Is Your Dog in Pain?

It’s easy to miss signs that our dog is in pain, and they can’t use words to let us know. Learn what signs tell you that your dog may be uncomfortable or in pain.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #195

Even Eager Players Can Be in Pain

Limping is another clear signal that something’s wrong, and don’t be fooled by your ball-crazy dog’s continuing desire to play Fetch. Just think about how many human athletes choose to keep playing even when the wiser course would be to rest an injury. It is, or should be, the coach’s job to override the player’s eagerness, and likewise it’s our job to use our good sense and our awareness of consequences to keep our dogs from making their physical problems worse.

Watch Out for Changes in Overall Behavior

Changes in your dog’s overall demeanor should also send up warning flags. A dog in pain may be restless, unable to settle down and relax. She may be unusually clingy – or she may withdraw, avoiding social contact. She may even hide. A Dogalini who usually loves to play but recently started to refuse Zippy’s overtures (or yours!) needs to see her vet. Is your dog pokey about getting up and reluctant to go for walks or take a set of stairs? Head for the vet.

By the way, if you’re thinking “Wait! She just said that a dog in pain may still want to play his favorite games!” you’re absolutely right. Some kinds of pain are easier to ignore than others, and the effects of chronic pain may change over time, especially if the pain is increasing. But also, your dog is an individual. His friend down the block may be in similar pain from a similar cause, yet behave differently.

Trembling and Hunching

Two other big-picture signs of pain to look for are trembling and hunching. Dogs may tremble because they’re cold or afraid, rather than in pain. Not that cold or fear is something you should ignore! Also, there are plenty of non-painful medical reasons why a dog may tremble. If your shaking dog’s not cold or scared: call the vet. As for hunching or crouching, it’s a clue to abdominal pain. Call the vet fast.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).