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6 Signs that your dog is in pain

Dogs don’t show pain the way humans do, so it’s very important for pet owners to know the common signs that dogs show when they are in pain.

Sick puppy

Photo credit: Sadeugra / E+ / Getty images

As pet owners, we do all we can to make sure that our dogs are well-cared for and loved. We buy them the best food, toys and treats; we pamper them as much as we can. We never want to see them in pain, but dogs are stoic and can’t tell us when they are in pain. So, how are we suppose to know?

Pain signals


Heavy breathing or panting

Most dogs will pant from time to time because they are stressed or excited, but when dogs pant for no apparent reason and the panting becomes excessive, this can definitely be a sign that a dog is experiencing pain.


Excessive licking or biting

Dogs that lick or bite at a specific area may be doing so because they are experiencing pain in that area. Dogs may lick or bite at broken nails, open wounds, irritated paw pads or tumors under the skin.


Lack of appetite

Dogs will not usually eat when they are sick or hurt, so if they ate the day before and then refuse to eat the next day, they may be in pain. A dog that has an injured neck may not want to bend over and eat from its food bowl because it causes pain.



When a dog limps, it is an obvious sign of pain or discomfort. Dogs can limp due to arthritis, a pulled muscle, ligament damage, back injury, neck injury, stiffness in the joints or broken bones. Dogs that are hesitant to go up stairs may be experiencing pain.



Drooling can be a sign that a dog is experiencing pain in the stomach or that it is nauseous. Excessive drooling and gagging can mean that a dog is in distress and experiencing extreme pain. Bloating is a serious condition that can cause severe pain in a dog’s stomach. This condition is very serious and needs immediate veterinarian attention.


Change in behavior

Dogs that are in pain may become aggressive. They may tend to snap or growl when approached. Some dogs that are in pain may also become sad and depressed, which can lead to a lack of appetite, sleeping more than normal, hiding, lack or interest in playing or going for walks.

More information

Being able to recognize when your dog is in pain comes down to really knowing your dog’s normal characteristics. If your dog is acting strange and experiencing some of the above signs that it may be in pain, it is very important to seek advice from your veterinarian. It’s never a good idea to give your dog any medications that have not been approved by your regular veterinarian. Some over-the-counter pain medications can cause gastrointestinal issues in dogs and should not be given.

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