When Your Dog is in Pain

Dogs feel pain every bit as much as people do but most dogs have evolved to hide signs of pain because it could make them vulnerable to attacks by rival dogs. Sometimes it’s quite obvious- a noticeable limp, large cut or observed trauma such as being struck by a car. But other times a dog’s signs of pain can be far more subtle. There are a number of things you can watch for if you are worried your pooch is in pain.

Excessive vocalization

  • A hurt dog may express their pain by whining, whimpering, yelping, growling, snarling, and even howling. Even if they’re trying to be tough, dogs in pain tend to be more vocal, but unless this is paired with a specific physical action, it not always easy to spot immediately.

Localized grooming.

  • Dogs in pain will often lick constantly in an attempt to soothe themselves. One of a dog’s first instinct, if they are hurt, is to clean and care for the wound by licking it. This is obvious if it’s a visible wound like a cut, but often the pain is internal. Dogs will lick the area in an attempt to fix the problem.  Dogs may also lick their paws to rub their eyes if they are experiencing eye pain.

Changes in sleeping patterns.

  • Many dogs will sleep more when they are in pain because they are trying to heal themselves or it’s just too hard to move around. Another sign to watch for is being unsettled. If your dog is hurting, it can be difficult to sit or lie down. Your dog may need to be checked out if they are sitting or laying in unusual positions or seem to have trouble staying put.

Aggressive behaviour.

  • When an animal is injured or in pain, many will go into survival mode and try to get you to stay away. This may mean that your normally docile dog suddenly starts growling, pinning its ears, and even biting.

Most of these signs can mean several different things. One thing you can do at home is feel around their body gently but firmly for signs of discomfort. This can help you localize the source of the pain but be careful! An otherwise docile dog may bite when you touch a sore spot. If you find something worrisome or the strange behaviour continues see your veterinary to help diagnose the problem.

Written by Leanne Radcliffe