Signs A Dog Is In Pain (how to tell if your dog is in pain)

Mar 23, 2022 | Dogs, What To Do In An Emergency

Just like us humans, our dogs can suffer from pain as well. While most pet owners believe they would know if their pet was in pain, the truth is it can be very difficult to recognise the signs a dog is in pain. Do you know what signs to look for? Our doggos may not be able to tell us with words so we’ve put together a handy checklist of physical symptoms that can alert us to when they may be experiencing pain.

Is your dog in pain?

Our pooches have an instinctive drive to hide pain to avoid showing weakness, and consequently, they are very good at hiding their ailments. This is why it is important to stay attentive to changes in your dog’s behaviour by knowing what signs to look for and seeking treatment if you suspect your dog is in pain. To help you know what to look for, we have put together a list of the most common signs a dog is in pain:


When our furry friends are in pain they tend to be more vocal. A hurt dog may express their pain either through whining, whimpering, yelping, growling, and even howling.

Decreased social interaction or seeking attention

Brown and white dogs resting its head on its owners handBehavioural changes can be a strong indicator of pain, and a decrease in social interaction is one of the most common. Has your usually friendly dog started showing signs of aggression? Do they avoid contact or no longer greet you at the door? Have they stopped wanting to play or show a reluctance to go on their daily walk?

On the other hand, some dogs will become over-friendly, constantly seeking affection and generally just being all over you.

Any of these changes could indicate your pooch is suffering and should be check by your vet.

Changes in posture or difficulty moving

Has your dog’s posture changed, such as seeming to hunch or be rigid? Has the way they walk changed? Maybe their general movements have changed, like seeming to have difficulty or being slow when standing up after laying down. Are they having trouble climbing up stairs or are they not as active as they usually are? These are all signs your dog may be in pain.

Some dogs may also refuse to move from a position once they have settled and attempts to force them may result in signs of aggression so always be observant of any warning signs (such as growling) your pet may be trying to give you.

Owner offering a bowl of food to dog, a loss of appetite can be a sign of pain in dogsDecreased appetite

A loss of appetite, especially if your dog has always enjoyed their food, is a common indicator of pain. Difficulty chewing, if they are drinking less or more water, and changes in weight are all signs that you should have your pet checked by a vet.


Changes in grooming behaviour

When a dog becomes hurt, their first instinct is to clean and care for their wound by licking the area. Even when the wound isn’t visible and the pain is internal, dogs will still lick the area in an attempt to heal themselves. An example may be licking or chewing their knee after pulling a ligament. If your dog is excessively licking or chewing an area it is always best to visit your vet.

Changes in sleeping habits and restlessness

Brown dog sleeping on dog bedIs your dog no longer sleeping like they usually do? Dogs who are in pain tend to sleep more. It can be their body’s way of trying to heal or it may be difficult for them to move around and be active.

Other dogs may exhibit restlessness and an inability to get comfortable. If your dog is in pain it can make it difficult for them to sit or lie down. They may lie in an unusual position or seem to have trouble staying in the one position. For example,  they may sit or lie down but then get up and move around almost immediately.

Physical changes

There are also less obvious physical signs your dog may be in pain. These can include heavy breathing or shallow panting, increased heart rate and bloodshot eyes. Swelling of their paws, legs and face are also an indication they may be in pain.

Animal Emergency Service veterinarian holding a brown puppy

How to treat a dog in pain

If your pooch is displaying any of the above symptoms and you believe them to be in pain, seek veterinary advice and treatment as soon as possible. Avoid treating your dog yourself, as human pain relief medication can be extremely dangerous to dogs.

Pain can occur for a number of reasons, and because of this, there are many types of treatment depending on why the pain is occurring. Your vet will be able to recommend the best treatment plan so your pet can be as comfortable as possible.



If you suspect your dog is in pain, contact your local vet immediately or your closest Animal Emergency Service hospital.

For more information about what is and what to do in a pet emergency, visit our Pet Emergency Guide.

We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the lands, waterways and skies across Australia. We pay our respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and Elders past and present.