How to Tell If Your Dog is in Pain: Common Pain Symptoms in Dogs

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    Seeing our dogs in pain is no fun and can be heartbreaking. It’s important to be able to identify common pain symptoms in dogs so the appropriate measures can be taken. Pain symptoms will look different in every dog and dependent on the actual location of the pain but the below common pain symptoms are often common universal symptoms of pain in dogs. Keep reading to learn about the common pain symptoms in dogs and what you can do.

    Common Pain Symptoms in Dogs

    1. Reluctance to be Touched

    When dogs are in pain, they will often avoid the painful part of their body being touched or even being touched in general. This can look like ducking away or pulling their limb back towards them but they can also tell you they don’t want to be touched by growling when you’re near the affected area.  Remember to respect their boundaries.

    2. Vocalization 

    Just like people, dogs may outwardly express their pain. They may either yelp when the painful area is touched as well as consistent whining especially during activities like trying to stand/laydown and when just laying down and trying to get comfortable.

    3. Signs of Agitation

    Dogs may become restless when it pain and pace back and forth and not able to keep still. They will usually have trouble getting comfortable and are unable to stay in one position for too long before getting up and moving. It’s important to find out if your dog is doing this as a symptom of pain or anxiety.

    4. Shaking or Trembling

    brown dog in pink sweater laying on couch and shaking

    Shaking doesn’t just indicate being cold. Shaking or trembling is also a symptom of pain in dogs. But keep in mind that this can also mean they’ve been poisoned or have any number of conditions that cause muscle tremors. If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, take them to your nearest emergency vet and call the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 764-7661.

    5. Issues With Mobility

    Dogs who are having pain in their limbs, joints, jips, etc. will often have mobility issues. This includes having difficulty standing, laying down, walking, running, and jumping, They may either show signs of difficulty doing these things or refuse to do them all together.

    6. Heavy Breathing

    While panting is normal and even heavy panting is normal after a lot of activity, heavy panting and breathing in dogs while inactive is a sign of being in pain. If your dog is breathing shallowly, it might also be a sign that it is painful to breathe.

    7. Excessive Grooming

    dog licking themselves from pain

    Dogs often excessively groom themselves when anxious or in physical pain. When in physical pain, they will often groom the area that hurts in an effort to relieve the pain. A dog’s first instinct when hurt is to try and clean the wound and soothe themselves even if the pain is coming from something beyond a flesh wound.

    8. Changes in Eating, Sleeping, and Drinking Habits

    Dogs who are in pain often have changes in their eating, sleeping, and drinking habits in that they do less of all of the above. Dogs often won’t eat much or drink when in pain but it can also be an indicator of dental pain as well because it’s painful to eat. They may sleep less due to not being able to get comfortable.

    9. Antisocial Behavior

    When dogs are in pain, they will often want to be left alone. You might find them hiding in a corner, in the closet, or under the bed. Obviously if this is a regular behavior for them, it’s not necessarily an indicator or pain but it can be if combined with other symptoms of pain.

    10. Dilated Pupils

    Eyes can give you pretty good insight on the health of your dog. The pupils will often stay dilated when a dog is suffering from certain painful conditions. These painful conditions aren’t limited to the eyes, either. It can be a sign of pain in any area of the body.

    What To Do If Your Dog is in Pain

    Call Your Vet

    Your vet is really the only person who can decide if your dog is actually in pain (as many pain symptoms can mimic symptoms of other issues) and figure out the reason that they are in pain. They may do radiology, blood tests and a physical examination depending on what part of the body is in pain. It’s important to call your vet if your dog is displaying pain symptoms as some ailments can become chronic if not dealt with immediately.

    Make a Record

    To better help your dog and your vet figure out what’s going on and why your dog is displaying pain symptoms, write down what you notice and what your dog is doing at the time. Photos and videos are also extremely helpful as not all dogs will continue showing symptoms at the vet.

    Modify What You’re Doing

    corgi laying on a ramp

    If you think your dog is in pain, further activity might make it worse, especially if they have something like a leg injury. Further movement will also increase their pain symptoms. Before you have a treatment plan, there are some simple things you can do to help your dog from over exerting themselves:

    • Take shorter, slower walks
    • Use a ramp, stairs or pick them up to help your dog get on and off the couch and bed
    • Give your dog a raised dog dish to reduce strain on their neck

    This may be either temporary or possible lifelong if the pain is being caused by a chronic condition like osteoarthritis.

    If you believe your dog is in pain, stop activities and visit a veterinary professional to diagnose the problem.

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