Signs of pain in dogs

Updated April 17, 2017

Dogs not only hide pain symptoms from their owners very well, they also can't verbally indicate that something may be wrong. In some cases, pain symptoms are confusing. A dog who is constantly scratching may just be itchy or may be in pain. According to, "pain is a protective mechanism." Pain causes a dog to change behaviours to avoid the source of discomfort. The best way for owners to recognise signs of pain in their dog is to know its behaviours and daily functions really well. This way, you will be able to spot uncharacteristic symptoms, which may be indicative of pain in your dog.


One of the dominant signs of pain in dogs is a change in behaviour. A once loving, friendly and easy-going dog may start to snap and growl at those people it knows best. However, there are some dogs that will whine and come to you for comfort while hurting. Also, dogs in pain become very reluctant to be picked up or moved. Some dogs will pant excessively while under the stress of being in pain. Others will act restless, lethargic and depressed. In addition, dogs that chew, lick and scratch themselves may have more than just fleas or a rash; they may be trying to relieve pain from a certain area on the body. Pay attention closely to this kind of behaviour in your pet to see if it focuses on one particular area of his body. Don't ignore these warning signs. Take your dog to the vet to see if there is an underlying medical problem that could be causing severe amounts of pain and discomfort in your dog.


Holding a paw up in the air, limping and difficulty getting up and laying down are signs of pain in the muscles or joints. Pain in the back, neck, hips and shoulders could also cause limping and hinder mobility. Pain from dysplasia, arthritis and other joint problems are very common in dogs as they get older.


Loss of appetite is a telling sign of dogs that are in pain. It's not a huge concern if your pet misses a single meal; however, a sudden and sustained loss of appetite merits a visit to your vet. If your dog's change in appetite is supplemented by excessive thirst, urination and household accidents, the pain could be the result of a kidney problem such as very painful kidney stones.

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About the Author

Lucy Bowles is an avid freelance writer from Indianapolis. She has written for various websites since 2009. As a certified paralegal Bowles has worked in the areas of business, intellectual property and entertainment law. She has a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in legal studies from Indiana University.