Is my dog in pain? Initial signs of pain, illness or injury.

Signs of pain in dogs

What are the signs of pain my dog might show?

As expressive as dogs can be, it can be hard to detect if they are uncomfortable or in pain. Sometimes the signs of pain are small, some dogs hide it. Often it is us, the owners, not picking up on the pain signals. This can be frustrating and distressing because no one wants to realize after the fact that Sparky has been uncomfortable. We might think, if we had known sooner or if I only had seen the signs earlier! Here is a overview of signs your dog might show when in pain.

Changes in Eating and drinking Habits

Changes in your dogs food and water are often a easy way for your dog to tell you something is wrong. A dog that always scarfs up his food and all of the sudden not even want to look at it tends to be a red flag. If your dog stops eating food or drinking water for longer than normal, call your veterinarian right away. Dehydration quickly impact your dog’s overall health. Even though loss of appetite can indicate many things from a slight stomach upset to life threatening conditions, it is worth keeping a close eye on your furry friend if he stops eating.

Excessive Sleeping or Lack of Overall Energy

How to tell if my dog shows signs of pain

Your hyper, bounce of the wall dog suddenly curls up next to you, lays for hours on their doggy bed or hides. Initially you might think how precious the quiet time is! But then you notice Fido not really acting like himself. He rather just tries to sleep or is suddenly unusually calm. This could be a sign of him not feeling good, being in pain or his body telling him he needs to rest to heal. A sudden behavioral change like this is worth noting, and a trip to your vet might be in order.

Limping, Odd Body Posture or Difficulty Moving

One of the easier signs to tell your dog is hurt, showing signs of pain when walking, standing up or sitting down. It takes more effort to get up, walk down steps or keep up during a walk. They might favor a leg, causing them to limp. Or they avoid running, jumping or even chose not to climb on the couch to lay with you. Anything that they associate with a possible feeling of pain they will try to avoid as much as possible. Sometimes especially in back and neck injuries they will hunch up or move very stiff trying to not have to move their back and neck too much. Similar to when we pull a muscle in our back.


Often dogs that hurt their backs or neck have a hard time getting comfortable one of the signs of pain they might display is getting really restless. They might try to lay down or sit. After a few seconds or minutes they get up, re-adjust trying to find a more comfortable position. This will go on for an extended period of time. Or they might pace because they just can’t get comfortable. So they keep moving trying to avoid the pain. They might seem hesitant when you try to tell them to lay down.


It’s important to understand that apparent displays of aggression like baring of teeth, growling, snapping, or making contact with your skin. It might be your dog’s way of telling you his is experiencing serious pain or discomfort. They aren’t “turning on you”. They just do not want you to move or touch them if they are hurting. Spot always likes to be rubbed on the belly! As you reach over he suddenly turns his head and growls, or even worse, he snaps at your hand! Spot never has done this before, what is going on? It is your dog’s way of self-defense, just like way move away or say “Don’t touch me, it hurts” He is doing the same. A dog doesn’t doesn’t show this sign of pain unless it is severe.

Often, aggression as a sign of pain goes beyond just a little of discomfort. He is not trying to be mean, he is trying to tell you he needs help.

Shaking or Trembling

It could be a chilly morning and your snow covered dog coming inside after a morning walk. Or it could be you dog showing pain or an symptom of a medical condition. Dog’s in a good amount of pain might start trembling. And older arthritic dog with hip pain might show his hind end shaking as he is trying to stand up on a cold morning. Trebling especially when the dog does not seem cold or wet could indicate many medical conditions, pain, poisoning, weakness or seizures. Unusual trembling like that is worth keeping an eye on and running by your vet to see if you should bring your dog into their office.

Over Grooming, Excessive Licking or Scratching

Grooming and licking is not just a way for your pet to keep themselves clean. Excessive licking, especially of the limbs, tails or paws, can be your dog’s attempt to comfort themselves. They might be trying to relieve pain. This might be a sign of pain and it is worth checking what is causing it. It could be a tick, bite, splinter, joint pain or something else that is causing irritation. If a dog is experiencing joint pain sometimes you will see them gnaw on the area that hurts following by licking.

This excessive sometimes obsessive behavior is definitely a signal you want to check to see if there might be a cause to it. Sometimes this grooming behavior can turn chronic. It is thought that it releases endorphins when the dog licks or chews like that, taking away the pain signal. Over time this can become an addiction and it will turn into obsessive behavior, Which in turn could develop hot spots or lick granulomas.


If your dog is panting heavily or labored breathing without having done strenuous exercise or it is a cool day, it might be an indication that they are in pain. Dogs that are in distress will start to pant. If there is not an explanation for the way they are breathing this could be a sign of pain in your dog. If you dog’s breathing rapidly becomes more troublesome it could also indicate an allergic reaction, and time is of the essence. Please do not ignore your dog if their panting or breathing seems out of the norm.

Being Vocal

Some dogs will vocalize when they are in pain. They might whine or whimper, they might bark more or even growl. Although the opposite might be true too. A dog that normally barks a lot and suddenly acts quiet might try to tell you they are not feeling good.

What Can I Do If My Dog Is In Pain?

If your dog is in pain and you cannot determine or address the cause, make an appointment with a veterinarian. Until they can be seen, try to keep them calm and comfortable. Provide them with a quiet and cozy place to sleep. Reduce stress by keeping the stereo and television volume low and limiting house guests and stimulating activities. Do not give your dog any medication without consulting a vet. Your best friend will try to tell you even if it is with very subtle signs that they are not feeling good.

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