7 Signs Your Dog is in Pain

bulldog mix puppy sleeping under a blanket on a gray sofa

In the wild, animals that visibly show they are in pain are showing signs of weakness that could lead to them being attacked. Although they are no longer in the wild, our dogs will sometimes still hide that they are in pain. They may yelp or whine if you touch a sore area, but they may not show you any signs of sickness or pain before that. Knowing what to look for can help you identify whether your dog is in pain and allows you to get help for them faster. Here are a few signs your dog is in pain:

1. More Vocal Than Normal

Yelping and whining are more obvious signs that your dog is in pain. Discomfort is also one of the reasons why dogs sigh. If your dog is more vocal than normal, like growling or howling excessively, it can also be a sign that your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort.

2. Avoiding Contact or Acting Aggressively

If your dog normally runs to greet you at the door and loves to be cuddled and suddenly stops and tries to avoid contact, something could be going on. Dogs will sometimes hide away and avoid contact if they are not feeling well. They may also snarl, snap, and act aggressively to try and keep you away from them if they are in pain.

3. Loss of Appetite and Sleeping More

When your dog is in pain, they may start to sleep more. This could be lethargy or could also be an attempt at trying to heal or may be because it is difficult for them to move around.

A loss of appetite in dogs and a drastic change in how much water they drink are also common symptoms of pain or that something else is going on with their health. If your dog is eating less and has noticeable difficulty with dry food, they may be suffering from an issue with their teeth or gums that is causing them dental pain.

4. Restlessness and Sleeping Less

Restlessness can be another sign of pain in dogs. If your dog has difficulty getting comfortable or sleeps a lot less than normal, they could be in pain. Pacing back and forth can be another indicator that something is wrong.

5. Mobility Issues and Changes in Body

If your dog is noticeably stiff and limping, those are more obvious signs that they are in pain. They could have sore paws, dog paw hyperkeratosis, sore joints, an injury, or developing arthritis. Less obvious signs may be that your dog is less willing to climb stairs or is slower at navigating them.

They may also be less interested in playing or exercise and may be less active than usual. You also want to look for any changes in their body. Areas that are swollen are likely inflamed, infected, or irritated. Your dog may also change their posture and start hunching over or position themselves in certain ways in an attempt to alleviate pain.

6. Changes in Breathing or Shaking

It’s normal for your dog to pant when they are hot or after being active. However, if your dog is panting heavily even though they haven’t been active and they aren’t in warm weather, it can be a cause for concern.

On the other hand, if your dog is breathing more shallowly than normal, it could be a sign that it is painful to take a deep breath or something else is going on. Shaking or trembling can be from your dog feeling cold or just a normal part of getting old, but it can also be a sign your dog is in pain or that they have eaten something they shouldn’t have.

7. Excessive Grooming

Licking is a common dog behavior, but when it’s excessive, it can be a sign that something is going on. Dogs clean and care for wounds and injuries by licking them, which is also a soothing action for them. If you notice your dog excessively grooming or licking, they may be in pain and trying to soothe themselves.

External cuts and scrapes are easier to spot if your dog is licking that area, but the damage and the source of the pain can also be internal. They may also lick their paws constantly in an attempt to comfort and soothe themselves, even if their paws are not the source of the pain.

These are all potential signs your dog is in pain and they can also be symptoms of an illness or another health issue. Your dog can’t talk to explain what’s going on, so you have to keep an eye out for behavioral changes and signs to figure it out. If your dog has exhibited these signs, they could be in pain, they could be sick, or something else is going on and you should make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.