How to Tell if Your Dog is in Pain

September is Pain Management Awareness Month! Read on!

Dogs feel pain for many of the same reasons as humans: infections, dental problems, arthritis, bone disease and cancer. They also feel discomfort following surgical procedures.

Unfortunately, unlike humans, they are unable to speak to us about when and where they hurt.

You are in the best position to look for the subtle changes in behavior that may indicate your pet is suffering. It’s important to stay alert to these signs, because the sooner your dog’s pain is diagnosed and treated, the sooner he or she can heal and resume a normal, happy life.

If your dog shows one or more of these behaviors and you suspect it may be due to pain, notify your veterinarian immediately.


Daily Habits:
Decreased appetite
Withdraws from social interaction
Changes in sleeping or drinking
Lapses in housetraining
Sleeps more

Scratching a particular part of its body

Activity Level:
Reluctant to move
Difficulty getting up from a laying position
Repetitively gets up and lies down
Trembling, circling or lying very still
Seeks more affection than usual

Facial Expression:
Grimaces, vacant stare
Glazed, wide-eyed or looks sleepy
Enlarged pupils
Flattened ears
Pants excessively when at rest

Coat lacks normal shine
Hair stands up in places

Protects a body part
Doesn’t put weight on a limb
Doesn’t want to be held or picked up

especially a previously friendly dog
Acts out of character
Growls, hisses, bites
Pins ears back
A normally aggressive dog may act quiet, docile

Hunched, with hindquarters raised and front end down on the ground
Lays on its side

Don’t Treat Your Dog’s Pain by Yourself!

Never administer pain medication to a pet without consulting with your veterinarian. After diagnosing the problem, your veterinarian will explain the benefits, risks and costs associated with various treatment options. That way, you and your veterinarian can choose the approach that best meets the needs of you and your dog.

If Your Veterinarian Prescribes a Pain Medication:


  • DO follow your veterinarian’s instructions.
  • DO watch for possible side effects, including:
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Blood in stools (the stool appears black, tarry, like it contains coffee grounds)
    • Change in drinking or urinating
    • Change in behavior, such as depression, restlessness or appetite loss
    • Yellowing of gums, skin or whites of eyes Changes in skin (redness, scabs or scratching)
  • DO stop medicating immediately if your dog shows any of these symptoms and call your veterinarian at once.
  • DO keep the drug safely out of reach of your pets and children.


  • DON’T change the dosage or frequency unless directed by your veterinarian.
  • DON’T give any other drug to your dog while it is taking the pain medication (without first talking to your veterinarian).
  • DON’T hesitate to call your veterinarian if you ever have questions or concerns.
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