Recognizing Pain in Dogs

Photo courtesy of Jackie Sheppard

It would be so much easier if we could ask our pets how they are doing, but since we cannot verbally communicate with them we need to recognize signs they are trying to tell us when they are not feeling well. While most dogs can do a good job of hiding their discomfort, here are some symptoms to look out for that may indicate they are painful.

If your furry family member displays any of these following symptoms, we recommend contacting us at Blum as soon as possible:

  • Biting – Dogs who are painful are more likely to bite, even with their owners or people they are familiar with. This is especially the case when they are touched in a painful spot.
  • Breathing, Heart and Pulse Changes – Dogs in pain will likely breathe quicker and more shallow than normal. They may also pant more heavily. They may also have an increased heart or pulse rate, especially when the area that is uncomfortable is touched. Your veterinarian at Blum can show you how to check this during an exam or a technician can show you during a quick appointment.
  • Stance changes – Monitor the posture of your dog. Dogs who are uncomfortable may look like they are doing a “play bow” (front legs on the ground and rear end in the area). Others may lie around more frequently, while some may have difficulty finding a comfortable position. Some of the posture changes can be very subtle – such as an arched or sunken back, or a tucked tail.
  • Eyes – Checking your dog’s eyes can be a great indicator of pain. This is true if your dog has eye pain or pain somewhere else in their body. If your dog has eye pain, they may have larger or constricted pupils, while the pupils will be dilated if the pain is elsewhere in the body. Painful dogs often squint, too.
  • Food, Water, and Activity Changes – Dogs who are in pain will frequently eat and drink less than normal. They will also most likely have a decrease in their activity level – either by sleeping more or running/jumping less.
  • Bathroom Habits – Dogs who are painful may have difficulty defecating since they may not be able to get into their usual comfortable position. If your dog is experiencing back pain, they may become constipated since the pain can lead to slowed activity of the intestines.  

After the veterinarian at Blum has performed a thorough physical exam on your dog, a course of treatment can be determined to help them be more comfortable. This may include medication or physical therapy. One of the main reasons why we recommend annual exams for dogs is so the doctor can detect any changes in your pup that may be cause for concern. We recommend dogs over 8 years of age come in bi-annually since issues can arise quicker for senior pets.

Your pet’s health and well-being are our top priority, so please contact us at: (773) 327-4446 with any further questions or concerns.

Written for Blum Animal Hospital by Jackie Sheppard.