How To Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain And What To Do To Help

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Is Your Dog Telling You They’re In Pain?

Brindle and white french bulldog laying on chair couch with pain look.
“I wish I could tell you how I’m feeling.”

Some dogs will let you know when they’re painful in obvious ways, but others act more stoic. Dogs are generally thought to have a higher tolerance for pain than humans, and some dogs will try to hide their pain as a natural survival instinct.

Many of the signs that a dog is painful are subtle, so it’s easier to recognize them if you know what’s normal with your pet. Being aware of your dog’s normal activities and behavior will help you recognize changes that might indicate pain.

Here are six signs that your dog might be feeling painful and what you should do about it.

1. Limping

Large dog limping with one front paw up in pain.

One of the most straightforward symptoms of pain is limping. This can be a sign of injury, sore paw, or even a reaction to the pain associated with arthritis.

If your dog is reluctant to go up stairs, is slow to get up in the morning, or walks stiffly, it may be arthritis pain, especially if your dog is older. Many dogs suffer from arthritis, but there are ways to help ease the pain. Ask your vet about medications and other treatments.

Dachshund standing with hunched back because of pain.
Back and neck problems happen a lot in dachshunds, but any breed can injure themselves.

Mobility issues and changes in posture are also indicators of a problem that needs medical attention.

2. Vocalization

Chihuahua yelling in pain with mouth open all the way and eyes huge.
“AAHHHHHH!! I think I just pulled a muscle!”

The closest thing to speaking for a dog is whining and whimpering, and a dog who cries out painfully is trying to tell you that something hurts bad. Carefully examining your dog’s body may help you discover where the pain is.

A dog who’s usually vocal may become quiet when they’re painful, which is why it’s important to be familiar with your dog’s normal behavior.

Changes in how often your dog barks, whines, or makes other vocalizations can definitely be a sign that something is wrong.

3. Stomach Ache Or Loss of Appetite

Dog, Pet, Food, Bowl, Kibble, Paws
“My tummy doesn’t feel right. I shouldn’t have gotten into the trash and ate that old pizza!”

It’s not always easy to recognize tummy troubles in a dog, but here are some signs:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

If a dog is hurting, they’re less likely to eat normally. Watch for loss of appetite that might indicate pain from a stomach ailment, oral discomfort, or other conditions.

If it lasts more than a day, a visit to the vet is in order.

4. Panting

Dog that is panting and drooling in pain.

Excessive panting, especially when accompanied by trembling, can be a signal that your dog is painful.

While panting is fairly normal for dogs, you should take notice if they pant at odd times or for no reason. If you notice your dog panting in the middle of the night or in an air conditioned room, check for other indications of pain.

Pain can cause changes in breathing, including an irregular respiratory rate.

5. Restlessness Or Changes In Sleep Habits

King Charles dog laying next to person in bed.
“I just can’t fall asleep feeling this way.”

A painful dog can feel restless and exhibit an inability to get comfortable and lie still.

Pacing, repeatedly readjusting position or getting up and down frequently are all causes for concern.

Sleep patterns can be affected as well. A dog in pain might sleep more than usual or could have difficulty sleeping.

Again, familiarizing yourself with your dog’s normal behaviors will help you determine if something is out of the ordinary.

6. Changes In Behavior And Temperament

Small terrier showing teeth and ears back at human that is touching them.
“THAT’S THE SPOT THAT HURTS!!!!!!”

Pain can change a dog’s behavior and, just like a human, a dog can act grouchy when in pain. Some dogs become more aggressive and may even bite, especially when touched in an area that hurts. It’s the animal’s natural instinct to protect themselves to prevent further pain.

Avoidance behaviors, like shying away from contact with people and other pets are common when a dog is in pain. If your dog normally enjoys being touched and is suddenly making moves to avoid your touch, pain may be the culprit. This is sometimes coupled with depression, lethargy, and mental dullness.

Other dogs may seek more attention and act needy when in pain. Any radical or sudden behavior changes are a clear indication that your dog needs medical attention from a vet.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Dog Is In Pain

It’s important to keep your dog from suffering and to keep minor problems from becoming major ones. Be gentle, and don’t make the pain worse while you’re attempting to locate the cause.

Do not medicate your dog yourself. Human medications for pain and inflammation are dangerous and can be toxic for an animal, especially in the wrong dosage or when combined with other medications. You can call your veterinarian to ask what you can give until your appointment to keep your dog comfortable.

There are many reasons the animal could be in pain, and some of them might indicate a more serious issue. Chronic pain triggers like arthritis can be managed well with your vet’s help.

Go See Your Veterinarian

Golden Retriever laying on a veterinary table with veterinarian and owners.

If you suspect that your dog is in pain, don’t hesitate to get professional help from your veterinarian right away. They can form a diagnosis and prescribe the right treatment.

This is almost always a better option than trying to treat pain in your dog, yourself. If you try to do so, you could end up doing more harm to your dog than good. So get to the vet!

Published by Dogwuvr

My love of animals started when I volunteered at a humane society. From there I wanted to teach people how to take care of their precious pets and get the word out about adopting. I went to Animal Behavior College and got my Dog Obedience Certification. I have been working in veterinary clinics and give people information about dogs.

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