Five Telltale Signs That Your Dog Is In Pain

It seems logical that you would know when your dog is in pain, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what I use to think too. But dogs are magicians when it comes to hiding pain. Early on, as a dog parent, we had a pup with cancer who didn’t show obvious signs of pain until she was near end-of-life. That experience taught me to look at my dog a little differently and to always keep a watchful eye for any issues. Here are 5 telltale signs that your dog is in pain.

First, Why Do Dogs Mask Pain?

While it takes humans about 7 generations to minimize or change an inherited trait, it takes dogs a lot longer. Converting a wild animal for successful, long-term domesticated living is a massive undertaking. While it always looks cute when you see a trainer ‘playing’ with a bear, domestication is a whole different ball of wax.

Dog’s instinct to hide pain goes way back to pre-domestication. Dogs were required to hide their injuries and illnesses to protect themselves from predators, as well as be spared from an ugly row within their own pack. A sick dog could easily lose its social standing in its ‘group,’ and so sequestering their aches and pains was a matter of survival. It’s ingrained.

Do All Dogs Mask Their Pain?

No. Dogs first became domesticated some 15,000 years ago. Time has a way of changing a few things. Without getting all science-nerdy, humans have worked to breed specific, more pleasurable and endearing traits into dogs. Depending on the breed, or length of domestication, or a combination of the two, and even with a little bit of luck thrown in the mix, some dogs are very willing to show pain. But overall, a dog’s pain-hiding nature is an overriding, genetic trait.

What Are The 5 Telltale Signs That Your Dog Is In Pain?

  1. Appetite or Consumption Changes. A loss of appetite, desire for treats, as well as lack of water intake can signal something is amiss with your pup. If your pup has difficulty chewing or swallowing, give pause. This could signal a dental issue, or something much more serious.

  2. Bodily Changes. If you notice your dog showing a little tightness before loosening up on a walk, it is likely a pain and inflammation issue. Also, loss of agility for climbing or descending stairs is an indicator. Dogs who begin to pace or shake, or take a tumble when beginning to walk are likely hiding something. Even if it’s once in a while. Some dogs will show restlessness as a part of their pain signaling. Also, if your dog’s back, neck or appendages stay rigid, or hunch, it is likely protecting itself from pain.

  3. Breathing Changes. If a dog pants without cause, take a closer look. This can often indicate pain. Also, if your dog’s breathing is much more shallow than normal, pay attention. This may indicate pain. Some dogs will appear to be breathing normally when actually, they are shallow-breathing for longer periods of time. It’s important to watch for these changes, particularly in combination with one of the other pain signs we’ve included.

  4. Licking. When a dog licks his paws or legs in a relatively ongoing manner, it may be cause for concern. Dogs can lick themselves to provide comfort, and obsessive licking can occur with a major illness. Also, dogs lick to heal burns, bruises, and cuts, so keep an eye out for any injuries.

  5. Personality Changes. Subtle modifications of personality include avoiding being touched, growling when bumped into or when space is invaded. Dogs may also stop doing the things they typically enjoy, like running, jumping, etc. Antisocial behavior, where your dog avoids people and/or other dogs, should also be noted, as should increased or decreased sleeping patterns.

Yikes, My Dog Is In Pain!

With knowing the signs of pain, you can better handle situations where your dog may be in need of some help. Pain is a spectrum, so not all pain is life-altering. Just like when you have a cut versus a strained muscle versus a broken leg, a dog’s pain symptoms may appear somewhat similar, but the actual reason could be very different. A qualified vet will be able to help you determine what is the true root cause.

Pain typically requires two levels of action. Immediate and long-term. And, the approaches to each are not mutually exclusive to one another. For example, working with a vet to address any acute or sharp pain is typically diagnostic, and for overall pain relief, most practitioners recommend NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like those explained in a previous article.

What You Can Do

Now that you know what to look for, keep an eye out for the telltale signs that your dog is in pain. One of the best ways to initially manage pain is with full-spectrum, organic CBD. By giving your pup high-quality CBD you are taking the first step required in pain management. Often, when given CBD, most dogs pain is greatly reduced – particularly when given long-term. CBD is very effective as it naturally works with your dog’s endocannabinoid system to expunge the pain and associated inflammation (source).

Trust us, your dog will thank you!