Pet AgingPet Parenting

Recognize the Subtle Signs of Pain

Speak up for the ones who can’t: Your dog can’t tell you when they’re in pain, but these symptoms can.

Dog Laying

Article Highlights

  • Identify physical or behavioral symptoms of pain.

  • Meet with your veterinarian to determine the source of pain.

  • Make a plan with your veterinarian to reduce your dog’s pain.

Best friends tell each other everything, right? But what if yours can’t speak? Your dog may be your best friend, but they will not always tell you when they are in pain. Part of their animal instinct is to stay strong to keep up with their pack. This means your dog might try to hide their hurting from you. Be on the lookout for these physical and behavioral signs that your dog is in pain.

Physical Symptoms

  • Limping
  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • Walking slower
  • Reluctance to use stairs
  • Struggling to lie down or get up

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Isolation
  • Aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive licking
  • Excessive vocalization

You know your dog best. Physical or behavioral changes that stray from their normal personality may be a sign that they are uncomfortable. If you think your dog is in pain, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Pay close attention to how frequently you notice these signs, and make note of what your dog is doing when you notice. Keeping a record of these, and even taking pictures or videos, may help your veterinarian understand why your dog is in pain.

This pain may be the result of an acute or chronic health issue. Acute health issues are temporary, such as an upset stomach, ear, skin, and urinary tract infections, or strained muscles. Chronic health issues could range from arthritis to cancer. Whatever the scale of your dog’s health issue, your veterinarian will be able to help.

Once your veterinarian determines the source of your dog’s pain, they will guide you through the next steps. They could recommend simple modifications of physical activities, like taking them on shorter walks. They might also recommend changes to your dog's diet, or raising their food bowl to a more comfortable height. More involved treatment plans could include supplements, medication, or surgery.

Your best friends deserve the best, so it is imperative that you know their subtle signs of pain. Your dog can’t speak to you about their pain, but you can notice, and you can speak with your veterinarian to help them.