Best Friends Veterinary Center
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How to Tell if Your Dog is in Pain

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How to tell if your dog is in pain



You are in the best position to look for subtle changes in behavior that indicate your pet may be in pain – but pain doesn’t always look like what owners expect and animals are very good at hiding pain. We’ve listed common pain symptoms below.  If your dog shows one or more of these behaviors, he/she may be hurting. Please note that we’ve put vocalization last on the list. Making noise is the least common symptom & is only seen when pain is very severe. By completing this assessment, you are helping us to identify possible painful conditions, even when signs are subtle. Most importantly, your pet doesn’t need to suffer. We have safe, easy to administer pain medication for almost every painful condition your dog may experience.


The most common pain symptoms following dentistry and surgery are in red. We have carefully chosen the most appropriate pain medication and the duration of treatment based on the level of pain expected for the procedure your pet had. Please administer all the medication as planned. We don’t want you to see any of the symptoms below – if we have managed the pain properly you should not see any of these!


The most common arthritis symptoms are in blue. Remember that stiffness means pain!


Daily habits:


Decreased appetite

Withdraws from social interaction or hides

Changes in sleeping (less or more)

Changes in drinking habits

Lapses in housetraining or struggling to get into position

Seeks more affection than usual




Licking, biting or scratching obsessively at the incision or one or more areas of his/her body


Activity level:


Restless, pacing

Repeatedly gets up and lies down; can’t seem to get comfortable

Difficulty lying down or getting up

Trembling, circling, or lying very still

Moves stiffly or slowly after exercise or after sleeping/resting

Less energy or activity

Reluctant to move

Less playful or willing to exercise

Less eager or able to jump on furniture or into car

Difficulty walking or running, particularly on wood or tile floors or stairs


Facial expression:


Grimaces, vacant stare

Glazed, wide-eyed, or looks sleepy

Enlarged pupils (but certain pain medications can also cause this)

Flattened ears, wrinkled brow

Pants excessively at rest




         Protects a body part

         Doesn’t put weight on a leg

         Limps even if acting fine otherwise

         Doesn’t want to be held or picked up


Aggression: These are signs of severe pain, especially in a previously friendly dog


         Acts out of character

         Growls or bites

         Pins ears back or lifts lip in a snarl

         A normally aggressive dog may act quiet, docile


Posture: These are signs of severe pain, especially abdominal pain


         Hunched, with hindquarters raised and front end down on the ground

         Lays on his/her side


Vocalization: These are signs of severe pain


         Whining, whimpering



         Groaning or grunting


Please list any other changes that are not listed above:











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