There are certain signs and changes in your dog’s behaviour that can indicate pain – this occurs for many different reasons and treatment will depend on the diagnosis. Often when an illness starts there may not be any obvious symptoms, but if you can spot signals early on you’ll have a much better chance of easing discomfort. Take a look at how to tell if a dog is in pain. Warning signs and what to do…
Frequently Asked Questions
No dog owner wants to see their best friend suffering so here are answers to common queries:
How do I know if my dog is in pain?
Some dogs are quite good at hiding pain but there are typical dog warning signs that indicate distress – and these include behaviour, breathing, heart rate, and a change in appearance. Dogs in pain are also more likely to bite. These symptoms will all be addressed later on.
Why is my dog panting and restless?
Excessive panting in dogs especially in cool weather is one of the signs a dog is in pain – and the restlessness is probably the inability to get comfortable. Your dog may pace up and down, keep getting up, and constantly change position.
Why is my dog shaking and panting?
A dog panting heavily is actually nothing to worry about if strenuous exercise has been undertaken. However, if panting starts out of nowhere it could be stress induced and cause hyperventilation – you’ll need a vet check-up for advice.
Shaking and trembling are signs of pain in dogs and can be symptoms of more serious ailments such as poisoning, pancreatic disease, or kidney issues. My dog is shaking and acting weird could be due to swallowing large amounts of chocolate or mouldy compost as these both cause severe muscle tremors.
There are key signs to look for to determine pain experienced by your dog:
Licking and grooming is a sign that your dog is trying to soothe himself – when a dog is hurt the first instinct is to clean and care for the wound by licking it, even though the wound may be internal.
Lack of appetite
A loss of appetite and the noticeable difference in the amount of water being drunk are common symptoms of pain. Difficulty eating can indicate dental pain – and other reasons could include stomach issues or something more severe.
Dogs with back pain may have difficulty going to the toilet and may become constipated as the pain leads to a slowed mobility of the intestines. A male dog that lifts his leg to urinate may not be able to do so, and your dog may have accidents when unable to get to the area where they usually go.
Aggression or shyness
If your dog starts running away from you or hiding and being antisocial this is a pain indicator. Aggressive tendencies when your dog is normally friendly, growling, hostility, and even instinctive biting when you touch a painful area are evidence that your dog is suffering. Your dog may stop wanting to be stroked, or no longer bark when someone comes to the door – these changes in behaviour are obvious signs of discomfort.
Limping and stiffness are two of the most obvious signs that your dog is in pain and could be the result of an injury, sore paws, or arthritis. This, in turn, can lead to less interest in exercise and not being as active as usual.
Changes in posture
When dogs are in pain they often take on a rigid and hunched stance or assume a posture that resembles saying prayers with their front legs on the ground and bottom in the air. Depending on the type, location, and severity of the pain your dog may lie around more, or simply have a dropped or tucked tail when it would normally be perky and wagging.
Eyes are good indicators of pain in dogs – pain in the body will result in larger pupils while pain in the eyes themselves will often constrict the pupils. One or both eyes may be affected, and pained dogs may frequently squint. Affected eyes may appear sore and bloodshot as your dog rubs the area that hurts.
Dogs that are in pain will often be more vocal – this can be anything from a whimper or yelp to whining and howling – all indicating that something isn’t right. The sounds can be associated with particular movements such as when first getting up – and a dog that’s normally vocally may suddenly become quiet.
There are many common conditions that cause pain that may go unrecognised initially but are then diagnosed by your vet. These include:
- Cancer: especially bone cancer or tumours that press on important internal organs
- Arthritis: inflammation of the hips, elbows, or other joints
- Kidney or bladder stones: and bladder inflammation
- Ear infections: involving the middle or inner ear
- Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas
- Gastritis: inflammation of the stomach
- Enteritis: inflammation of the intestines
- Crucial ligament damage: when the kneecap slides out of place
- Periodontal disease: and tooth fractures
- Eye issues: including corneal ulcers and glaucoma
The importance of seeing your vet
If you think your dog may be in pain it’s really important to speak to your vet a soon as possible – to determine the underlying cause and to treat and manage pain medication appropriately. While your pet is recovering limited movement may be recommended and your dog will need to be kept in a quiet, warm environment with soft, padded bedding.
If the diagnosis from your vet has sadly been that there’s nothing more to be done to ease the pain you may have to consider putting your dog to sleep. Home visits from Cloud 9 Vets will provide dog euthanasia in the familiar surroundings of your dog’s home – and you’ll get all the help, support, and advice you need at this traumatic time. End-of-life practitioners know the correct medications and treatments to make sure your dog won’t suffer any more.