  • Stress
  • Parasites
  • Age
  • Disease
  • Schedule change
  • Travel

How do you know?

One of the reasons we’re not fans of “free feeding” (leaving food out all the time) is because it’s hard to judge exactly how much the dog is eating and whether there’s a change. If the household has more than one person feeding the dog, it may be impossible to judge. Same situation if there’s more than one dog – how do you know which one’s eating what? Other than seeing one get fat?

If a free-feeding situation is the one that works for your family, try to put some controls in place so you know if there are changes. Have only one person in charge of feeding the dog. Use a measuring cup to judge exactly how much is offered each day. And take notes on a calendar to chart any changes.

Up or down matters

We’re lucky that most of our dogs have been good eaters. There have been a couple of exceptions, and they both fall into the category of “when you know better, you do better.”

dog eating

As young people, we had a Boston Terrier named Daemon. He needed to be coaxed to eat, and we got pretty creative (and desperate) to make it happen. Because we were convinced that he “had to” eat kibble, we actually wound up resorting to adding people-food toppings. His favorites were Chunky Steak and Potato Soup and Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Neither is something we’d recommend for dogs now, but we didn’t know anything about dog nutrition at the time. It turned out that Daemon had liver cancer. We tempted his appetite enough to keep him strong as long as he was comfortable. It may not have been an ideal solution, but it worked for the time and circumstances.

Picky puppy

The other dog who didn’t want to eat was Fran’s Booker. When she picked him up as a puppy from his breeder’s home in Virginia, he didn’t eat much of anything for the first two days. As a new mom – it drove Fran crazy. Booker’s eating issues were resolved when we switched to a different food. He just didn’t like the first one. At home or on the road, he’s been a champion eater ever since.

Do not pass “Go!”

For the rest of our dogs – we have a house rule. If the dog doesn’t eat, go directly to the veterinarian. Do not pass “Go!” Do not collect $200. And step on it.

If your dog’s eating habits change – pay attention. It may be nothing. One of our dogs had a bad case of gas. Another had a tooth ache. That started us on brushing our dogs’ teeth and it hasn’t been an issue since.

But if it is “something” – your diligence may help save your dog!

Get the scoop on dog poop

You know you’re at a dog club party when the conversation turns to dog poop. And everyone has something to say about it.


Dog poop. We all deal with it on a daily basis, so we may as well talk about it. Especially since, more than likely, at some point in the next couple of weeks the dog will eat something he shouldn’t and there will be either massive quantities of it, or none at all.

No matter how careful you are, if you have company, someone won’t be able to resist those puppy-dog eyes and share a tidbit. Or many someones, considering how cute your dog is. The best strategy is to be prepared for whatever indiscretion may occur.

Everybody does it

Regardless of what you feed your dog, and we understand that friendships are won and lost over the topic of dog food, at some point your dog is going to get some kind of tummy upset and you’ll be left with the consequences. Speaking of which – for the inevitable “stepped in it” situation, we keep an old vegetable brush outside near our back door just to deal with “poop vs. shoe” consequences. It works like a charm, even on athletic shoes. Next time you’re in the local dollar store, pick up a couple extra. You won’t be sorry.

Primer on poop

poop emoji

We’ve learned there are 4 “C” of poop – Consistency, Color, Contents, and Coating (thank you PetMD). There are variations on normal, depending on the individual dog and what he/she may be eating. If you know that a certain combination of these “C’s” is normal for your dog, there’s probably no reason to be concerned if your dog’s poop lies outside the “ideals” for each trait.


None of us goes around feeling our dog’s poop on purpose. But as responsible citizens, we all know what it feels like through the barrier of a plastic bag. Ideally, dog poop should “give” when pressed, much like Play Doh. Experts say it shouldn’t be hard and chalky (although some of my friends who feed the BARF diet would disagree), nor should it be formless and puddle-like. An occasional puddle or two indicates a dietary “oopsy” and if it persists, requires a visit to the vet.


When we first heard the “Tootsie Roll” analogy, we couldn’t eat a former favorite candy for months.“Good” poop is brown. Other colors may indicate something going on in the dog’s system. Black can be a sign of bleeding, as can red, depending on where the irritation is in the dog’s system. Other indicators of something amiss can be gray or yellow. We’ve been known to panic when there’s pink in the pooper-scooper, until we remember our dogs ate something with beets the previous day. The AKC has published a “Color Wheel of Poop” you can check.


If you see something you can identify – it’s not a good thing. Unless it’s corn. Corn never changes.

But seriously, we’ve all dissected an occasional poop when something in the house is missing – whether it be a child’s toy, a sock, a piece of jewelry or coins. If you see something that looks like rice – that could be worms and requires professional attention.


If there’s something around your dog’s poop, it’s probably mucus and can mean a couple of things. Your dog could have a cold and be a mucus machine, just like us. Or it could be another indicator of a tummy upset. If you see streaks of blood, or your dog is straining to poop, it could mean he’s constipated. Again, if it persists more than a poop or two – go see your veterinarian.

Be prepared

We can cope with occasional poop problems with items from our pantry. We know our veterinarian always recommends not feeding for a day if your dog has loose poop. We’ve never been able to do that. Those puppy-dog eyes get us every time. So our staples include:

  • Canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). Just a spoonful or two with a small portion of regular food has tightened things up promptly.
  • Saltine crackers. We actually don’t know why it works, but it can. We think it dates back to when we were kids and had tummy upsets – it’s what our mother gave us.
  • Pepto Bismol. Ask your vet before administering. And be aware that it will turn your pup’s poop black.
  • Rice. An oldie but a goodie for that “bland diet” veterinarians talk about. Make it with chicken or beef broth instead of water to make it more palatable for your dog.

Nothing but the poop

Keep in mind that any problems that persist more than a day or two merit a professional consultation. If your dog is in distress – don’t wait at all.

This time of year, it may be just a case of your dog convincing your guests that cheese and crackers are a regular puppy snack. Be kind – you can’t resist that face, either.