How to Know When your Dog is in Pain

how to know when your dog is in painWondering how to know when your dog is in pain?  It has long been known that dogs seem to try to hide indications that they are in pain.  Some people say their dogs are stoic.  Biologists speculate this is a type of survival instinct.

What are signals that you can look for to tell you if your dog is having some discomfort or pain.  PW Hellyer, SR Uhrig, NG Robinson at James L Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital of Colorado State University has developed a canine acute pain level assessment scale.

In general, A dog that seems comfortable at rest, is content and shows interest in his surrounding could be considered to not have any pain.  Even if the dog has had surgery but is not bothering the wound or stiches.  There are usually no changes in sleeping patterns if a dog is not in pain

How to Know When your Dog is in Pain: The Signs

dog limping in painWhen a dog is in pain, you may notice:

  • Obvious limping, or not so obvious stiffness or arched back
  • Heavy panting that doesn’t seem to be related to heat or exercise
  • Your dog’s reaction to and interest in his surroundings and people has decreased
  • He is disinterested in things he used to love, like his favorite toy
  • Your do may be sleeping a lot more
  • Your dog is laying only flat on his side, not curling up when sleeping
  • Worried facial expression, arched eyebrows, darting eyes
  • Excessive licking or grooming. Although it’s normal for dogs to groom themselves, if his attention is to one particular place and spending a lot of time there, he may be experiencing pain there
  • Decreased or lack of appetite
  • Hiding, avoiding attention or contact
  • Unexplained accidents in the house or in his bed. Sometimes dogs are not able to make it outside fast enough or the squatting to potty is difficult
  • Movement becomes more difficult
  • Attempts to stand with weight on the front legs
  • First circling multiple times and then having trouble laying down
  • Reduced jumping, playing and climbing
  • Reluctance to walk up or down stairs
  • Your dog show aggression to other pets or you with snapping or growling when being handled or touched.
  • Your dog that has had some surgery or injury and reacts to palpitation of that site with whimpering, or pulling away. Sometimes he will just turn and look at you. He seems unsettled while resting and easily distracted with his surroundings.


dog stops playing with toySometimes pain can be detected when there is a body position shift to alleviate the discomfort.  For example, if we exert gentle back pressure on a standing dog and this is a sore area, sitting quickly may be due to pain.

Being able to identify early signs of pain can lead to a much more comfortable dog.  If you know how to know when your dog is in pain, it will allow you to get your dog earlier veterinary care and treatment can be often started before the condition worsens no matter what the underlying cause.




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