Our dogs (and cats) instinctively hide pain, and that’s why it’s essential to continuously watch for changes in your dog’s body language and behavior. Read on for signs to watch for in your dog.

Even if your dog’s a big baby, he might not whine for your attention when he really needs it most, when he’s in pain. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) “animals instinctively hide pain so we generally don’t hear a peep out of our pets until the pain is so bad they cannot hide it anymore.” Just the thought of our best friend suffering in silence is too horrible to imagine.

Thankfully, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has provided the five clues below to help people understand their pet’s body language to detect when their pet is in pain. Early detection will improve recovery time, reduce stress and potentially add years to your best friend’s life. Know thy pup is always the first rule to keeping him healthy. If you know what’s normal for your dog, you’ll be more likely to recognize these telltale signs of distress and get him to the vet.

Chewing habits

Is your pup chewing out of one side of his mouth or dropping food while eating? Dental disorders or mouth tumors can be painful. Abnormal chewing behavior, as well as bad breath or excessive face rubbing, are signs that he may be uncomfortable.

Weight changes

Whether gaining or losing, a big change in weight may be the result of arthritis hindering activity or even discomfort bending over to eat. Dogs may even be too uncomfortable to eat which can drastically affect weight.

Withdrawing from affection

If your dog isn’t his usual energetic self, hiding or withdrawing from strokes and hugs, he could be protecting himself from pain. Keep an eye on any areas he may be protecting and let your vet know as soon as possible.

Decreased movement and exercise

With osteoarthritis or joint disease as the most common causes of pain (the latter often linked to weight gain), a dog in pain may be hesitant to exercise or play – so watch for a change in activity level.


If your dog’s going to the bathroom in inappropriate places, it may be due to pain. For instance, dogs with sore joints or arthritis may not make it to the right spot in time or due to obstacles like stairs.

Additional signs that require a visit to the vet

  • Abnormal behavior such as vocalization or aggression
  • Altered facial expression or posture or restlessness
  • Elevated heart rate and increased breathing or panting
  • Higher body temperature
  • Dilated pupils

What can you do to help?

If you suspect your pet might be hurting, consult your veterinarian to help you figure out the problem, determine if an office visit is needed and discuss the available options. Be ready to answer questions about your dog’s behavior, activity level, mobility, and tolerance for being handled – the more detailed, the better.

The Scoop:

Read more about recognizing when your dog’s in pain and pain management from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).