Dogs feel pain for many of the same reasons as humans: dental problems, infections, arthritis, disease and cancer as well as discomfort after surgical procedures. There are certain signs and changes in behaviour that can indicate when a dog is suffering. As a dog owner, you are in the best position to notice those often subtle changes. The sooner your dog’s pain is diagnosed and treated, the sooner he or she can heal and resume a normal, happy life.

Here are just some of the behaviours or changes your dog may exhibit if they are in pain. If you suspect your dog is sore or uncomfortable please notify your veterinarian immediately.


  • Whimpering
  • Yelping
  • Groaning
  • Grunting
  • Whining
  • Howling

Daily Habits

  • Decreased appetite
  • Withdraws from social interaction
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in drinking habits
  • Housetraining habits change (accidents)


  • Licking
  • Biting
  • Excessive scratching of a particular part of their body

Activity level

  • Restless (or stands up and lies down repetitively)
  • Reluctant to move and tends to lie very still
  • Difficulty getting up from a resting position
  • Trembling or circling
  • Seeks more affection than usual
  • Pants excessively when at rest

Facial Expression

  • Vacant stare
  • Glazed or wide-eyed
  • Appears sleepy
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Flattened ears


  • Coat lacks normal shine
  • Hair stands up in places

Self Protection

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


  • Acts out of character
  • Aggressive tendency when normally a friendly dog
  • Quite docile dog when normally hostile
  • Growls, bites


  • Hunched, with hindquarters raised and front end down on the ground
  • Lays on their side
  • Anything unusual (eg. sits with one leg out to the side)

Treating pain

Please do not try and treat pain yourself. Many forms of human pain relief can be dangerous to dogs if given in the wrong dosage. Pain occurs for many different reasons and this means there are many types of treatment depending on the diagnosis. Your veterinarian is in the best position to recommend a dignostic plan and treatment so your pet can remain as comfortable as possible.

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