7 Warning Signs That Your Dog Is in 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 vaguer.
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.
1. Excessive vocalizations
Even if they’re trying to be tough, dogs in pain tend to be more vocal, but unless this is paired with a specific physical action, it’s not always easy to spot immediately. A hurt dog may express this vocally in several ways: whining, whimpering, yelping, growling, snarling, and even howling. If he’s vocalizing more than normal, see what’s up.
2. Changes in eating, drinking, and sleeping habits
Dogs that are in pain often sleep more – they may be trying to heal, or it might even be difficult for them to move around and be active. A loss of appetite and noticeable differences in the amount of water they’re drinking are often common symptoms. Difficulty eating, particularly dried food or firm chews, can indicate dental pain.
3. Difficulty resting
If your dog is hurting, it can make it difficult to sit or lie down. Because of this, you should check them if you notice they are sitting or lying in an unusual position or seem to have trouble staying put. For example, they might keep trying to sit or lie down and almost immediately get up and move around again.
4. Changes in their body and posture
Swelling of the paws, legs, and face is a sign of pain that could be caused by inflammation, infection or even cancer. When in pain, some dogs have a very rigid and hunched stance while others assume the ‘prayer’ posture with their front legs on the ground and their bottom in the air. Dogs often take the ‘prayer’ position when they are suffering from abdominal pain as it allows them to stretch this area out.
5. Changes to the eyes
Your dog's eyes can tell you a lot about any pain it might be experiencing. If there is a pain in the eye area, you may see squinting, redness, cloudiness, or a discharge.
- Your dog also may be rubbing at the area that hurts. If your dog rubs around its eyes frequently, this could be a sign of discomfort in this area.
- The eyes can also give you a clue about pain in other areas. Squinting can be a sign of pain in the eye area, but some dogs will also squint when they are experiencing pain elsewhere.
- Dilated pupils can also be a sign that your dog is in pain.
6. Shaking or trembling
Don’t assume trembling or shaking is just your dog feeling cold or, indeed, getting old. Both can be a sign of pain — or a symptom of something more serious such as poisoning, pancreatitis, or kidney disease. Dogs who have swallowed large amounts of chocolate, mouldy compost or sugar-free sweetener xylitol, for example, often suffer severe muscle tremors.
7. Aggressive behaviours
Ever heard the expression, “Like a wounded animal?” Well, there’s a reason. When animals are injured or otherwise in pain, many will go into protection mode and try to get you to stay away because they’re worried you’ll hurt them. This may mean that your normally docile dog suddenly starts growling, pinning his ears back, and even biting if you do something that worries him. Typically aggressive dogs sometimes show the opposite behaviour.
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.