Is your dog in pain?

Most dogs are so brave that they don’t even show signs of pain. Well, signs of pain that may not be obvious to us humans.

To follow are, however, some clues that you can pick up on which may help you see whether your dog is in pain or not.

This list is not exclusive, but may help provide you with some insight into your dog’s behaviour and habits.


Sudden changes in your dog’s normal behaviour

If your dog suddenly behaves very differently from normal, especially if that behaviour change is negative, a good idea would be to check if he is in pain or uncomfortable in any way.

If your dog is more lethargic than usual, generally sulkier around the house, unwilling to partake in normal activities or games, is a bit restless, becomes either more clingy or even distant, this may mean your dog may be experiencing some aches or soreness.


Night-time Mr Grumpy

Even if the pain is small first thing in the morning, it can become a big pain by the end of the day. Daily activities can make some discomforts worse causing your dog’s body to really ache at night. This will most certainly make him more grumpy or cause him to whine more.


Good days and bad days

Just like humans who nurse injuries, dogs may experience good days and bad days. If you have noticed that on some days your dog is being grumpy, more aggressive, or seems “off”, start jotting down the days and activities around them. This may help you pick up a pattern in activities or behaviours that may be the cause of the pain.


Unusual behaviour after strenuous activity

Injuries and pain can be intensified from strenuous activity. Just like humans that train heavily at the gym and have stiffness the following day, a hard training day may cause delayed onset of muscle soreness.

Chronic conditions may also cause discomfort after extensive activity. A good example would be something like a luxating patella or dysplasia. Your dog may have a behavioural change after a long hike as they experience more discomfort and pain in the affected area.

This type of incident would be effectively managed with an appropriate and targeted conditioning programme. You may need to increase conditioning work or decrease the duration of the activity.

If your dog has no known condition and suddenly shows unusual behaviour after strenuous activity, it would be wise for you to look and ensure that no injury or problem has cropped up.


A sudden start of aggressive behaviour

If your fully mature dog suddenly shows aggressive behaviour, start looking for a root cause. Young teenage dogs can go through phases of confidence and may exhibit new behaviours, but dogs over the age of four with no history of previous aggressive behaviours is particularly worrying and should be checked.


Loss of appetite

Lab owners will confirm any sudden dip in appetite should be viewed as a big warning that their dog isn’t feeling well. This may be true for most food-driven dogs.

You know your dog’s eating so noting changes to normal appetite can be a sign that something is off and to check with your vet that everything is okay.


Reacting negatively to touch

Sore areas on your dog’s body will be uncomfortable to touch. Irritating that area may produce some pain behaviours from your dog. Check for warm spots on your dog’s body as this may be a sign of inflammation in the area. Some pain reactions may include whining, yelping, pulling away, licking your hand, giving a warning nip, stillness of breath or growling.


Reluctance to jump up

If your dog is hesitating to jump up to greet you, onto your couch or into a vehicle it could be because they lack the confidence in their body’s ability to do so or it may be painful to do. They may have also experienced a slip from a previous attempt and try to avoid doing so again.


Difficulties with maintaining certain postures or positions

If your dog seems restless and unable to maintain a position, such as laying down, for an extended period they could be experiencing muscle soreness and tension in their body. Muscle tension may be very uncomfortable especially if it has been coming along for some time due to compensatory actions that your dog is doing to protect an injury.


Some more obvious signs of pain or injury include:


Always consult your veterinarian when you see your dog is in pain or discomfort.  The quicker you address the situation, the small the longer-term costs may be.



~ excerpts from McIntyre Rehabilitation

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