How Dogs Show Pain & Discomfort

By Christina Stephens

If your typical happy-go-lucky cuddle buddy suddenly starts hiding and shunning your affection, the reasons may not be doggie depression or anxiety--he could actually be in physical pain. It'd be so much easier if he could verbalize his pain in human language, but alas, we have to do our best to interpret their grunts, groans, and actions. Hopefully, we can help you look for certain changes in behavior that indicate something is amiss.

Behavioral Indicators

You’ll need to remain cognizant of subtle changes in your dog’s behavior such as abnormal and/or increased vocalization that can indicate discomfort. Pay careful attention for any out-of-the-ordinary whining, howling, growling, whimpering, yelping, groaning and grunting. Changes in activity level, such as your running partner preferring long naps on the couch, or decreased appetite, can reflect physical discomfort. It’s also important to watch his facial expressions and body language. Grimacing, enlarged pupils, flattened ears, hunched posture or licking, biting and scratching at a particular area may indicate he is in pain.

Action Required

Do not attempt to remedy your dog’s pain on your own. Take him to the vet if he shows signs of pain or discomfort. Your vet can accurately diagnose the source of his suffering and prescribe appropriate treatment. Never administer medication without veterinary instruction.

By Christina Stephens


About the Author
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.