how to tell if my dog is in pain- an image of a dog lying on its side

How To Know If Your Dog Is In Pain – 20 Telltale Signs


Does your pet look a little under the weather? Learn how to know if your dog is in pain by looking for signs and symptoms. Is your dog acting out of character? It’s too bad that dogs can’t tell us what’s bothering them which makes it difficult to diagnose. It’s like trying to figure out what’s going on with a crying infant.  

There are many different types of pain like joint pain, trauma, tooth pain, injury and some of them can’t be seen like fractured or broken bones. 

Dogs have different pain thresholds and while some are able to “wing it”, the pain in others is more evident. 

Keep in mind that a dog in pain is more likely to bite. 

A well-meaning dog parent may reach for the medicine cabinet but whatever happens, DO NOT be tempted to give them human painkillers! 

Advil and Tylenol are toxic to dogs and can be fatal!

If you suspect your dog is in pain, speak to your veterinarian right away. 

Signs of Pain in Dogs - Is Your Dog Acting Out Of Character?

  • Did your sociable dog suddenly turn anti-social and may even tend to run away?
  • Did your dog stop barking whenever someone is at the door when he used to go ballistic?
  • Did your normally sweet dog suddenly turn aggressive and hostile?
  • Did your dog lose interest in climbing stairs and refuse to go up even when coerced?
  • Did your dog who used to like to snuggle now refuse to be held, stroked, or carried?
  • Does your dog look depressed/dejected with his head lowered? 
  • Did your normally energetic dog suddenly lose interest in going for walks or refuses to play? Changes in energy and activity levels are indicative of pain.
  • Does your dog with a healthy appetite refuse to eat or show difficulty eating? This may indicate stomach or dental pain. 
how to know if your dog is in pain - an image of a depressed dog

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Feeling Pain?

  1. Vocalization – Whimpering/yelping or crying for no apparent reason even when lying still.
  2. Excessive panting
  3. Enlarged pupils
  4. Restlessness – inability to get comfortable
  5. Excessive licking or scratching a particular body part. Heat and redness may indicate inflammation. 
  6. Protecting a body part
  7. Growling when petted
  8. Instinctive biting
  9. A tendency to lie very still
  10. Difficulty in relieving themselves.
  11. Bunny-Hopping
  12. Limping
  13. Lopsided Gait
  14. Difficulty getting up
  15. Lethargy
  16. Crankiness
  17. Falling behind during walks
  18. Frequently squinting/rubbing eyes with constricted pupils
  19. Increased heart rate with rapid shallow breathing
  20. Changes in stool consistency
If you see any of these signs, it’s time to call your veterinarian to find the source of the pain 

Dogs Are Different When It Comes To Pain

Dogs are pack animals. To survive in the wild, they have to stick together as they’ve done so for millennia. Those that are weak or sick are left behind by the pack as to not slow them down and put everyone’s survival at risk.

So a member of the pack has to be strong and healthy, even if they’re not, to avoid getting left behind. 

Dogs, as well as wolves and coyotes, still have this instinct. They have to stay strong or “compensate” to not be left behind by the pack which is you and other family members. 

For a dog, the worst thing that can happen is to be left behind by the pack. Being left behind, in a dog’s mind, means vulnerability, loss of companionship, and everything needed for survival. This is why dogs develop all sorts of anxiety when left at home for too long. 

It’s too bad that dogs don’t realize their human pack won’t abandon them even if they get sick or weak so they hide it until they can’t. At this point, they “decompensate” where they unravel quickly. This is why cancer in dogs is often discovered late.

Can CBD Help Dogs In Pain?

Generalized pain relief, deeper sleep, increased energy, better mood, and improved mobility are among the many benefits of CBD. 

It’s been proven to work in dogs with joint pain and Osteoarthritis.

Take Preventative Measures

Here are a few things a dog parent can do to prevent your dog from suffering unnecessary pain:

  • Avoid feeding your dog fatty food to prevent Pancreatitis which is a painful condition. No Bacon! 
  • Control your dog’s weight to prevent joint pain and osteoarthritis. Taking frequent walks and limiting treats may help. 
  • Brush your dog’s teeth regularly to prevent dental pain and a painful condition called periodontal disease. 
  • Don’t give bones to your dog to chew on. Bones can damage teeth and cause splinters.
  • Avoid walking in tall grass in warm and dry weather to prevent grass seeds and foxtails.
  • In hot weather, walk your dog on the grass instead of the pavement to avoid burning their paws. 
  • In winter, avoid walking your dog on the sidewalk when there is road salt as this hurts their paws.
  • Familiarize yourself with toxic plants to prevent unnecessary trips to the vet.

In Conclusion

It’s no fun to see your dog suffering in pain especially when you see a sweet dog change in character. When you notice any of the symptoms, don’t wait! Call your veterinarian immediately.


12 thoughts on “How To Know If Your Dog Is In Pain – 20 Telltale Signs”

  1. As a fellow dog lover, I read your post with great interest. I am quite able to read dog behavior but not everyone is. Your article should help guide others. I like that you mention that each dog has his/her own behavior and reactions to pain, just as people do. Some of our dogs have been very sensitive and we adjust for that. The more challenging ones are the ones that don’t want to show any pain. Not everyone can decipher their movements and reactions. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of pet lovers! I’ll be linking one of my sites (pet-counsel) to this article as a good reference for others.

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