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Do Canadian Pet Owners Recognize the Signs of Pain in Their Dogs?

A survey of 2,000 Canadians reveals that many dog owners do not recognize when their dog is displaying behaviours associated with pain.

TORONTO ON / September 23, 2021 / A new study conducted for Animal Pain Awareness Month by Kabo Fresh Dog Food has revealed over 50% of Canadian dog owners incorrectly identify symptoms or signs of pain in their dog. "Along with the current veterinary crisis driven by the puppy pandemic boom, we see the increased importance to educate dog owners on identifying and managing pain with their pets," says Vino Jeyapalan, CEO and Founder of Kabo.

In the double blind study where 2,000 Canadians were asked to answer a series of questions surrounding canine pain behaviours to determine if they could recognize the corresponding symptoms.

Results of the study revealed that many dog owners do not recognize the signs of pain in dogs, with 57% of respondents answering incorrectly. Interestingly, older demographic of dog owners were able to identify pain symptoms more consistently. The percentage of correct answers in the survey increased proportionately with age.

"Dog ownership is a learning experience and the results of this study reflect that," says Andrea Geiger, R&D Scientist and Canine Nutritionist, "The proportion of pet owners who could correctly identify behavioural signs of pain in dogs increased linearly with age. Overlooking symptoms of pain may be the result of a lack of experience in the younger demographic of dog owners."

The study also revealed that dog owners are quick to jump into action when they determine that their dog is in pain. The first thing dog owners do when they see their pet in pain is call their veterinarian or book an appointment. However, while 38% of pet owners seek veterinary help with pain, they are unlikely to take their dog to the emergency vet. Only 12% of owners were willing to seek emergency care for signs of pain.

According to Clinical Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Karen Machin, the majority of behavioural cases in dogs stem from pain. "80% of cases that come into the clinic for behaviour problems are related to pain," says Machin. "If owners believe that their dog is experiencing sustained, chronic pain it is helpful if they can capture video evidence of behaviours to share with their veterinarian."

The study found that regardless of household income, dog owners are equally likely to seek a veterinary solution for their dog's pain. The results of the study showed that even in low income households, cost is not a factor when it comes to owners helping their dogs.

Pain behaviours in dogs may vary depending on a dog's age, breed, activity level, health status and background. However, there are a few common behaviours that dogs typically project when they are experiencing pain such as:

  • Limited mobility/unwillingness to do certain movements
  • Low/crouched body posture
  • Panting
  • Crying
  • Shaking
  • Licking
  • Flattened ears
  • Aggression

Furthermore, Dr. Suzee Camilleri, DVM DVSc, added, "Eating behaviours can also change in dogs who are experiencing pain. If dogs are hesitating to go to their bowl, chew or drink water, that's a sign of pain in the mouth, around the teeth or under the jaw."

Dr. Suzee, DVM DVSc, shares 6 warning signs of dogs in pain

There are many solutions for helping dogs cope with pain. Whether that's prescription medications, holistic/natural supplements, or naturopathic medicine, pet owners are open to finding treatments for their dog's pain. The survey revealed that most pet owners opt for prescription medication for severe pain, with natural supplements coming in at a close second.

"Utilizing calorie management in our onboarding for new customers has helped to build preventative care awareness around obesity dependent health issues. We've heard from many pet parents that there is need for supplements and alternative health solutions, such as CBD, to address the growing needs of senior pets," says Vino Jeyapalan.

Pain is something that most pet owners will have to deal with at some point throughout their dog's life. One Canadian dog owner shared her story about how her dog started experiencing back pain and the steps she took to help relieve her dog's discomfort.

Jazz is an 8-year-old papillon from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He is a very active little dog that loves to run, play and compete in dog sports. Jazz usually loves fetch and enjoys playing flyball but his owner Breanne noticed that he was starting to show signs of stiffness and limited mobility.

At first Breanne thought that Jazz was just getting older and starting to slow down. However, Breanne began to notice a few other things. When she was petting Jazz, he would have muscle twitches in his back and in his leg. Jazz was also beginning to display a bit of a head tilt.

Breanne made the decision to bring Jazz to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon where they saw Dr. Kira Penney, one of the veterinary rehabilitation specialists. Dr. Penney did a full exam and carefully manipulated all of his limbs.

The doctor recognized that Jazz had a few ribs out, soreness in his lumbar spine and iliopsoas. It was recommended that Jazz see a chiropractor to do an adjustment in order to get the ribs back into place. As treatment, Jazz was given a massage and wet heat was applied to his back and ribs. He was also given laser treatment to help with inflammation and healing.

Jazz was sent home from the vet with rehabilitation homework filled with different exercises and stretches. Meloxicam, a veterinary analgesic medication, was also temporarily prescribed to use as needed. Even though treatment was expensive ($70 per chiropractic visit and $80 per rehab visit), Breanne was willing to do whatever it took to get Jazz feeling back to normal.

Since his diagnosis, Jazz has continued to see both Dr. Penney and the chiropractor periodically. This story has a happy ending and as result of his owner's decisions, Jazz is no longer experiencing pain.

Overall, this study showed that there are inconsistencies in pet owners' ability to recognize pain behaviours in dogs. This September, dog owners new and old are encouraged to take some time and learn more about how their dogs may be trying to communicate their pain. After all, dogs are incredible companions and they deserve to live their lives pain free!

This study was conducted with 2,000 dog owners in Canada through TapResearch

About Kabo Fresh Dog Food

Kabo delivers fresh dog food customized to your dog's dietary needs, and delivers it using contactless delivery right to your doorstep. Learn more at

Kabo Fresh Dog Food Public Relations:
+1 (844) 543-5226

SOURCE: Kabo Fresh Dog Food

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