Signs a Dog is in Pain: Spotting and Addressing Pet Discomfort

If you have a dog, you need to know when your dog is hurting. Dogs show pain by acting differently and having problems with their body. If you know how to tell when your dog is in pain, you can take your dog to the vet quickly. The vet can find out what is wrong with your dog and help them get better.

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Common Signs a Dog is in Pain

Whimpering or Crying

One of the easiest ways to tell if a dog is in pain is if they make more noise than usual, like whimpering, whining, crying, or howling. Dogs use these sounds to show how they feel, so if they cry or whimper when you touch them or something else happens, it means your dog is hurting. Yelping when touched in a specific spot on their body is a clear sign to pay attention to.

Aggression or Biting

When dogs are hurting, they tend to feel more irritable. You may notice your normally friendly dog starts snapping or biting when approached or touched gently. Since aggression is not a typical response for most dogs, biting or snapping likely indicates your dog is feeling pain when handled.


A dog in pain will often act lethargic or fatigued. They may sleep more than usual, move stiffly, or be reluctant to play or go for walks. Lethargy and tiredness signal your dog does not feel well enough to engage in normal activity.

Loss of Appetite

Dogs who hurt frequently lose interest in food or treats. Pay attention if your dog stops eating their regular food, acts disinterested in treats, or eats less than normal. Loss of appetite in dogs can result from nausea associated with pain.

Limping or Lameness

Common signs a dog is in pain include limping or lameness in their legs. They may avoid bearing weight on a sore leg or limp when walking. Some dogs alternate limping between legs as they try to find relief by shifting their weight away from the source of pain.

Excessive Licking or Chewing

When dogs experience pain, they tend to excessively lick, bite, or chew at the painful area. Dogs may compulsively lick or chew an area like their paw or back if they hurt. Look for hair loss, redness, or irritation triggered by chronic licking and chewing.

Causes of Pain in Dogs

There are many potential sources of pain for dogs, including:


Acute injuries are common causes of pain in dogs. Being hit by cars, falling, getting into fights with other animals, and intense exercise can all lead to injuries causing dogs significant pain. The most common injuries in dogs involve orthopedic issues like dislocations, fractures, sprains, and strains. These injuries lead to obvious limping and lameness.


One of the most prevalent chronic sources of pain for senior dogs is arthritis. Arthritis causes joint inflammation, stiffness, and joint pain. Dogs with arthritis often have trouble moving around and show signs of lameness shifting between legs. Arthritic pain gets worse with activity and cold weather.

Dental Issues

Dental problems like gum disease, infections, and fractured teeth commonly cause pain in dogs. Dental pain leads to obvious symptoms like reduced appetite, excessive drooling, and aggression associated with mouth handling.


Cancer is unfortunately a common ailment in older dogs. Bone cancer, in particular, is extremely painful. Signs of cancer pain include lameness shifting legs, lethargy, reduced appetite, and aggression associated with touch.

What to Do if Your Dog is in Pain

If you suspect your dog is hurting, you should take action right away to relieve their pain and diagnose the underlying problem. Here is what you should do:

Take Your Dog to the Vet

The most important thing is to schedule a veterinarian appointment as soon as possible when you suspect your dog is in pain. Your vet will examine your dog and run tests like x-rays or bloodwork to determine the source of pain. Prompt pain treatment and treatment of underlying issues will help your dog feel better quickly.

Provide a Comfortable Space

You can help a dog in pain by providing them with a comfortable, safe space to rest and recover. Offer your dog soft bedding, their crate with blankets, or limit them to one room while recovering. Prevent further injury by keeping them confined.

Try Pain Medication

Over-the-counter pain medications formulated specifically for dogs could help relieve your dog’s pain until you can get them to the vet. Common OTC pain relievers for dogs include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like carprofen or meloxicam. Consult with your vet before giving your dog any medication.

Recognizing the signs of pain in dogs and taking fast action to get veterinary treatment sets your dog up for the best possible outcome. Pay attention for common indicators like aggression, limping, reduced appetite, and lethargy that signal your dog needs relief from discomfort. Addressing the underlying source of pain can get your dog back to their happy, playful selves.

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