Anybody living with chronic pain knows how debilitating it is, and how even small changes in everyday life can make a world of difference when it comes to quality of life. Our pets can live with chronic pain for years as well but, unlike us, they cannot say as much. Vet Hannah Capon knows well that the symptoms associated with old age in dogs are very often signs of chronic pain, meaning that many pets’ suffering is unwittingly ignored.
“Dogs cope amazingly well with chronic pain, and that makes it all the more insidious,” Hannah explains. “Acute pain such as that of a broken bone is more easily spotted, because the dog will yelp and refuse to put the paw down. But when it comes to chronic pain the signs are a lot subtler, and often mistaken as something else entirely – especially ageing.
“We expect older dogs to slow down, to change behaviour – to become calmer, or more grumpy – and we simply never question it. We believe that is how it works, but in truth ‘slowing down’ is usually a sign of chronic pain. When your dog’s behaviour changes, you should see a vet first thing.”
Tired of seeing dogs’ pain go unrecognised, Hannah has set up Canine Arthritis Management, a website that aims to give dog owners the knowledge they need to recognise the signs of chronic pain in pets and take action to improve their quality of life – and, ultimately, help them live longer.
Now Hannah is taking it a step, or rather 100 miles, further. Tomorrow, 9 September, she will hit the road in order to raise awareness on CAM and spread much-needed information among dog owners. Until 16 September, Hannah will be walking 100 miles across the South Downs Way along with her 14-year-old Border Collie, Holly.
“I’ll have a cart with me, so that Holly can rest in it when she tires too much,” Hannah says. “I am going to be absolutely broken by the end of those eight days up and down the hills, but hopefully it’s going to be well worth it!”
You can learn all about CAM and the people behind it in our October issue, which will be in the shops on Thursday, 14 September. Until then you can you can follow Hannah and Holly’s walk through CAM’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, help them spread awareness and, possibly, cheer them on.
Images courtesy of Canine Arthritis Management.