Every dog owner wishes that checking a pooch’s health was as simple as making sure their nose is moist and cold. Unfortunately, many ailments aren’t so obvious.

One of the most common canine health issues could be hard to recognize because the signs may be subtle. We’re talking about pain. Unlike humans, dogs are notoriously good at hiding their pain. Dogs experience pain for many of the same reasons people do. It can be something as simple as getting a thorn stuck in their paw or one of the signs your pet has cancer.

In recent years, veterinarians have learned more about how pain affects canines and now recognize the need for natural pain relief for dogs with chronic discomfort. Look out for the signs below to determine if your pooch is in need of pain relief.

Limping/Mobility Changes

A clear sign of pain in dogs is limping and/or mobility changes. This could be a change in their gait, their ability to jump, their posture or how much they are moving around in general.

Quite often joint pain from arthritis is the culprit in older dogs, which is when limping commonly occurs. Injury to the paw is another common source of pain that causes limping and changes in mobility.

Becoming More Vocal

Vocalization is one of the most common and obvious signs that your dog is distressed by pain. Your dog may not be able to speak, but when they’re in pain they’ll let you know by whimpering, whining, growling, howling and yelping. If they only vocalize during activity or when a certain area is touched, that can help you narrow down the source of the pain.

Of course, some dogs will do the exact opposite when they’re in pain. If you have a vocal dog that suddenly gets quiet that could also be a sign there’s a problem.


Panting is normal on a hot day or after physical activity, but if it happens during rest that’s when you should take a closer look at what’s going on. Sometimes rapid shallow breaths are an indicator that breathing is painful. When the panting is paired with trembling, pain is almost always the root of the problem.

Changes in Eating

On a regular day, your dog is probably a chowhound, or they at least have a fairly normal eating schedule. Whenever your dog’s eating habits change, it shouldn’t be ignored because it could be a sign that they aren’t feeling well.

Loss of appetite is one of the eating changes to watch out for. If your dog is moving less because of pain that could be affecting how much they eat. A stomachache or oral pain could also decrease a dog’s appetite. Drinking less water is another troubling sign that should be closely monitored.

Restlessness or Changes in Sleeping

You should also look for changes in your dog’s sleeping habits. Two things that can occur are restlessness and excessive sleeping. In an effort to heal and minimize the pain, your dog may become lethargic or sleep throughout much of the day.

Pain can also make it difficult for some dogs to sleep and get comfortable lying down. When this is the case they’ll continuously reposition themselves or frequently get up and down.

Licking and Chewing

There are two reasons pain causes dogs to lick and chew more than usual. Dogs often lick their paws to soothe themselves when they’re in pain. They’ll also chew and lick at wounds to clean them. However, dogs have been known to excessively lick areas where the pain is internal.


People sometimes wince as a reaction to pain. Squinting is a similar behavior in dogs.

Aggressive Behavior

When you’re in pain you’re probably not in the best mood. That’s often the case with dogs as well. A normally sweet dog can become uncharacteristically aggressive when they’re in pain. They may behave this way as a defense mechanism, especially if the painful area is touched. Behavioral changes like this are an indicator your dog is under duress.


Many dogs don’t want to show they’re in pain, so instead, they’ll withdraw from the family. They may also distance themselves to minimize contact that generates pain. If your pooch is suddenly not as social as they used to be, watch out for other signs of pain, including lethargy and vocalization.

Seeking Affection

On the flip side, your dog may seek more attention than normal if they’re in pain. They want the comfort of their human companions and may be trying to get attention to make their pain more obvious.

If you notice any of the signs above, it’s time to help your dog find pain relief. Schedule a trip to the vet so you can identify the source of the pain and learn more about options for easing your dog’s discomfort.