5 Signs Your Dog is in Pain

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shutterstock_126853700Seeing our pets in pain is never a fun experience, and it’s something every dog owner dreads. Whether it’s a fresh injury or simply our aging elder-pups, we want nothing more than to help them. But it’s important to remember that they can’t always cry out to us when in need. Dogs aren’t humans, so they don’t speak our language. The best thing we can do to keep them comfortable is to learn theirs. Dogs display their pain in certain actions and behaviors that may seem subtle to us. Not everyone is a canine behavioral expert, but these five symptoms below will help you determine whether or not your loved one is in pain.

1. Excessive Grooming – It’s normal for dogs to lick and groom themselves, but it’s not normal for this to become an obsessive behavior. If you notice your pet tending to a localized area he’s never noticed before, or has just recently started spending a lot more time there, it could be a sign that he’s hurting. Pets will often groom places that are sources of pain in hopes to clean and care for the wound, even if there is no open wound present. Be sure to keep an eye on the area and inspect it gently.


2. Heavy Panting – Panting is normal behavior that shouldn’t surprise any dog owner. Even when the panting is heavy, certain circumstances allow for it such as extra hot days and strenuous exercise. But if you notice heavy panting out of nowhere, it could be stress-induced. This stress could be caused by pain your pet is experiencing. For whatever reason it may be, unexplained heavy panting should result in a trip to your veterinarian.

3. Inappetence – Lack of appetite is often the result of some sort of discomfort. You don’t feel like eating when you’re not well, do you? Our dogs don’t either. They simply just don’t feel like eating, especially when it’s painful to walk all the way over to the food bowl. If you notice any sort of inappetence in your pet, it’s important to seek veterinary attention right away, as this could be a symptom of many dangerous ailments.

4. Shyness & Aggression – You may notice that your dog is starting to become more and more antisocial. He may stop running to the door to greet everyone and avoids petting. Or you may notice that your little one doesn’t want you picking her up anymore, or cries when you do. If this happens suddenly, it’s reasonable to suspect pain as a probable cause. In some cases, you’ll find your normally overly friendly companion has become aggressive. If you notice your pup is hiding away and avoiding attention, be sure to check them for pain. It’s best to have a veterinarian do this, and it’s very important to remember not to take it personally if your dog does growl or snap at you. They aren’t necessarily trying to hurt anyone, they just have no other way to tell anybody it hurts and they don’t want to be touched.

5. General Behavior Changes – Besides shyness and aggression, you might notice that your pup doesn’t want to walk up stairs anymore, avoids jumping and climbing, or doesn’t want to chase after his beloved tennis ball. There are the obvious signs such as limping, but it’s important to also watch out for stiffness or arched backs. Dogs in pain often lay only flat on their sides, rather than curled up in their beds. They might be slower moving, sleeping a lot more and seemingly disinterested in things they used to love. Another sign is unexplained accidents in the house. It’s often very painful to get up from lying down (which you also might notice), and sometimes pets just aren’t able to make it outside fast enough. Sometimes the squatting to urinate and defecate is avoided, and you’ll notice that your pet will start leaving messes in her bed. All of these things can be attributed to pain – often in our older dogs, but sometimes in our younger ones as well.

Being able to identify early signs of pain can lead to a much more comfortable outcome for both you and your dog. With early veterinary care, you can often start treatment before the condition worsens, regardless of cause. If old age is the culprit, you’ll be more aware and educated on keeping your loved one comfortable and happy through his latter years. By keeping our pets happy, we keep ourselves happy too. And there’s nothing more important than sharing a peaceful, lighthearted life with our best friends.

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  • Cindy Pina

    watch out for hiding, like behind couches & chairs. Also a lot of squinting, I wish I had known these signs.

  • Julianne Wyatt

    Then I feel really bad….my chocolate lab (passed in June 2013) at 10 1/2 years old with stomach cancer and he never once showed us any signs until the very final day. The kids would lay on his side and watch tv…he would just lick them. What a true trooper.

    • stacy

      Julianne..Don’t feel bad. It’s ok to feel sad, but how could you have known?? We, as woman and mothers take so much on. It makes me sad to know that you feel bad about this. It sounds like he had a wonderful home and a beautiful life. My heart would completely shatter if my dog passed away and I’ve only had her for 8 months!! I can’t IMAGAINE having her for that long and loosing her. My heart goes out to you honey. Hang in there!!
      Stacy

      • Julianne Wyatt

        Thank you for your kind words.

    • Debby Merritt

      Am so sorry you had this experience…he sounds like a great boy! As a Nurse…I also know that people don’t always react to pain the same way. Maybe your guy was the same way or hoping that maybe his pain wasn’t that bad for him to tolerate. Hugs!

    • Brenda Leask

      I feel so sad for you Julianne and I think I may know how you feel also. My dog had Addison disease her whole life but was controlled with daily meds and she lived 10 yrs. and was perfectly happy,,,until the last day. Suddenly at 5am she woke me up with her crying out with pain which continued until the vet opened and I could get her there. I was beyond devastated when on that very same day they had to put her out of her misery. I think of her and that day always. Hugs.

    • Sister Plume

      I know nothing about dog medicine, but I have nursed humans with cancer for 30+ years, and I can reassure you that pain is by no means inevitable, and this might have been the case with your dog – so don’t feel bad!

    • Char

      Cancer is a very hard one to catch in dogs. I know of many people who had no idea their dogs were even sick, until suddenly they lost a bunch of weight or stopped eating. Some of them show no signs at all. It’s not your fault, cancer is a nasty killer and it hurts us all when we lose a family member to it. Stay strong, he’ll be waiting for you and your family on the rainbow bridge.

  • Lisa Smith

    Very good. Another sign a dog may be in pain is he/she just can’t get comfortable; fidgets around more than usual.

    • emily

      squinting their eyes is a sure sign too

  • Fred Neal

    I can tell by their eyes. Many dogs are stoic, but I can tell when mine do not feel well.

  • carol

    my old little dog passed in September, put it down to old age,, 14 years, off food, vomiting, passing blood in his stools, rushed him to the vet…and unfortunately nothing could be done for my little man, had him put to rest, held him in my arms until it was over, and wrapped him in the blanket miss him so much

    • Julianne Wyatt

      I’m sorry Carol for your loss. My 10 1/2 year old Chocolate Lab did too in June 2013. i still miss my boy. I have found while cleaning the house, his little stuffed animals and bones here and there. The “chew” marks on the walls are a constant reminder of him. I laugh all the time. I hope you get another great dog to warm your heart. <3

  • Shelly Shuart

    My 10 year old lab suffers daily with arthritis. We give him some medication for it, but he has a real hard time getting up and down the porch steps. I see these signs, especially the grooming, everyday. He also tends to bark at things I can not hear often, he has never been much of a barker. I figure that I will see when enough is enough in his eyes. For now, I still see love and life in his puppy dog eyes. My Mom does Reiki on him for me and he seems to like it, looking for other non medication answers to ease his pain. He is truly a member of my family, we just want him to be comfortable…

    • Patriot

      My friend has a 10 year old dog who has arthritis. She tried acupuncture for her dog and it has been extremely helpful. Now, rather than worrying about her dog she is thrilled about the huge positive change for her old girl. I want to recommend acupuncture as a very effective alternate treatment for canine arthritis.

    • Judy Reinhardt

      I have always kept my dogs until they couldn’t smile any longer. We all know that our dogs have happy faces. I let them go then b/c to keep them longer would break our mutual bond of love.

      • Julianne Wyatt

        Awe.

    • Kimberly Marlowe

      Hi Shelly. I have a 15 year old Chow Mix that has very bad arthritis in her back right hip and knee. I have had very good results from a product called LurbiSyn. It is Hyaluronic Acid, a naturally occurring part of joint fluid. This is the same product that the Dr. puts in my knee for my arthritis.
      When I started using it on Annie, she could not hardly get up from laying down with out assistance. With in 2-3 weeks she was acting like a 5 year old dog. You can look LubriSyn up on line at lubrisyn.com as well as many other sites It is also given to race horses. I will tell you that a half gallon costs about $165 on Amazon.com, but the last one I bought lasted almost a year. There is a pump that comes with the 1/2 gallon bottle. I gave Annie 2 pumps a day for the first 2 weeks then cut back to 1 a day. She is doing great, except for a bit of deafness, but she now understands hand motions and loves to go out and play with her 4 legged sisters again.

    • Deanna Fetters

      We have a Whippet we got from a situation where she was not wanted by a family any longer. She was pitiful and scared as ever when she got here, and with lots of patience and love, she has thrived over the years. She has been a wonderful dog but suffers from calcification arches under her spinal column.
      When it flares up she cries and screams so we have her on Tramadol twice a day and she is flying around here like a pup. She is 9, going on 10 and it has worked wonders for her.

      • Julianne Wyatt

        I will pray for your pup. ((HUGS))

  • PURDYGIRL

    Last week we made the prayerful decision to put down our Doberman (Molly) who had Hepatitis. She was about 8 yrs old and the vet said this condition in common with Dobie’s. She had stopped eating and would just shake/quiver all the time. She eventually began throwing up and the last time it was blood. There is such a void in our lives and I loved her, loved her, loved her. We will never have another dog. Molly was our family not our pet. RIP Sweet Girl. :(

    • whoajp

      Purdygirl, My heart gos out to you.I felt that pain so many times.But you were there for Molly when she needed you.I to said no more I can’t take another loss.But that time comes when you see so much of molly in a pups eyes and your heart gos out to it.You love them and care for them like no one else can.They are like children.I pray Molly sends you a friend someday.She would be happy another puppy could share your love like she did.Bless you

      • PURDYGIRL

        Thank You whoajp and I hear what you say but I know me and I just can’t go through another loss. She was my everything and my heart only belongs to Molly. I don’t try to explain how I loved her. It was special from the Lord above.

    • Gerald Murray

      Our first lab, Cody, suffered kidney failure and we had to say goodbye to him. It was one of the most painful things we had to do. We said we would not get another, but eventually we could no longer stand not having a dog in our life. We now have two labs and enjoy them both. Your pain will pass, but not the love you had for Molly. Give yourself time but get another dog when you are ready.

      • PURDYGIRL

        Thank You Gerald and my heart aches for your loss. You know I know your pain and grief. When Molly came into our lives it was love for me at first sight. We said that when the day came for the Lord to take her from us that would be it. I lost my mom in March and Molly last month. No, no more dogs even though I do love them. I don’t expect people to understand but our Molly was such a blessing and I can’t handle another loss. She was my sweet girl and I hold all memories in my heart until my dying day.

    • Joan Hansen

      Purdygirl: You will have another dog, I know, trust me…
      Your love for Molly is so strong that you will want to feel that same type of love again. If the 8 years of pleasure you shared with Molly are worth the pain you feel today; you will open your heart to love another dog again – someday.
      Over the years, I have gone through many times, what you are going through today. Believe me, it’s worth it to open your heart and let yourself love again.

    • Julianne Wyatt

      I’m sorry for your loss….((HUGS))

  • Deb

    I just lost my boy he was only 5 1/2 he was peeing blood i got him to the vets he had bladder stones i did everything they said i took him in Tus and November 25 5 am he never cried but i was with him he died in my arms .my heart is so broken i feel like i let him down.

    • Sliv76

      So sorry for your loss Deb. I lost my baby on Halloween, after several trips to the vet without a clear diagnosis until I learned he had cancer of the adrenal gland. It is one of the hardest things I have gone through and I truly empathize with your pain. Just know that you did what you could and knew to do. We never expect or believe the worse, but sometimes the worse happens. Much love to you and I hope you give yourself grace.

  • JaynelovesMissy Amee Johnson

    I lost my beloved MinPin Missy in August 2013. She too had a stomach full of cancer. Also an enlarged heart. She stopped eating. 2 days passed and she still didn’t want to eat, so I took her to the vet. 6 days later, she passed away here at home, with my husband and I sitting vigil at her side. A heart attack took her, right before my eyes. How could she have gotten so sick so fast, and die? I am beyond heart broken.

    • Susan Martinez

      My beloved 12 yr old pit mix Bosco just passed yesterday in my arms with his 49rs blanket snuggled around him. He had a tumor and massive fluid in his abdominal cavity. He had been sick for several months but the vet never suggested anything serious, until the last visit. She called me to say that he was in very bad shape and there was nothing she could or would do at this point because of his age – 82 yrs old in dog yrs. Since Bosco was in Colorado with my son at the time, my daughter and I brought him back home to California so he could be with his family. Each one of my grandkids sadley said their good-byes….including my cat Gracie, and Bosco knew and acknowledged each and every one of us. Before his appt with the vet, I took him for a ride in our car….his favorite past time….only this last time he was laying down in the backseat with a pillow propping his head up so he could get the fresh air. His eyes were closed, but he was lovin’ it. His vet appt was for 2 pm that on Monday 12/2/13, it was the hardest drive I’ve ever made. How do I say good bye to someone I love so much? I’m wondering, Did he Know that he’ll only be here on this earth with me for another hour…..no words to express other than grief. I can’t stop these tears and the only comfort is knowing he’s not suffering. R.I.P. Bosco aka: Poopers, Piglet, Crazy Man, the Aligator and Cutie Pie….

      • Mary A Ballerin

        (hugs) RIP Bosco. :( The day of our vet appt for my 6-yr-old pug, Milo, he started falling down while walking around the yard for the last time. He was smiling, I was taking photos, he had no idea where we were going … Milo loved going to the vet’s. The pain meds weren’t helping enough for his disc problems and severe hip dysplasia. It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, my vet wasn’t on-call and I didn’t want anyone else to ‘do it’. My friend, myself and my vet cried like babies afterward. There was one position I could hold Milo that was comfy, I could feel his body relax and he would sleep, without pain – I would hold him like that for hours, nothing else mattered as long as he was resting comfortably. I’m so happy I decided to make the appt before the long holiday weekend arrived. I held Milo until his last breath, I tried to make his tongue go inside his mouth, he never let his tongue hang out normally, but it was not to be. I adopted a baby pug puppy a month later, I was just too sad and lonely, and afraid I was becoming anti-social staying inside my house 24/7. I will be thinking of you and hoping you can find solace in knowing you gave Bosco a good loving home, a wonderful life and were with him until the end. I am teary-eyed for you, it’s been over 4 years for me but I remember it all like it was yesterday. I know I did all that I could, no regrets, great memories. I have two pugs now but they can’t replace Milo, I wish they all could have known each other. You will feel better. <3

      • Julianne Wyatt

        Omgoodness… you have me in tears!!!! You can tell Bosco had the best family in the world!!! I lost my chocolate lab at 10 1/2 years old in June of 2013. He was my Steele Boy. The car rides, the “hidden” stuffed animals, bones, the paw-print left in my heart will always remain there. God Bless.

  • Kim

    To everyone here who had to say goodbye (it’s ALWAYS too soon) to a furry loved one; I’m so sorry for your losses. I have been through it 5 times and I have regrets about each and every situation leading to their deaths. Could I have, should I have, what if……. We do the best we can. My girl Emme had bladder stones for two years before I found a vet smart enough to diagnose them. I could tell instantly when she was in pain; she would shiver and her eyes would glaze over and she just looked miserable. No one could tell us what was wrong and she was in such pain I thought we were going to have to say goodbye to her. I took her to a new vet that had just opened in our area and he diagnosed her in an hour with a simple xray. The next day he removed 29 stones from her little bladder and 7 years later she is still going strong at 15. Love them the best you can and they will forgive you everything.

    • Tabitha

      My 12 yr old black lab just had a recent issue with bladder stones as well. I am curious as to how you treated the stones? Did you put her on a special diet? Meds?

  • Cindy Pina

    Two more signs are, hiding and squinting a lot. If you look for your dog and can’t find her , then you find her behind the couch or under a bed it’s a sure sign. I found out about these two facts when it was to late. Keep them in mind.

  • Tammy Denomme

    I had to put my 11 year old german shepherd/husky mix down in August/2013. Dakota was fine, he use to jump/skip 3 stairs when he’d come in the house, then one day in July he couldn’t do it and was limping. I brought him to the vet and he was prescribed METACAM for pain and inflammation. He got worse on this med within 6 days he was vomiting, breathing heavy, weak, did not eat for his last 2 days and couldn’t walk. When I brought him to the vet she said she couldn’t do anything for him and I had to put him down. She suspected kidney or liver failure. My family was devastated! Then a little over a week ago we had to put my 13 and a half year old dog Bear ( Samoyed mix) down. He was blind since earlier this year, lost ALOT of weight. he use to be overweight then he was skin and bones. We had to carry him up and down the stairs to go outside but after awhile he’d get up from sleeping and couldn’t hold it, peed on the floor constantly.He was still eating but did not smile anymore or bark ( he was a barker). He fell over 3 days in a row and that’s when I told my 2 adult sons that it is his time to go. They were putting a guilt trip on me for a couple of months when I mentioned putting him down and I told them we have to do what’s best for the dog, not us! This devastated the family again, 2 dogs we’ve had since pups were gone within 4 months of each other. Some people wait or don’t get another dog, me on the other hand got another one right away. I now have a 10 week old german shepherd/Siberian husky mix called Ozzy. I didn’t want to wait too long because my dogs bring/brought me joy and so will this new arrival I’m sure. R.I.P. DAKOTA and BEAR! MOMMY LOVES YOU!

  • sandi.coh

    We noticed nothing until our little schnauzer stopped eating – 4 years old and a regular food hoover! Off to the vet – diagnosed with tumour in stomach and spleen.. put him through the op as we could not see any indication of spread.. then he came home and hid in corners for days, would not settle, would not be touched.. did not talk (always very vociferous) which I had seen this then.. we had to let him go on xmas eve… vet said he must have been in terrible pain.. we held him and he did not put up a fight ….have not stopped crying all of us…we have to have a new family member soon.. but its hard to think about it

  • christi

    I wish I had read this a couple months ago. My sweet Tuffy had alot of these signs. I should have put him down sooner cuz he was in pain and I didn’t understand it. Plus I didn’t want to lose him. I had to put him down two days before christmas. I miss him terribly. I had him over 10 years and he was 15 1/2 years when he went. My poor baby suffered and now I feel responsible for it. He was an amazing dog and we were made for each other. I don’t know how to go on without him. I feel awful all the time and everything reminds me of him.

    • Hit Manfan

      It hurts. A lot…But time truly does heal all wounds. Maybe you should consider rescuing some poor dog from a shelter. It isn’t any kind of a betrayal of your last dog and somewhere there is a really good and loving dog that desparitely needs a home and someone to belong to.

    • Lisa Fahnestock Morton

      I agree with rescuing another dog. I have always another dog after saying goodbye to my best buddies. I was not replacing a loved one, just filling a hole in my heart and at the same time giving love to another sweetie. I think about both my boys most every day but my 2 girls are wonderful.

  • Kathleen Lawson

    I wish I had seen this discussion and article last year when we had to put our dog down. It was such a horrible time and I kept questioning whether it was the right decision or not. We had taken him to two vets and he was on multiple types of medicine, but I just wouldn’t believe that he was in pain. I guess I couldn’t accept it. And, I had such a hard time after putting him down, wondering if we did the right thing even though two vets told us we did. I still have a hard time with it. He was only 10 so I thought the pain symptoms would go away. I guess seeing this article helps me a bit to understand.

  • Raven Estee Olin

    My Beagle puppy showed 3 out of 5 of these symptoms and it turns out she had lyme disease…poor thing was in so much pain.

  • Julianne Wyatt

    This is my Steele Boy that capture my <3. I truly miss my boy.

  • brittsir

    When my old great dane developed bloat she laid in the kitchen and didn’t follow me. But, when I left the room, she would cry. When I’d come back, she’d stop. I knew something was terribly wrong and had the feeling that that would be the last night with her. I took her to emergency, but, with all the other medical problems that she had, they decided she wouldn’t make surgery. It was devastating. But it is definitely all in the behavior of those that admit to the pain.

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