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10 Signs a Dog Is In Pain + How to Help a Dog in Pain | Pupford

January 31st, 2024

Filed under Health + Wellness

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Your dog is more than just a pet—they trust you with their life. However, dogs have a natural instinct to hide their pain, dating back to their ancestral hunter-predator days.

It's crucial for dog parents to understand how to recognize the signs a dog is in pain because dogs cannot verbally communicate their discomfort.

In this blog post, we'll explore ten tell-tale signs that indicate your dog may be in pain and how you can identify and help them. Being observant and empathetic can ensure your doggo receives the needed help.

Note: This is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you think your dog could be hurt, please contact your vet immediately.


ways you can tell if your dog is in pain

As devoted pet parents, seeing our furry companions in pain can be heartbreaking. Dogs, unable to communicate their discomfort through words, rely on us to recognize any changes in their behavior or habits.

Understanding your dog's normal behavior is crucial in identifying any potential problems they may face. We can quickly recognize when something is amiss by being attuned to their unique personality and habits. Look out for these 10 common signs.


Before we dive into each one, let's look at 10 common signs a dog is in pain:

  1. Changes in daily routine
  2. Changes in activity level
  3. Self-preservation
  4. Changes in breathing
  5. Communication
  6. Self-injury
  7. Posture
  8. Passive/Aggressive behavior
  9. Expressions
  10. Coat/hair changes

Let's look at each below. 👇


  • Sleep Changes: Dogs experiencing pain may show changes in their sleep patterns, such as increased restlessness or sleeping more than usual.
  • Decreased Appetite & Drinking: A decreased appetite and drinking and housetraining mishaps like accidents or vomiting can also be signs of pain.
  • Less Social Interaction: A normally friendly dog may withdraw and show less social interaction when in pain.


In pain dogs may be unwilling to move and resist physical movement
  • Unwillingness to Move: In pain, dogs may be unwilling to move and resist physical movement.
  • Restlessness: Restlessness, pacing, and difficulty finding a comfortable position can indicate discomfort. Shaking, trembling, or muscle twitching might also be observed.
  • Increased Affection: Some dogs may seek increased affection and attention when they are in pain


  • Reluctance to Be Touched or Held: Dogs in pain may be reluctant to be touched or held, indicating their discomfort.
  • Protecting a Part of the Body: They may start guarding a specific area of their body, showing protective behavior.
  • Reluctance to Get Up: Reluctance to get up, jump, or climb stairs, as well as limping or favoring a limb, are strong indicators of pain.
  • Limping or Limb Favoring: Limping or avoiding putting weight on a limb could mean they are in pain.
  • Disappearing or Hiding: Dogs may also retreat to quiet and out-of-the-way places, disappearing or hiding when they are in pain.


  • Excessive Panting: Excessive panting, unrelated to temperature, can be a sign of discomfort or pain in dogs.
  • Labored Breathing: Labored breathing, characterized by difficulty or distress during breathing, could also indicate pain or underlying health issues.


dogs can howl or whine while in pain
  • Howling, Yelping, Whimpering, Whining, Moaning, and Groaning: Dogs use these vocal cues to express pain.
  • Growling or Snarling: A dog's sudden aggression might also result from pain.


  • Licking, Biting, and Scratching: Dogs may engage in excessive licking, biting, or scratching that goes beyond normal grooming behavior when they are in pain. It is important for pet parents to distinguish between self-injury caused by pain or discomfort and regular grooming habits.


  • Lying on the Side and Hunched Over: Changes in posture can be indicative of pain in dogs. Lying on their side and appearing hunched over may suggest discomfort or underlying health issues. Observing and noting these changes in posture can help identify potential pain in dogs.


happy dogs may growl when they are in pain
  • Normally Friendly: If your usually friendly dog starts growling, snarling, or biting, it could be a sign of pain. They may also exhibit unusual behaviors like pinning their ears back, suggesting they might attack. This situation requires careful attention and handling.
  • Normally Aggressive: On the other hand, if your dog is typically more aggressive but suddenly becomes passive, it could be a warning sign of pain.


  • Vacant Stare: When you gaze into your dog's eyes, you usually see excitement and playfulness. However, receiving a non-interested, vacant stare in return may indicate that something is wrong, and pain could be the culprit.
  • Enlarged Pupils: If your dog's pupils appear larger than usual, it is another indication that pain may be present. It suggests that something is not right.
  • Grimacing: If your happy-go-lucky pooch suddenly appears more serious and starts grimacing, it may be a sign that they require pain relief.

10. COAT

  • Standing or Missing Hair: If your dog's hair stands up in certain spots, it could indicate pain. Additionally, if there are patches of missing hair, your dog may have pulled it out or fallen out due to a pain-related issue.
  • Lacks Shine: A dog's coat that lacks its normal shine could indicate that health issues, including pain, have arisen.

Understanding these signs helps us identify when our beloved pets are in pain and allow us to take appropriate action to ensure their well-being.

Remember, paying attention to changes in behavior, expressions, and physical appearance is crucial for addressing any potential pain-related concerns.

Now, let's delve into some of the most common causes of pain in dogs and how they manifest.

🐶 Dealing with your dog's joint pain? Check out the Super Pup Supplement!


most common causes of pain in dogs

Dogs, just like humans, can experience various sources of discomfort, and being able to recognize these causes can help us provide timely care and support. Here are some common causes.


Dogs can experience arthritis, which involves inflammation and stiffness in the joints. Recognizing the primary sign of arthritis, which is pain, is essential.

Consulting with a veterinarian can help alleviate the pain and address the condition effectively. Early diagnosis and treatment are particularly beneficial for chronic conditions like osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.

Common signs of arthritis in dogs can include limping, decreased activity, difficulty rising, jumping, or climbing stairs, swollen joints, and muscle loss.


Bone cancer, specifically osteosarcoma, is prevalent among large- and giant-breed dogs.

Detecting symptoms of bone cancer can be challenging, but it often starts in the front legs and rapidly spreads throughout the body, affecting areas such as the jaw, ribs, rear legs, backbones, and facial bones.

Severe pain is a common indicator, along with lumps or masses on the body, decreased appetite, lameness or limping, swelling in various areas, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.

Early detection plays a crucial role in a dog's prognosis, and the location of the cancer also influences the outcome. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

Related Reading: Signs of Cancer in Dogs


Dogs can experience pain from various infections, including ear infections, dental diseases, and bacterial or viral infections leading to gastroenteritis. Regularly checking your pet's ears, maintaining oral hygiene, and promptly addressing any signs of infection can help prevent discomfort.


Severe pain can result from major traumas like being hit by a car, falling from a height, or being attacked by another animal. Additionally, injuries like spinal cord issues, broken bones and fractures, ligament tears, and cuts to the paw pads or torn nails can cause significant pain in dogs.

Being aware of these common causes of pain in dogs enables us to take timely action and provide the necessary care and treatment they require.

🐶 Dealing with your dog's joint pain? Check out the Super Pup Supplement!


when to take your dog to a vet

Knowing when to seek veterinary care for signs of pain in your dog is essential for their well-being. Here are some guidelines to help you make that decision:

  1. Persistent Signs of Pain: If you observe any signs of pain that persist for more than 24 hours, you should seek veterinary care. Dogs may have difficulty expressing their discomfort, so it's crucial not to ignore any ongoing signs indicating pain. The sooner you address the pain, the sooner your canine companion can start feeling better.
  2. Early Intervention: Being proactive regarding your pet's health is always beneficial. Don't hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you notice any potential signs of pain or illness. Catching and addressing these issues early on greatly improves the chances of restoring your pet's comfort and well-being.
  3. Severe Distress: In cases where your dog is in extreme pain and exhibits behaviors such as yelping or panting heavily, it is crucial to seek immediate veterinary care. These signs may indicate a more urgent or severe condition that requires prompt attention and treatment.

Remember, your veterinarian is the best resource for assessing and addressing your dog's pain.

They have the expertise to diagnose the underlying cause of the pain and suggest the right options to alleviate your furry friend's discomfort.

By seeking timely veterinary care, you prioritize your dog's health and ensure they receive the care they need to live a happy and pain-free life.


what to do when your dog is in pain

When your dog is in pain, it's crucial to consult with your veterinarian to ensure proper care. Your vet will decide the best course of action based on your pet's symptoms, quality of life, and underlying condition.

The treatment for pain in dogs varies depending on the underlying cause. If the pain results from conditions such as dental disease, infections, or cancer, the focus will be addressing and treating the root cause.

Bacterial infections may require antibiotics prescribed by your veterinarian, while viral infections typically involve supportive care to keep your pooch comfortable and provide essential fluids and nutrients.

In addition to addressing the underlying condition, your veterinarian may recommend strategies to manage your dog's pain. These can include medication options (discussed further below) as well as alternative approaches like:

  • Ice or Heat Therapy: Ice therapy effectively relieves aches associated with bone and joint issues. If the injury occurred within the past 48 hours, you can apply an ice pack, frozen water bottle, or cold towel for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. It's best to start this treatment immediately after the injury to reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation.
    • On the other hand, heat therapy can help alleviate chronic pain in the hips or back or pain resulting from an injury older than 72 hours. Applying a warm towel or using a heated blanket for 15 to 20 minutes at a time can provide soothing relief.
  • Provide a Comfortable Environment: Make sure your dog has a soft, supportive bed. Consider using orthopedic beds or cushions that provide extra cushioning for dogs with joint pain. Keep the environment warm and draft-free to reduce discomfort.
  • Adjust Their Diet: If your dog is experiencing pain due to arthritis or other joint issues, a diet that includes joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help improve joint health and reduce pain.
  • Gentle Exercise: While it's important to provide rest for your dog when in pain, gentle exercise can be beneficial. Short walks or swimming can help keep their joints mobile and prevent stiffness.
take it easy on your dog when they are in pain
  • Massage and Physical Therapy: Gentle dog massage and physical therapy techniques can help relieve muscle tension, increase blood circulation, and relieve pain.
  • Pain Management Techniques: There are various pain management techniques you can try at home, such as applying heat or cold packs to the affected area, using acupuncture or acupressure, and providing supportive braces or wraps for joints.
  • Emotional Support: Dogs in pain may feel anxious or stressed. Providing them with emotional support, comfort, and reassurance can help them cope with the pain. Spend quality time with your dog, engage in gentle play, and offer comforting cuddles.
  • Medication Adherence: If your vet prescribes pain medications for your dog, make sure to administer them as directed. Follow the dosage instructions carefully, and don't hesitate to reach out to your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

Remember, every dog is unique, and the treatment approach for pain will vary based on their specific condition and needs. Always consult with your veterinarian for a comprehensive assessment and personalized treatment plan.

🐶 Dealing with your dog's joint pain? Check out the Super Pup Supplement!


white dog showing signs of pain | Pupford

To ensure our dog's well-being, we must remain vigilant and proactive. We should adapt their physical activities, provide necessary care, seek guidance from a veterinarian, document the signs we observe, and explore all available treatment options when necessary.

By familiarizing ourselves with the ten signs of pain discussed earlier, we can better understand how our loyal canine friends experience and cope with pain. As a recap, here are 10 common signs a dog is in pain:

  1. Changes in daily routine
  2. Changes in activity level
  3. Self-preservation
  4. Changes in breathing
  5. Communication
  6. Self-injury
  7. Posture
  8. Passive/Aggressive behavior
  9. Expressions
  10. Coat/hair changes

Let us know in the comments if you have identified any signs of pain in your doggo lately and what proactive steps you have taken to address their needs.

And if your dog is struggling with joint pain, be sure to check out our P.h.D. formulated Super Pup Supplement. Get Super Pup here!


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