9 Signs That Your Dog Is In Pain and Common Causes

9 Signs That Your Dog is in Pain

This might surprise you: Dogs are good at expressing how they feel! You don’t need to be a “dog whisperer” to be able to understand your dog. A dog in pain will communicate through body language.

The secret is to know the common warning signs of pain. That’s what we’re going to discuss today.

Important note:

The sooner you can recognize pain, the sooner you’ll be able to manage its underlying condition. Our pets don’t have to suffer in silence.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is In Pain: 9 Important Signs to Note

Is your dog giving these signals? Read on to find out.

9 Important Signs That Your Dog Is In Pain

1. Heavy panting

Dogs normally pant when they feel excited or try to cool themselves after exercise. However, heavy panting or rapid breathing without any apparent reason should be a cause for concern [1].

Try to calm your dog down. If the panting doesn’t stop, bring him immediately to the vet.

2. Episodes of aggression

Has Fido suddenly become aggressive? Bouts of grumpiness, irritability, growling, and biting can indicate a painful condition. Pets react this way to guard the affected body part and avoid further discomfort [2].

3. Changes in posture

One of a dog’s signs of pain is postural change. If you live closely with your dog, you should be familiar with his usual body posture. Odd postures that indicate pain include:

  • Sawhorse-type stance
  • Prayer position

Pay attention to the position of your dog’s tail. A tucked tail signifies discomfort.

4. Loss of appetite (anorexia)

Like humans, a dog in pain will lose interest in food. This is especially true if your dog loves his food and shows excitement during mealtime [3].

Anorexia happens for a lot of reasons. Your dog could be stressed out. It could also result from a dental disease, hip dysplasia, or arthritis.

5. Constant grooming and licking

You might think your dog’s recent excessive licking behavior is cute.

Think again.

Do you often catch Fido licking the air or his lips? Does he obsessively lick a specific part of his body – perhaps his paw or joint? Pets try to relieve their pain through licking.

6. Restlessness

Fido shifts from side to side. He lies down, gets up, lies down, and gets up again. He’s pacing in circles. Study shows that restlessness in animals is a manifestation of pain. Pets with osteoarthritis are often restless at night [4, 5].

7. Dilated pupils

Pupils decrease in size when there’s bright light. They increase in size in low light conditions. But for a dog with a painful condition like glaucoma, the affected pupil stays dilated.

8. Swelling in a certain area

Examine your canine’s legs. Do they look the same? Or does one leg look bigger than the other? If one leg is bigger, can he move it freely? Aside from the swelling, can you hear broken bone or cracking sounds?

These are signs of arthritis

9. Change in toileting habits

A house-trained dog that shows a sudden change in his potty habits could be in pain.

For example, a bladder infection could cause your dog to urinate more often. If it’s pancreatitis, he could have diarrhea and “accidents” at home.

Common Conditions That Cause Pain in Dogs

Behind Fido’s pain is a medical condition that’s waiting to be managed. As a pet parent, it’s your job to report whatever observations you may have to the vet.

Below is a list of painful conditions that affect your pooch.

Common Conditions That Causes Pain in Dogs

1. Arthritis

Being overweight and obese increases a dog’s risk of arthritis, leading to joint pain. Arthritis also affects dogs that are older than eight years [6].

Specific joint supplements that relieve pain and reduce inflammation include the following [7, 8] :

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) oil

2. Ear infection

The mere fact that a dog’s ears harbor microorganisms makes him prone to an ear infection. To prevent infections from happening, you need to keep your pet’s ears dry and well-ventilated [9].

Note for redness and swelling in his ears, including restlessness in the middle of the night.

3. Bone cancer

Bone cancer or osteosarcoma causes swelling and pain in a dog’s bones. It affects many dog breeds. The cancer can spread throughout their body in a matter of two years [10].

Medications, radiation therapy and amputation help relieve pain [11].

4. Cystitis

This refers to inflammation of the bladder. Your dog can get cystitis for different reasons. Cystitis could result from a bacterial infection, bladder stones, or tumors [12].

5. Pancreatitis

More studies need to be done to understand the causes behind canine pancreatitis [14]. Dogs with this problem find it painful to eat. They end up losing their teeth.

7. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition where the fluid in your dog’s eye cannot properly drain. This creates a lot of pressure in the eye and can result in blindness [15].

Some pet owners may not notice dilated pupils. In that case, they should look for other signs such as anorexia and temperament changes.


There are still lots of other common conditions that lead to pain in dogs

Bottom line?

Get a good idea of your dog’s normal behavior. It’s the first step to recognizing pain when it shows up.

Remember to keep Fido as comfortable as possible!


  1. WebMD. Why Is My Dog Panting Heavily? – https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/dog-panting-heavily
  2. Welsh J. Sudden Aggression in Dogs Often a Sign of Pain. 2012 June 14 – https://www.livescience.com/20969-aggressive-dogs-hip-pain.html
  3. Mathews K et al. Guidelines for Recognition, Assessment and Treatment of Pain. 2014 May 20 – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jsap.12200
  4. ScienceDirect. Restlessness. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/restlessness
  5. Knazovicky D et al. Initial evaluation of nighttime restlessness in a naturally occurring canine model of osteoarthritis pain. 2015 February 17 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4340376/
  6. Anderson KL et al. Prevalence, duration and risk factors for appendicular osteoarthritis in a UK dog population under primary veterinary care. 2018 April 4 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5884849/
  7. Bhathal A et al. Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review. 2017 February 24 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356289/
  8. Gamble L-J et al. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. 2018 July 23 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6065210/
  9. Moriello KA. Ear Infections and Otitis Externa in Dogs. – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/ear-disorders-of-dogs/ear-infections-and-otitis-externa-in-dogs
  10. The Translational Genomics Research Institute. Genetic similarities of osteosarcoma between dogs and children. 2019 July 19 – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190719135539.htm
  11. Szewczyk M, Lechowski R, Zabielska K. What do we know about canine osteosarcoma treatment? – review. 2014 November 26 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330401/
  12. Ward E. Cystitis in Dogs. 2009 – https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/cystitis-in-dogs
  13. Watson P. Pancreatitis in dogs and cats: definitions and pathophysiology. 2015 January – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586802
  14. Pieri FA et al. Periodontal Disease in Dogs. 2012 February – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221925187_Periodontal_Disease_in_Dogs
  15. Gelatt KN. Glaucoma in Dogs. – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/eye-disorders-of-dogs/glaucoma-in-dogs

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