Medical or Pain-induced Aggression

This post is part of the series Working with Aggressive Dogs

Other posts in this series:

  1. Monkey, 8 lbs of Aggression
  2. Types of Aggression in Dogs
  3. Fear Based Aggression in Dogs

Pain-induced Aggression

Pain causes humans to get cranky.  And it can cause dogs to get cranky too, showing pain-induced aggression.  Even the most docile dog can show aggressive tendencies when they’re in pain.  Especially if they think you might induce more pain.  Which often means they snap at the hand that’s trying to take care of them.  This is why people often get bit while trying to help an injured animal.

It’s brought on by a dog’s natural fight or flight instincts.  When a dog can’t flee, it means they fight.  A dog in pain, often cannot escape, or flee.  It’s also the reason cornered dogs can show aggression.

If your normally agreeable dog suddenly starts snapping at you for trying to touch him, then he’s likely in some major pain.  As we all know dogs try to hide their pain as much as possible.  It could be from an injury, visible or not.  Or even an infection.  It’s best to take your dog in for a check up to find the cause of his pain.

Chewy recovering
Chewy after his vet appointment, with his heating pack and supper.

Our most recent incident happened to Chewy, who hurt his back sliding off of the porch sideways.  He was trying to devil with his brothers.  He laid in his crate the rest of the day.  The next morning when I reached in, he growled and snapped at me.  He went to the vet that afternoon.  The next day, he was a happy smiling dog again.  Although, h

e hasn’t tried to devil with his brothers on the porch again.  He waits until they’ve reached the ground before jumping them now.  I think all three of the forget they are aging.  Hmm, just like humans.

Training devices that cause pain can cause dogs to exhibit this type of aggression also.  Prong collars, choke chains and electric shock collars are often the cause of pain-induced aggression.

Medical problems can cause aggression

Aggression in dogs can be due to many different medical issues.

Painful arthritis can cause a dog to get cranky and aggressive, especially in the colder weather.

Toothaches can cause pain and aggression.  If your dog refuses food, treats and toys, he may have a toothache, broken tooth or infection in his mouth.

If the aggression is accompanied by the loss of hair, increased body weight and lethargy it could be a sign of hypothyroidism.  And you should have your dog checked by a veterinarian.

Aggression after convulsions, or when the dog appears absent or confused, or when rapid mood changes occur may be the result of seizures, full or partial.

Brain damage, to certain parts of the brain from diseases such as hydrocephalus, tumors, thyroid issues or trauma can also lead to aggression in dogs.

Lots of other medical issues can cause aggression.  Learn more about them here.

Consult with your veterinarian to see if these could be the cause of your dog’s aggression.

This post is part of the series Working with Aggressive Dogs

Other posts in this series:

  1. Monkey, 8 lbs of Aggression
  2. Types of Aggression in Dogs
  3. Fear Based Aggression in Dogs

Continue reading this series:

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