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. 

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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