Signs a Dog Is in Pain

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio

Don’t you wish your dog could talk to tell you how he feels? After all, it can be tough to figure out if your pet is experiencing discomfort. But if you learn more about your canine companion’s body language, you’ll be able to pick up on the signs your dog is in pain. Below are some of the things to watch out for.

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How to Know If Your Dog Is in Pain

Here are several ways to tell if your dog is dealing with pain. If you notice any symptoms, talk to your veterinarian, who can determine the cause of the pain before prescribing the right treatment that will provide relief.

Body Language and Posture Clues

Your dog can tell you a lot with his body language, and if you note changes in his posture, you might quickly realize that his body hurts.

You might see your dog standing or sitting in a strange way (e.g., the position of his legs while standing or sitting might be abnormal). Additionally, he might be in a hunched position or look stiff like he can’t relax his body.

Dogs that are in pain may not want to move much. They might lie down on their side more than usual, or you might see your dog sitting more in an effort to reduce pain while standing.

Also, if your dog is panting more than he normally does, if he’s breathing fast, or if you notice that he’s trembling, these are signs that he may be in pain.     

In addition, check your pet’s facial expression. Sometimes, based on how your dog looks, you’ll immediately be able to tell that something is wrong. But there are subtler signs as well. For example, a dog who’s in pain might look tired, his eyes might be wide, his pupils might be dilated, his ears might be flattened, or he might have a blank stare.  

Vocalization and Movement Clues

A dog who isn’t feeling well might let you know by vocalizing, and you might notice vocalizations during certain movements, such as when your companion is trying to lie down. If you hear your pet yelping, grunting, or whimpering, he may be in a significant amount of pain, to the point that he can no longer hide it, so let your veterinarian know.  

If your dog is having trouble getting around, that’s another indication that he might be suffering from an illness or injury that’s causing pain. An obvious symptom is a limp, or you might see that your pet avoids putting weight on one leg.

In addition, your dog might not want to walk as much or might not want to run or jump. Even getting up after sitting or lying down might be a challenge, and going up or down stairs might be difficult.  

Also, your dog might have trouble finding a comfortable position to rest in. This could result in circling, pacing, or lying down and getting up over and over again.  

Behavioral and Personality Clues

Take note of any changes in your companion’s behavior, activities, and energy level. Dogs who are in pain may not want to do the things they typically do every day, such as play with their family or go for long walks.

Other signs of pain include changes in appetite. Your dog might not have much of an appetite and might also drink less water than he normally does.

Your dog might try to feel better by licking, scratching, or biting the part of the body that’s hurting. If this goes on for too long, it might even result in injuries to the skin or loss of fur.

Also, the discomfort might make your pet want to sleep more, or he might be in so much pain that he finds it hard to get enough sleep, so watch out for changes in this area as well.

In addition, a dog in pain might exhibit changes in personality. A dog who used to love being petted might suddenly not want to be touched, or might want you to stop touching a certain part of the body that hurts. A normally sweet dog might become irritable or might want to spend less time with the family. On the other hand, you might notice that your dog wants to be near you more than usual, or your pet might show signs of depression.  

Don’t Try to Solve the Problem on Your Own

It’s extremely important to figure out what’s causing your pet to be in pain, whether it’s a condition like arthritis, an injury, an infection, or anything in between. Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate your dog and run

tests to provide a diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Your vet may prescribe pain medication for your dog – be sure to follow the directions closely and report any side effects right away. They might also recommend other solutions, such as a heated pet bed, that may help reduce your companion’s pain.

A great example is the K&H Thermo-Ortho Bed, which is available in multiple sizes, has a removable heater, and is machine washable. It features orthopedic foam layers for ultimate support, along with soothing heat – a combination that might help an aching dog feel better.  

Dogs May Try to Hide Their Pain

If your dog is in a lot of pain, the signs may be quite obvious, as he might have difficulty moving around and might even vocalize or avoid being touched. But bear in mind that your dog might try to hide his pain from you, and this can make it harder to tell if he’s uncomfortable. Always keep an eye out for even minor changes in behavior, activity level, movement, or interactions with you.  

Whether you’re positive your dog is in pain or you’re worried that something might be wrong, have your pet examined by a vet to get the answers you need and help your furbaby feel better.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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