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Common Subtle Signs of Pain in Dogs

Updated: May 29, 2023

How to recognize pain in your dog

Today, I want to talk to you a bit about pain in dogs. Now most people

assume “oh if my dog's in pain I'm going to know it, I'm going to see it”. They’re going

to be screaming or limping, there’s going to be some external, very visible sign of pain.

But what a lot of people don't realize is that there's also signs of pain that are very subtle that we can miss. There was a veterinary study done recently that looked into this and found that actually one in every five dogs is suffering from pain, and this is not visible pain, but it’s hidden pain that we as owners can miss. This is something that’s very near to my heart and I would like to help people find relief from. It's actually a main component of the energy healing work that I do, which is to help release the deep-seated pain and the pain that's not resolved by medication or traditional methods. The pain that lingers under the surface, kind of like when we have chronic aching that's deep down, and we can never really quite figure out what's going on, it really does bother us on a regular basis.

So today I wanted to go over a few of the more subtle signs of pain in dogs. Some of you may know all these signs already, but maybe not! I wanted to cover nine today.

dog laying down in pain

Signs of pain in dogs

The first kind is reluctance to being touched. This will be very specific to your dog because some dogs don't really like being touched anyway, but if you have a dog that likes being touched and then all of a sudden you notice that you go to pet them and they kind of move away or there's a bit of a reluctance (it doesn't have to be a huge movement, it can just kind of be where you're touching them, and you see a little movement) that's enough to give you a clue that maybe there's something going on in that area. They're telling you, "I really don't want you to touch me, that kind of bothers me". As the condition worsens, the pain will grow, and you will see more visible signs. So pay attention when you're petting your dog or when you're touching them if you see just a tiny movement, which can be enough to indicate that there’s something going on.

Vocalization is also another outward way of them showing pain. This is usually more obvious, and can be loud yelping. But if they go to lay down or stand up, and they wince a little or even during an activity or perhaps when they're trying to get comfortable, if they're shifting around and you here a little grunt or noise, this can indicate that there’s something going on and that there’s some pain there.

The next sign of pain is shaking or trembling. Sometimes we see a dog sitting, and they're shaking, and you think they’re scared, or they're cold, but this can also be a symptom of pain in dogs and can be quite subtle. Any very light trembling of the body or even just a limb can be a sign of pain. Now obviously there are other things that can cause these type of tremors like poisoning, but all other conditions aside, if there’s nothing else going on and your dog hasn’t gotten into anything, and you notice these little tiny tremors or shaking it could definitely be a sign that there could be some underlying unresolved pain there.

Any kind of issues with mobility can also be a sign of pain. If you notice that they’re starting to run less or run differently or have issues jumping or lying down, or it takes a little longer to lie down or stand up, these are all indications of some possible underlying painful condition that's going on. Really watch your dogs and become a good observer and notice if you see any kind of changes in what the normal is for your dog, especially how they move around and how they shift when they're lying down and how they get up and stand, because this can be a first indication that there's something else going on underneath.

Dog panting because he is in pain

Another symptom is heavy breathing or panting. Now, panting is normal behavior when they're really active or if it's really hot outside. But if your dog is sitting there, hasn't been active, hasn't been running around, and is just panting excessively and there's really no other reason for them to be panting, this is a sign of pain. They are trying to deal with the pain and calm their nervous system.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is excessive grooming. Excessive grooming is really just licking one area over and over again. You might notice that the fur starts to change colors and gets kind of a little orange brown, that's because they're licking one area over and over again. This is instinctive, and they do this when they have a wound to help soothe themselves when something's hurting them. It can also be anxiety, but again if you have a dog that's not normally anxious, that doesn't have a visible wound, and you notice them repeatedly licking one area (it tends to happen a lot on the limbs - on the paws or on and around the joints) that is a sign of pain. It may be pain in that exact area, but it could be that it's just the nerve from another area that's traveling down, so the pain is displaced. Therefore, don't always assume that because they're licking their inner arm that that's exactly where the pain is originating from, as it could be originating from somewhere else, like the nerve bundles firing down that limb, or it's an area that they can't reach, so then they will just do a displacement licking in another area. Don't always assume it's right where you see it, but that is definitely a sign of possible underlying pain that hasn't been resolved.

Dog licking himself because he's in pain.

Another thing to look for is any kind of change in eating or drinking patterns. Very often, a dog that is having trouble eating has some sort of dental pain, something related to the gums or the teeth. But it could be pain elsewhere as well. Just like when we're in pain, you're really focused on it, and you just don't really want to eat or drink like you normally do. It's the same with dogs, so keep an eye on any kind of changes in eating and drinking.

The last symptom is any kind of anti-social behavior. So just like us: if you have a headache the last thing you want to do is go to a party, well the same with them. If they're not feeling well and there's some sort of unresolved pain, they just want to be left alone. They'll want to go into another room by themselves or go to the end of the yard. If you have other pets, they want to stay away from them, or they'll kind of get a little snippy and want to keep to themselves.

I hope that this was helpful and gave you some clues as to how you can determine if your dog might be in pain. Pain that you don’t know is currently happening in your pet. I can help you on the path to resolving your dog's pain, as this is something that is really close to my heart. I work very closely with a lot of pet parents with dogs who have unresolved pain to help release those blockages and allow the dog to heal himself and get rid of those underlying chronic aches and pains that they have in their lives. My hope is that I can help lower the percentage of dogs in this world suffering from unresolved and chronic pain so more dogs can live their lives to their fullest potential.

Would you like a reminder, a list, of signs of pain in your dog? I created a list exactly for this reason, which you can download here.

Don't hesitate to contact me:

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