14 Signs Of Pain In Dogs: How To Know If Your Pet Is Hurting

signs of pain in dogs

Are you wondering what the signs of pain in dogs are? If you notice that your canine friend isn’t acting or moving like they usually do, they could be hurting.

Like a newborn baby, your dog can’t tell you where it hurts. Instead, their behavior will change to help them deal with the discomfort. That’s when it’s time for you to come to the rescue.

Learn the signs of pain in dogs so you can help them feel better as soon as possible.

Table Of Contents

Physical Signs Of Pain In Dogs

signs of pain in dogs

1) Panting

If you’ve lived with your four-legged friend for any length of time, you’ll likely know their habits pretty well. That includes the amount of panting they usually do.

Dogs pant to keep themselves cool, so they’ll naturally do a bit of it every day. But, if you notice more panting than normal, it could be a sign of pain.

When your dog starts panting heavily for no apparent reason and they haven’t been playing or it’s not hot in their environment, take the opportunity to do a gentle touch examination of their limbs and their body to see if they react.

Even if they don’t respond to your “checkup,” it doesn’t mean they’re not still in pain. If you notice a change in panting behavior, seek veterinary care right away.

2) Arched Back

One of the more common signs of pain in dogs is an arched back. If you notice your dog arching their back like a cat, they could be suffering from internal discomfort of some sort.

Back arching (a.k.a. kyphosis or abdomen tucking), is often a sign of either stomach/digestive distress or spinal pain. If you notice only the arched back, it’s likely a digestive issue.

However, if you notice an arched back coupled with excessive panting, shaking, or walking off balance, it’s likely spinal pain.

Either way, immediately limit your dog’s activity as much as possible and see a vet as soon as you can.

3) Holding Head Below Shoulders

In humans and in dogs, pain can take many forms. Think how you feel when you have a fever — achy, weak, tired, and you probably want to move as little as possible. The same goes for your canine friend.

When they hold their head below their shoulders, they’re likely in some sort of pain (e.g., from a slipped disc). That pain can manifest as a high fever and the achy feeling that causes them to hang their head low.

You can take your dog’s temperature as confirmation that something is wrong, but the fever is only a symptom — it’s not the cause of the pain.

Make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible to find out what’s wrong.

4) Shaking Or Trembling

Shaking or trembling is another one of the common signs of pain in dogs. Like panting, though, shaking or trembling may be a normal behavior for your dog when they’re excited.

But, if you notice it more often than usual, it could be an indication that they’re suffering from some ailment like nausea or distemper (a viral disorder that often occurs in puppies and adolescent dogs that haven’t been fully vaccinated).

In the case of nausea or an upset tummy, your furry friend may also appear listless, smack their lips, or swallow and salivate more than usual.

Make your dog as comfortable as possible and make an appointment to see a vet right away. Even if they vomit and then stop shaking or trembling, it’s still a good idea to have them examined by a professional.

5) Tight Or Twitching Muscles

Tight or twitching muscles can be the result of a variety of conditions, including:

  • Muscle strains
  • Allergies
  • Dehydration
  • Negative response to medication

If the twitching isn’t restricted to one area of the body — as in it happens all over — it could be a seizure rather than just a muscle spasm.

Regardless, talk to your vet right away to prevent it from happening again.

Mobility Signs Of Pain In Dogs

Dog mom training her dog

6) Reluctance To Jump Or Use Stairs

When your dog is in pain, they may be more reluctant to jump or climb the stairs. If you notice your dog starts to exhibit this behavior, it could be a sign that something is wrong with their back, legs, or hips.

Common ailments that might make your pup reluctant to jump or use the stairs are arthritis and intervertebral disc disease (IDD).

Your vet can provide medication that can help your dog feel better, but as your furry friend ages, they may still not be able to use the stairs or jump up on chairs like they used to.

7) Limping

Limping can be a sign that your dog is injured or ill in some way.

Common causes for limping include:

  • A sprain or strain
  • A cut on the paw
  • An object stuck in the paw
  • Torn nails
  • Arthritis
  • An animal bite
  • Fracture
  • And others

If you notice your dog limping and it doesn’t seem to get better after a day or two, make an appointment to visit your vet to find out what’s wrong.

8) Difficulty Lying Down Or Getting Up

Pain can make it difficult for your dog to sit, lie down, or get up.

For example, they may sit or lie in an unusual position or be reluctant to stay in one position for any length of time. Similarly, they may try to sit or lie down in their usual position, but then get up or move to another position almost immediately.

This can be a signal for various common ailments including joint pain and anxiety, as well as more serious issues including dementia, pancreatitis, and others.

If you notice your dog having difficulty lying down or getting up, give them a soft, supportive surface, like a Pet Bed from Newton, on which they can rest.

Then, visit your veterinarian for a more thorough explanation of the causes.

9) Walking Slower Or Refusing To Walk

If your dog suddenly starts walking slower or refuses to walk at all, they could be in pain.

Of course, they could just be uncomfortable, scared, or reluctant to leave a familiar place. In that case, check their collar or harness to make sure it fits well, and give them lots of love and pets to make them feel comfortable.

If the symptoms persist, they could be suffering from joint pain, hip dysplasia, or arthritis.

Whatever the underlying cause may be, schedule an appointment with your vet to see if there’s any way to reduce the pain and give them a bit of their mobility back.

Behavioral Signs Of Pain In Dogs

vet checking signs of pain in dogs

10) Restlessness

Restlessness is another common sign of pain in dogs.

If your pup paces back and forth repeatedly, has difficulty getting comfortable, or sleeps a lot less than usual, there could be an underlying issue that’s causing some distress.

If the restlessness doesn’t go away after a few days, take your furry friend to the vet to have them checked out.

11) Excessive Licking

When your dog is suffering from pain, their first instinct is often to clean and care for the “wound.” Even if the hurt is on the inside, they’ll still want to lick the area in an attempt to heal themselves.

Keep in mind that dogs grooming themselves is a natural part of their behavior — but if you notice them licking more than normal or repeatedly licking a part of their body that doesn’t have any visible wounds, they could be suffering from some type of pain.

A trip to the vet is essential to help them heal.

12) Not Wanting To Be Touched

Illness, injury, or other health issues can cause pain that results in a sudden onset of touch sensitivity.

If your pupper previously enjoyed lots of petting or cuddling with you on the couch and now they don’t, something may be wrong.

13) Excessive Vocalization

A dog in pain may tend to be more vocal than normal. They may yelp, growl, snarl, or even howl in an attempt to communicate their discomfort.

However they vocalize, if it’s different than their usual noises — e.g., more frequent, sounds unusual, occurs in odd situations — schedule an appointment with a veterinarian to have your furry friend checked out.

14) Aggression

If your usually-sweet pup suddenly becomes aggressive, it could be an indication that they’re suffering from pain or discomfort somewhere in their body.

For example, if you pet them like you normally do, but they nip or growl at you when you touch a certain spot, that could be an indication that they’re in pain.

Get them to a vet as soon as possible to relieve their pain so they don’t harm you, your family, or someone else.

Give Your Dog The Comfort They Deserve

dog laying in dog bed

If your dog is showing signs of pain, one of the best things you can do — aside from visiting the vet, of course — is to give them the comfort they deserve during this difficult time.

Our Pet Bed provides long-lasting support and the right level of comfort and air circulation for your four-legged friend so they can get quality sleep and rest until the vet can see them.

That’s a win-win for you and your furry friend!

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