Pain In Dogs - How To Know If Your Dog is Hurting?

A common question I receive is "How can I tell if my dog is painful?"  Of course, the answer is sometimes clear.  The dog holds up the paw that's bothering them, licks the spot that hurts or scratches at an infected ear.  But what if your dog is stoic and masks their pain?  How would you know then? 

If in doubt, first look for changes in behavior.  Lack of activity, excessive sleeping and when a formerly passive and gentle dog nips may all be signs of a problem.  If your dog suddenly stops begging for their favorite things like a walk or a ride in the car, then you know something is wrong.  A second step is to monitor their appetite.  A poor appetite is often a sign of a pain.  Third check their resting heart rate.  Feel the heartbeat on the chest behind the front legs.  It is usually stronger on the left side.  The normal heart rate for a dog is between 80 and 120 beats per minute.  In my experience painful dogs usually have resting heart rates over 140.  Remember you know your dog and their personality quirks better than anyone else.  If you think something is wrong, then it is likely wrong.  Bring them to a veterinarian willing to explore the source of the pain.  The answer can often be difficult to discern, but be persistent if you believe your animal is suffering.  You may be their only advocate and hope. 

What did you think of this article?

  • No trackbacks exist for this post.

  • 10/20/2009 5:19 AM MJ wrote:
    What about panting as a sign of pain? I've heard that might be a way to tell as well.
    Reply to this
    1. 10/21/2009 5:00 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:

      Yes, panting may also be a sign of pain.  I did not include it in the list because dogs usually pant when they are hot or when they suffer from a condition called 'metabolic acidosis'.  That means the pH of their blood is lower than normal.  The panting blows off acid and helps restore the pH to its normal level.  I see it a lot in dogs with uncontrolled Cushings Disease. 

      Reply to this
  • 2/17/2011 1:19 PM Puppy Training wrote:
    My dog, Cosmo, will frequently vomit (about once per week), but after that, there is no sign of any sickness or pain. It usually lasts a couple of hours, and he has learned with time to only do it in our laundry room. However, we still can't figure out why he will randomly throw up what he can normally hold down.
    Reply to this
    1. 2/20/2011 8:14 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Poor Cosmo!  I am impressed that he has learned to vomit on the laundry room floor.  What a smart and obviously thoughtful boy.  As for the vomiting, I recommend speaking with your veterinarian.  There are a number of medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, that start with sporadic vomiting.  With a number of potential causes like IBD to rule -out, the diagnostic process can't start soon enough.  I am also certain for both your and Cosmo's benefit, securing a diagnosis and plan of treatment will be a welcome relief.  I wish you good luck and hope for a treatable condition. 
      Reply to this
Leave a comment

Submitted comments are subject to moderation before being displayed.

 Name (required)

 Email (will not be published) (required)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.