How To Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain: Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Signs
Updated: Jun 29
Your dog is your heart. When he hurts, you hurt. But sometimes you can't tell when they're in pain because dogs tend to hide their suffering. They never want to be the weakest one in the herd, so they pretend that they're ok. The good news is if you regularly pay attention to your dog's habits and behaviours (and who doesn't?), you might be able to catch something early.
Some of the easy signs and symptoms to spot are:
Limping and/or stiffness. You're noticing that it's harder for your dog to get up, or he's not as willing to go on walks or she stays at the bottom of the stairs instead of racing you to the top.
Growling, howling and yelping. Some dogs will 'speak' more when they're in pain. It may sound like they're being aggressive when they're really just not feeling well.
Changes in eating, drinking or sleeping. Just like us, when in pain, dogs aren't as interested in eating or drinking. If they're having a jaw or mouth problems, they may try to eat but not be able to. They might sleep more because it provides relief. Or conversely, they might be restless because they can't get comfortable.
Changes in behaviour. Your dog may not greet you at the door anymore or perhaps they have started to pace back and forth. Any changes in behaviour are important.
Lesser-known signs of pain are:
Excessive grooming and biting. We tend to massage an area that hurts. Dogs lick or bite it. Look for patches of hair loss or raw areas, especially around a joint.
Shaking and Trembling. This may not be a reaction to the cold weather. Instead this can indicate pain or more importantly, poisoning! Take your pet to the vet immediately if you notice severe muscle tremors.
Shallow or heavy breathing. Your dog may be having trouble breathing because it hurts to breathe. Heavy breathing without exercising can also indicate pain.
Changes in posture. Is your dog sitting differently? Favouring one side over another? Sitting with the same leg out. Always getting into prayer pose (head down, bum up) to relieve tummy pain. These are all indicators that something's not quite right.
Head pressing. Occasional head pressing against you is normal but pressing their head against a wall for minutes at a time is an emergency! It can be a sign of a neurological condition, trauma, infection or even stroke. Take your pet to the vet immediately.
What do you do if you notice one or more of these symptoms?
First, take them to the vet for a checkup. It's better to err on the side of caution. If they don't find anything serious, but the symptoms are not going away, call an animal chiropractor. We'll examine your dog and find out if there's anything chiropractic can do to help. A misaligned rib can result in breathing problems or even neck pain. Imbalances in the pelvis and lower extremities can cause mobility issues. Sometimes the reason for a problem with eating or drinking can be helped by a gentle chiropractic adjustment to the jaw!
In many cases, chiropractic can work with veterinary care to help your little one get better faster.