Dogs, just like humans, experience pain. This can be a result of joint pain, muscle pain or soreness, pain from an injury or trauma, overuse, disease, or a host of other causes. Unfortunately, our animals can’t tell us with words when they are hurting (if only my dog could talk!) Instead we need to understand their body language and normal habits in order to detect when something isn’t right. Below are some helpful hints on what to look for in your dog that might indicate they are in pain—both the obvious and not so obvious signs. As always, consult with your veterinarian or rehab therapist if you think your dog may be in pain.
This is the obvious one, but sometimes dogs can do a good job of hiding a limp. Look for their head bobbing up and down more than usual. This may indicate the dog is trying to “lift” their weight off the painful leg when they walk. Also look to see if you dog is shifting their weight to one side as this may indicate they are trying to take weight off of a painful side.
Grooming is a normal dog activity, however, excessive grooming of a specific are can be a sign of pain. Dogs will lick the area as a way to soothe the pain. If you notice your dog doing this, it may be a good idea to take them to the vet for a check-in.
3. Avoiding activities
If you sprain your ankle, you probably aren’t doing any running or jumping for a few days afterwards right? Well dogs react the same way to pain. If your dog usually jumps in and out of the car with ease, but suddenly is hesitant, this may be a sign that your dog is hurting. Other activities that may change include going up and down stairs, running, jumping on/off furniture, playing, squatting or lifting their leg to pee, and standing up from lying.
4. More Aggression
Dog will sometimes show increased aggression when they are in pain. I might try to bite someone too if they were trying to touch my broken leg! This is an instinctive protective reaction. If your dog is growling or biting more often than normal, don’t keep trying to touch them or yell at them—instead seek veterinary help to make sure your dog isn’t in pain.
5. Changes in Appetite
A dog who doesn’t want to eat or drink (that normally does) is likely in pain or not feeling well. If the problem persists you should take your dog to the vet to determine exactly why they are not wanting their food.
These simple signals can help you be more in tune with your dog so that you can understand what they are telling you with their actions. We just have to pay attention!