A study published in February indicates a correlation that most dog owners probably haven’t considered: A dog who develops noise sensitivity might be in pain.
The study looked at two groups of dogs who showed sensitivity to noise — fearful behavior, hiding, avoiding places or situations. One group, the “clinical” group, had known painful conditions; the other had no diagnosed pain or conditions the would be painful. The clinical group developed their noise sensitivity and other behavior changes at an age, on average, four years older than the other dogs. And, when treated with pain medications, these dogs behavior improved.
Some behavior changes have long been considered to indicate pain — sudden aggression in a normally friendly dog, for example. Dogs who start to avoid being petted or stop playing with children or with other dogs could be in pain as well. But the noise correlation hasn’t been recognized. It makes sense though. According to the researchers, the startle in response to a noise could be painful in a sore or arthritic dog, for example. The dog could quickly begin to associate some places or people with painful noises or contact and avoid them or show fear in anticipation of the pain.
Many of the painful dogs’ owners had sought remedies — for the new behaviors. They’d tried pheromone treatments, anti anxiety supplements or even medication, and some had tried behavior modification training. But until they discovered and treated the pain, the dogs did not improve.
Pain can be treated with medications and anti inflammatory supplements, and with therapies — acupuncture, laser therapy, or reiki, for example.
Dogs are good at hiding pain, so owners need to pay close attention to behavior changes. Making the connection and treating the pain can mean a higher quality of life for the dog — and possibly even a longer life.