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St Anne's Veterinary Group Blog

» Signs your dog might be in pain

Like humans, animals deal with pain in different ways, they also have different pain thresholds. The dog that is whimpering and crying is obvious but many are more subtle in the way they exhibit pain. Over the years I’ve had many people describe to me the ‘strange’ things that their pet is doing which they weren’t aware were signs of pain. So this week we’re going to talk about how to read your pet and know the signs of pain. Cats are far more tricky as they are more likely to hide and cover up their symptoms as much as they can.

So let’s start with dogs, there are different categories where you might see change. The first being positive behaviour reduction, this means that your dog might be doing less of the good things they usually do. This can include less movement, they may be less inclined to go for a run or a walk, or you may notice a change in how fast they go. They may wag their tail less, that one always makes me sad! They may want to socialise less with other animals or humans, your dogs might have regular canine buddies who they play with in the park and then they suddenly are less inclined to play. Dogs might be washing and grooming themselves less and may be less interested in food and such.


The next category is more frequent negative behaviour, so you may find they are sleeping more and less willing to get up and greet you. They may become extra clingy and protective of you, their owner. Some display guarding behaviour as they guard the parts that hurt so they’re not touched, or they can display aggression to other animals or humans when they didn’t before. Another thing you might see them doing is over grooming the area that is painful or their front legs which makes the skin red and sore and can lead to skin problems too. Some even bite the painful area or excessively scratch.

And the last category is abnormal posture or movement, dogs may become reluctant to jump or run. A tail between the legs is a sure sign that something is up, some put their ears back! You might be on a walk when they suddenly sit or lay down. They can appear rigid or hang their head, sitting with their head down and almost staring is a common sign that is missed. Praying position where their front legs are down but they have their bum in the air, this usually indicates abdominal pain. Some dogs may sit awkwardly as if they are uncomfortable.

No one knows your pet better than you! You are the best person to notice these sometimes subtle changes which means problems can be addressed far sooner. Next week we’ll cover feline pain signs.


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