How do I know if my dog is in pain?

dog in painIt can be very difficult to tell if your dog is in pain and if they are, where the pain is coming from and what is causing it.  Dogs will vary in their individual responses to pain and your dog’s age, current environment and general health will affect the way in which they respond to pain.

What will I see?

If your dog is in pain you may see:

  • Signs of agitation (being unsettled, trembling)
  • They may vocalise (cry out, yelp, growl)
  • They may become sensitive to touch and resent normal handling
  • They may become grumpy and snap at you or change their normal behaviour (quiet, less active, hiding)
  • They may limp or be reluctant to walk or move
  • They may become depressed,
  • They may have a reduced appetite,
  • They may have rapid, shallow breathing and an increased heart rate
  • If they have a sore belly they may adopt a praying position with their head and forelimbs on the ground and their hind limbs and tail up in the air.

Why might my dog be in pain?

Pain can be caused by a variety of disease conditions, injury or trauma, arthritis, or following surgery or medical treatment.


There are a variety of medications that you can use to provide pain relief for your dog.  Underlying conditions will need to be treated and in some cases this will require surgery (for example a broken bone).

It is not recommended to use ibuprofen, paracetamol or other human pain medications in dogs as these medications can be toxic. If you have some animal pain killers at home from a previous condition or for another pet, speak to your vet before giving it, as it may not be appropriate.

What can I do to help?

While your dog is recovering, limited movement and physical activity is recommended.  Soft, padded bedding and a quiet comfortable environment will also help speed up your dog’s recovery.

Ensure your dog receives the correct dose of any medications prescribed by your vet.  Each dog will react differently to the type and dosage level of the prescribed pain medication. Monitor your dog's response to the medication and if you have any concerns contact your vet.

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not
a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a
guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment
immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are
closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more
about what to do in an out of hours emergency.