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How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain?

No pet parent wants to see their dogs in pain. But what if you are not aware that your beloved dog’s suffering? A lot of times, dogs are unable to vocalize their pain - at least not until it’s constant or already unbearable and they start howling or crying. So how can you tell if your dog is in pain even before it gets worse?

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain?

Signs that your dog is experiencing pain

Behavioral changes

If your dog refuses to be touched or becomes unusually aggressive or tries to bite you when you try to hug him or give him a belly rub; if he doesn’t get up to greet you when you get home; or if he hides under the bed when everyone at home is up and about, then he might be experiencing some pain. You can observe him for another day to see if his behavior will improve; if it does not, you should have him checked by your vet. 

Excessive Licking

Dogs normally lick their wounds to soothe themselves and because their saliva promotes wound healing and protects against infection. If your furry pal is experiencing internal pain, he may also excessively lick his paws or the area that is painful to self-soothe.

Difficulty Moving

Difficulty getting up; trembling legs, stiffness, and limping when he walks; refusal to go up or down the stairs; lack of interest in going out, playing, or exercising - these could be signs of sore paws, joint pain, or some sort of injury. If your dog has difficulty going up the stairs, he may have some pain in his hind legs, paws, or hips; if he has difficulty going down, the pain may be in his front legs, paws, or shoulders.

Hunched Posture

A rigid and hunched posture or standing with their forelegs flat on the ground and their rear end up in the air (prayer posture) is typically indicative of abdominal pain. Swollen paws and legs caused by inflammation from an infection or even cancer are also possible causes. 

Poor Appetite

Poor appetite and a noticeable decrease in water intake may also be indicative of pain. See if your best bud has difficulty chewing his food as this could be a symptom of dental pain.

Eye Changes

If there’s eye pain, the pupils can either be dilated (larger) or constricted (smaller); if there’s pain somewhere else in the body, the pupils can become dilated. Frequent squinting, pawing at the eyes, rubbing their eyes against the carpet or furniture, or bloodshot eyes are also symptoms of eye pain. 


Any swelling on any part of the body is often painful and could indicate an infection, inflammation, injury, or even cancer. 

Sleeping A Lot

Sleeping longer and more frequently is one way that the body heals itself. Being less active may also mean that it’s too painful for Fido to move around. If he’s also been eating and drinking less, he would naturally be weaker. Take your dog to the vet if he hasn’t eaten or drank water for 2 straight days. 

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain?


Pain can also cause your dog to have difficulty getting comfortable, pace back and forth or in circles, sleep poorly, or get very little sleep.

Constipation and Difficulty Peeing

Back pain can make it difficult for your dog to take the normal position when he needs to poop, and this can lead to constipation. Male dogs with back pain also find it difficult to lift their leg to pee and usually simply lower both hind legs to do their business. 

Abnormal Breathing

If you notice your dog panting heavily even if he has not engaged in any vigorous activity, it could be a sign that he is experiencing pain. Shallow breathing could indicate that it’s difficult and painful for him to breathe. 

Shaking or Trembling of the Body

Full-body muscle tremors are also a pain symptom; they could also indicate poisoning, such as from xylitol or chocolate, or a disease, such as kidney disease or pancreatitis. 

Increased Vocalization

Crying, howling, or snarling without any obvious cause could be your dog vocalizing his pain. This usually means that the pain is severe and requires emergency attention. If your dog cries out when you try to touch a specific area of his body, he could have internal injury or a broken bone. 

Underlying Health Problems

Any of the following health conditions may have a pain component. If your dog is diagnosed with one of these conditions, make sure to talk to the vet about how to manage the associated pain. 

  • Eye problems such as glaucoma, or corneal ulcers
  • Fractured tooth or periodontal disease
  • Bladder inflammation
  • Bladder or kidney stones
  • Ear infection, especially chronic ear infection 
  • Joint inflammation, such as from arthritis
  • Cancer, especially bone cancer, cancer of the kidney or spleen, and tumors that put pressure on important internal structures.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas, stomach, or intestines
  • Infected, impacted, or ruptured anal glands
  • Cruciate ligament damage 
  • Slipped discs
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain?

How can you treat your dog’s pain?

Do not give your dog pain medications from your own medicine cabinet without the advice of your vet. Vets normally prescribe human anti-pain medications, but it’s still important that your dog gets checked first so that he can receive proper diagnosis and the appropriate course of treatment. 

For chronic pain or prolonged pain, such as while recovering from injury, talk to your vet about giving your best bud fish oil supplements or CBD, and how to help him improve his mobility. 

When Your Dog Is In Pain - Final Thoughts

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain?

Sometimes, the cause of a dog’s pain is not obvious and he may suffer in silence. It’s important to always be aware of any changes in your pet’s normal patterns of behavior and overall disposition so you can give him the proper attention and care he needs if he is experiencing pain. 

Know what symptoms to watch out for and the steps you should take to address the situation. Your first option should always be to take your dog to the vet. You may be tempted to give him human pain medications because you can’t stand to see him suffer, but you should seek your vet’s advice first or you might end up causing more serious complications.