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Is My Dog In Pain? Common Signs That Your Dog Needs Help

Noticing and Solving Your Dog's Pain

By Lauren Leonardi. October 31, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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A Dog Laying On The Floor In Pain

Has your dog been acting a bit strange lately? Not eating, playing, or being their normal happy self? There's a possibility your dog may be in pain, and is unable to tell you about it. Here are some common signs of dog pain to look out for.

Dogs exhibit all sorts of behavior humans don’t always understand. They spin in circles before they lay down. They spend inordinate amounts of time licking themselves. And, perhaps more alarmingly, they do everything they can to mask signs of pain.

A dog’s instincts tell them they may be booted from the pack if they exhibit signs of weakness. For this reason, it can be difficult to determine when our beloved pet may not be feeling in top-top shape. Here are some telltale signs that your dog may be in pain.

READ YOUR DOG’S BODY LANGUAGE

Ask yourself these questions if you suspect your dog may be suffering in some way:

  • Is your dog uncharacteristically resistant to being approached or touched?
  • Are they hiding or guarding a certain part of their body?
  • Do they seem to enjoy physical affection less than usual?
  • Are they looking away when you touch a certain part of their body?
  • Has their temperament changed? Sometimes alpha dogs become more submissive, and mild-mannered pets can begin to show aggression.

PAIN DUE TO AN INJURY

Some of the most common causes of pain in otherwise healthful dogs include minor cuts and scrapes. Lacerations and abrasions can come from a variety of sources, and can become exacerbated if they’re not treated right away. If your dog is exhibiting any of the above signs, and especially if they’re exhibiting a combination, they may be dealing with an injury.

Common pain-inducing injuries in dogs include:

  • Torn nails
  • Bites or scratches from another animal
  • Insect bites or snake bites, especially those that have become infected
  • Cuts or punctures from loose objects, including trauma to the eyes

Sometimes, a bit of first aid at home will be enough to resolve your dog’s pain. Be sure to keep your doggie first aid kit up to date for just such an occasion! If your dog’s pain doesn’t appear to be resolving itself in a day or so, head to the vet to let them have a closer look.

PAIN DUE TO ARTHRITIS

Watch your dog as they move around, especially during the morning hours, or just after they’ve woken up from a long nap.

  • A dog who’s suffering from arthritis may favor a certain paw or limb.
  • They may appear to be limping or stiff while they move around.
  • They may also exhibit signs of restlessness, as if they can’t get comfortable.

Have a look at this comprehensive guide to arthritis in dogs to learn more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of this common condition.

PAIN DUE TO PERIODONTAL DISEASE

Dental issues are among the most common causes of pain in dogs. Signs that your dog is suffering from pain in their mouth may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Eating from one side of the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Disinterest in eating and playing, and generally low energy levels
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge

You can help prevent dental pain in your dog by brushing their teeth once a week to every day if you have the time!

PAIN DUE TO A SERIOUS CONDITION

Aside from obvious vocal indications of pain or discomfort like whining and crying, or even unusual barking, there are a host of other physical characteristics that could indicate a more pervasive illness.

  • Gastritis: Vomiting and nausea, abdominal pain, blood in stool, and excessive salivating are all symptoms of gastritis in dogs. This condition and its symptoms can be painful. It can point to simple gas, caused by overindulgence or due to a change in diet, but it could also be caused by a more serious issue.

  • Hypothyroidism: Indications of this common condition can include thinning fur, dull coat, lethargy, and weight gain. While hypothyroidism isn’t necessarily painful on its own, some of the disease’s side effects can cause pain.

  • Heart disease: Bluish or yellow gums can be an indication that not enough oxygenated blood is moving around in your dog’s body, which could point to heart disease. A bloated abdomen can also point to heart disease.

  • Lymphoma and bone cancer are two of the more common types of cancers in dogs. Cancer symptoms can be hard to pinpoint, as they appear as a general lack of wellness. Symptoms of cancer can look a lot like symptoms of arthritis, and don’t always show up specifically as pain in the body.

Other signs of pain that could indicate serious conditions:

  • Inappropriate urination or defecation, defined as incontinence, can point to issues of the bladder or urinary tract, or a general lack of wellness.
  • Blinking and squinting could indicate pain around the eyes.
  • Other signs of serious illness can include excessive licking or panting.

In the end, you’re the best everyday judge of your dog’s wellness. Don’t be afraid to rely on your intuition. If your dog seems like they might be in pain, chances are good that they’re in pain. Respond quickly to indications that your dog may be in pain, and get them checked out by your vet.

More on Dog Health

10 Must-Ask Questions at Senior Dog Vet Visits
Treatment for Dog and Cat Bad Breath
Nutrition for Dogs and Cats with Arthritis

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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