18 signs, a dog is in pain and what to do
Dogs are probably the most resilient creatures on this planet. They try to not be bothered by small cuts or bruises. Since they cannot speak, it is difficult to understand whether your dog is in pain because of an injury or any other underlying cause. In this article I bring you the symptoms and signs of your dog in pain.
I am currently taking care of an Indian pariah dog (named Guy Wigglebutt) who lives in my colony. The first night I found Guy, he was wailing in pain (I am guessing he was in a fight with other dogs). He could barely get up. He would not have lasted beyond a few days if I did not tend to his pain immediately. He had a huge swelling on his right thigh and would cry if he had to move it even an inch. His leg is better now however, he still has a severe limp. I am hoping with regular care and massage with arnica oil, he will be back to his former self soon.
A note of caution: Never attempt to treat your dog’s pain yourself especially with human medications. Furthermore, medications which are prescribed for your other animals can be very dangerous to your dog. Always consult your vet in case of doubt.
Thus coming back to the topic at hand, what are the signs, a dog is in pain?
One of the clear signs, a dog is in pain is if the dog does not come to greet you at the door, tries to avoid contact or becomes aggressive. If you see your dog hiding away or your dog suddenly stops playing with you, other family members or other animals in your household, take it as an indication that he/she might not be feeling well and suffering from pain.
- Changes in drinking eating and sleeping habits
When dogs are in pain they tend to sleep more. This is their way of healing. Another case scenario could be that it’s difficult for them to move around due to the pain. When in pain, your dog may face a loss of appetite. The water consumption may also be different than normal. If your dog is having difficulty in eating firm chews or dried food, this could be an indication of dental pain.
- Increase in vocal behavior
This is another clear sign a dog is in pain. If you notice that your dog suddenly adopts a more vocal attitude like snarling, growling or even howling, this could be a sign that your dog is suffering from an incredible amount of pain. If your dog is yelping, it’s a sure-shot way of letting you know that he or she is in pain.
If your dog suddenly starts to lick a particular place on his or her body, It’s likely that he or she is attempting to provide some soothing effect to the region which is hurt. This behavior is often displayed in case of external as well as internal wounds. If it is external, you can easily spot it. However, if the wound is internal then that excessive licking should be taken as a sign of discomfort and pain.
- Altered breathing pattern or heavy panting
Panting is considered to be normal in dogs. However, if you notice that your dog is panting without any obvious physical exertion, you should take it as a warning sign that he or she might be in pain. Also, in case of the severe pain, it might be painful for your dog to breathe, thus the shallow breaths.
If you notice that your dog is trembling or shaking without the weather being cold, it can be taken as a sign of pain. Trembling or shaking can also be a symptom of pancreatitis, kidney disease or even poisoning.
It has been observed that dogs move in circles before they choose a spot to sit. However, this movement can be taken as a sign, a dog is in pain when the dog keeps circling, tries to sit, then gets up again and circles. If you frequently notice this behavior from your dog, then it is an indication that you must visit a veterinarian.
- Sudden changes in the posture and movement
If you observe swelling in the face, legs or paws, It could be an indication that your dog is in pain caused by an infection, inflammation or cancer. Dogs have the tendency to go into a rigid stance while others generally assume prayer position with front legs touching the ground and bottom in the air. Your dog will most often take the prayer position in case he or she is suffering from abdominal pain. This posture generally allows them to stretch the abdominal area.
- Reluctance to walk on slippery surfaces.
Dogs don’t mind walking in water or other slippery surfaces. Some dogs even love to get into every puddle they see on the road during their walks. However, reluctance to walk on slippery zones is a sign, the dog is in pain.
This is a pretty obvious symptom. If your dog is in pain due to sore paws, injury or arthritis, he or she may exhibit signs of stiffness and limp. Your dog might be slow in getting up or show reluctance in climbing stairs. You may also notice some lethargy compared to his or her usual active self.
- Placing the body weight on the front legs:
Due to the pain in the hip or the back legs it may becomes difficult for your dog’s back legs to support the weight of the body. In such case, you will notice that the pup tries to manage the body weight on the front legs. This is called as the forward leaning stance. In this case, the dog angles the front leg in the way that it is tucked under the chest to support the weight of the chest.
- Seeking or disregarding affection
Just like us, every dog responds to pain differently. Some may prefer to be left alone or hide while others may constantly want affection and cuddles.
- More accidents around the house
This particular sign, a dog is in pain is most commonly observed in geriatric dogs. This happens when it is extremely painful for the dog to look for the guardian to be led out, go down the steps to the backyard or reluctance in facing the outside temperatures. In such circumstances, a lot of dog guardians feel that their dog has forgotten the house training. However, dogs are very smart. They do not do things without reason. Thus, if your dog is reluctant to go out, it could be due to an underlying medical condition.
It is difficult for us to sit or lie down comfortably when we are in pain. Similarly, dogs find it difficult to sit or lie down when hurting. If your dog is sitting or laying down in an unusual position and is facing difficulty in maintaining one posture for a certain period of time, it may be a sign that your dog is in pain.
If your dog is suffering from an eye problem, you will observe frequent squinting. Alternatively, if your dog is suffering from pain in other parts of the body you will observe his/her pupils be expanded.
If your dog’s tail, which normally stays uprights, seems to have sagged or between his/her legs, it’s an indication your dog is not feeling comfortable and might be in pain.
- Showing selectivity in what or where to jump from or jump to.
Jumping is extremely difficult when dogs are in pain. if you notice that your dog is jumping at specific angles or refusing to jump from a specific place, it is an indication that the dog might be in pain. The reluctance towards the jump may either develop in a gradual manner or suddenly. Your dog may decide that the jump is not worth the treats.
- Tries to stand up on the front legs
Most dogs stand up by putting the weight on their back or hind legs first, followed by transferring the weight to the front legs. However as a sign, a dog is in pain when he or she tries to stand up by putting the weight first on the front legs instead of the back legs. This type of behavior is exhibited if the dog is facing problems in the hind legs and is finding it difficult to put the body weight on the back legs.
Refuses to play
If you notice your dog refusing to pay with his or her regular toys
or with his or her playmates, it is a clear sign that your dog is suffering from some sot of pain Pain makes it hard for any of us to play or engage in physical activities
Pay attention to your dog’s body language and you may see the symptoms at the early stages.
Why is your dog in pain?
There are several reasons why your dog might be suffering from pain. The two most common types of pain are acute and chronic.
- If there is a sudden injury or illness which results in pain, this pain would be referred to as acute pain.
- However, if your dog is suffering from pain due to a long-term disease like arthritis or tooth problems, this pain would be referred to as chronic pain.
Most common reasons for pain in dogs:
- Bone or joint damage
- Upset stomach
- Back problems
- Urinary tract infection
- Soft tissue injury
- Sprain/strain due to excessive exercise or activity
- Dental issue
How can you help your dog?
If your dog is displaying any symptoms of being in pain, do not panic.
- In case the pain is due to sudden injury, it may resolve itself with time. If you observe that your dog is behaving normally the next day then there is nothing to worry about.
- However, if your dog shows symptoms of pain for more than two days, immediately schedule an appointment with your vet.
- Stop engaging your dog in play, or any other kind of physical activity until you can consult your veterinarian. You may need to get some diagnostic tests done like x-rays, blood tests or an ultrasound to get a clear picture of the underlying cause of the pain.
- Make videos of your dog when he or she is showing signs of discomfort or pain. Make sure to note down the timings, what had your dog eaten just before and what was he or she doing when the pain occurred. You can show the videos to your vet for him or her to get a clear picture of what your dog is experiencing.
- Never administer any pain medication or NSAIDs to your dog without your veterinarian’s prescription or consultation.
Common pain treatments
There are many treatments which can reduce or eliminate the pain your dog is suffering from. Talk to your veterinarian to find out which therapy is the best option for your dog’s pain.
The most common pain treatments are
- Laser therapy
- Ice or heat packs
- Supplement or herbal therapy
Now you know the signs, a dog is in pain, don’t hesitate to take the pup to the vet if you notice the signs and symptoms. Your dog cannot tell you what he or she needs, so you have to be his or her voice and get his or her pain and difficulties understood by the vet. If you think a second opinion is needed, do not be afraid to get one. A second opinion is nothing compared to living with the guilt of what you could have done when the time was appropriate.
You must be very careful and decipher the behavioral changes in your dogs in the right manner. An intervention and veterinary assessment at the right time can prevent your dog from facing more unnecessary pain.
Even once the signs of being resolved, make sure to book an appointment and get your dog checked so that you can be sure that the pain doesn’t become a long-term problem.
Once the reasons behind the pain has been diagnosed and the initial pain has reduced to lower degrees, you can start administering some home remedies for pain to your dog,. Herbal remedies do not show the side effects of NSAIDs while keeping your dog from suffering more pain.
I honestly cannot stress this enough, if you do notice signs, a dog is in pain, take him or her immediately to the emergency vet clinic.
Remember, you have to be the voice of your dog. He or she relies on you for love, care and affection.
P.S.: Don’t forget to like, share and comment ☺️.
Frequently asked questions:
How can you tell if a dog is in pain?
Dogs in pain commonly display signs like:
-Difficulty in getting up
-Difficulty in sitting down
-Refusal to play with toys
-Refusal to play with other dogs
-Over or under sleeping
-Yelping when touched at specific regions
-Favoring specific sides of the body over other
-Refusing to go out or go up and down the stairs
What to do if the dog is in pain?
Take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. Once the underlying causes have been identified and treatment started, the pain will reduce.
Can I give painkillers to my dog?
NO! Never give any painkillers or NSAIDs to your dog unless you have had a consultation with your veterinarian.
My dog is in pain can I give it Tylenol?
Never give your dog any over the counter medication unless you have spoken to your vet.
I pull the scruff of my dog and he yelps. Does this mean he is in pain?
Yes, this most definitely means he is in pain and a vet consultation is needed.
Aw, this would be tough to see. I don't have dogs, but I do have cats, and I always watch to make sure they are doing okay. I would hate for them to be in pain.
I'll need to remember and watch out for these. I know the symptoms in a cat can be very different and I'll need to look out for them too.
These are some excellent tips is so hard to see our pets suffer that much they can speak they can tell us how they are feeling honey so sad
Remarkably well compiled scientific insights towards assessing pain in our fur babies.
I have cats and look out for pretty much the same things. But it is so hard to see our pets not feeling well.
Because I work in a veterinary clinic I know A LOT about this. Unfortunately that knowledge can be scary too!
Awwww I hate the thought of puppies being in pain. I like how you say you need to be the voice for your pet. Great tips here!
Great points! It's hard when our dogs can't just tell us what's happening or where they are hurting, however, they often are trying to connect with us and communicate in their own way. Learning to recognize and understand this communication is key.
I can always tell when my dog is sick because she doesn't eat and just lays around with no energy.
Great post. Since our furry friends don't talk it's sometimes difficult to know what's wrong with them. But there's always a sign that something is not right.
Great tips! It is important to learn about these signs so we can take care of our furry friends better!
this is a great post for inexperienced people. I am always so nervous when my dogs show any sights of discomfort, I worry so much!
Yes, cats and dogs are very different in terms of behavior and expression.
Seeing them in pain feels like someone is ripping out my heart. I have 9 foster kids (all dogs) besides Delta. Its hard, but I do whatever I can to help.
True. Knowledge is always as scary as it is powerful.
Thank you. I believe being a little overprotective is ok compared to under-protective when it comes to animals
Yes…recognizing your dog's way of communication is winning half the battle itself.
That is one of the major symptoms of being in pain.
Yes. They do try to convey to us if something is wrong. We just need to know to identify
Thank you :).
I worry too. I got Delta when he was one day old. I have raised him literally. If he makes one wrong sound, I take out my laptop and start to check what it might mean. I also semi foster 9 dogs. Delta and my foster kids are the reason I started this blog. We are right to be worried. Our worry can save a dog's life
Those are a lot of symptoms to look out for. I think cats roughly have the same. I remember my cat showing those symptoms when he was in pain. These tips are really helpful as sometimes it can be hard to know.
It was definitely heart breaking watching my one of my parent's dogs die… Ugh!
It can be hard to see a dog in pain and not know what to do. These are signs that I will start being aware of
This is a great post. My dogs have been sick a few times and each time, they are lethargic and don't want to do anything but stay in their beds. Poor babies!
I've never had a dog but i do have a cat! I am sure the same symptoms would apply right? Please let me know.
Great post and very informative. All pet owners should definitely view this post!
Some very helpful points to look out for! I will send this post over to my mum as she has a dog
These are some good things to look out for. With my dog its usually loss of appetite, and he doesn't seem to want to cuddle as much.
Cats do show similar symptoms to dogs like lack of appetite, hunching and hiding, over-grooming or complete neglect to grooming, excessive meowing or unequal vocalization (I have also heard cats howling when in pain). If you have any further query, let me know 🙂
Happy to help 🙂
Absolutely, they are our heart and soul. When Delta is sick, I feel like switching places with him. I can at least tell where I hurt
Yes, cats do show more or less similar symptoms.Thank you 🙂
Yeah..those are some sure shot signs of pain and discomfort.
Thank you. I hope she finds this post helpful 🙂
It makes me sad when our dogs get sick. Usually, they don't have appetite and they hide away. Bringing them to the vet would definitely help though it could drain your budget quite a bit.
It makes me sad when our dogs get sick. They usually don't have appetite or hide away. Bringing them to the vet definitely helps but sometimes it could drain your budget quite a bit.
This is really helpful. Passing it on to my mom!
I dont have dog, but still being helpful information i would pass it to people who has.
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Great advice on getting your furry friend checked by a doctor if they show signs of aggression or a strange habit for no reason. I want to help my sister with her plans to own a couple of dogs for her new apartment. Maybe she should try finding a local hospital that can look after her pets when these signs start to appear.
That would be wise. before adopting a puppy, one should get a vet’s contact details for emergency situation
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