Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your dog.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

Dogs may show subtle signs of pain.

Do you know how to tell if your dog is in pain? Chances are, if you see a wound on your dog or she is crying or yelping, you will know that she's in pain. However, sometimes dogs have less obvious pain sources that lead to signs that are much more vague.

Knowing how to tell that your dog is in pain so you can get her to the veterinarian as quickly as possible can help improve her chances of feeling better faster.

Keep in mind that dogs that are in pain are more likely to bite. If you suspect that your dog is painful, take precautions to approach carefully and handle her gently. You can learn more here: "Handling and Transporting a Sick or Injured Dog."

Ways Canines Show Pain

Here are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways that dogs might display pain:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Limping
  • Dragging a limb
  • Shaking head and scratching at ears
  • Body trembling
  • Hiding or extra clinginess
  • Difficulty jumping up on things or climbing stairs
  • Excessive licking of a certain area of the body
  • Fast breathing rate
  • Biting or snapping when she normally doesn't
  • Changes in posture; stiffness or holding the back, abdomen, or body in strange positions
  • Eye changes, especially squinting, ocular drainage, and pawing at the eye

Dogs that are in pain don't always yelp or cry like we might expect them to. In fact, they aren't too likely to do so except at the time of an acute injury or in situations where they have severe back, neck, or abdomen pain that strikes when they move a certain way, surprising them.

What to Do If You Think Your Dog Is in Pain

Be careful approaching and handling your dog if you believe she is in pain.

Call your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and determine whether your dog should be examined.

Never give your dog any medications, human or canine, over-the-counter or prescription, without speaking with your veterinarian.

Some human medications are toxic to dogs. Some are fine but only at specific dosages, which may differ from what a human would take. Some medicines are fine for some dogs but not others due to concurrent conditions. Your veterinarian is best suited to help you decide if your dog needs medicine and, if so, which one and how much.

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Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at DogHealth.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.