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How Can I Tell if My Dog is in Pain?

Our dogs are very good at telling us some things - like when they are hungry, when they need to out, what their favorite toy is, and when they just have to get that car ride. But our dogs aren't always very good at telling us when they are hurting, or what hurts. So sometimes we need to do some detective work to figure out if our pets are hurting.

Is My Dog in Pain?

Dogs are pretty good at going about their regular activities, even if something doesn't feel right or is hurting. Some dogs want to please us so badly that they will keep on running, jumping, and playing even if it hurts. We need to know what to look out for to know if our dogs are in pain.

Signs Your Dog Might Be in Pain

  • Limping. Limping is a common sign of leg or foot pain. Limping might start suddenly, like with an injury while running or jumping. It can also be more subtle, like looking a little stiff in the morning when they first get up.
  • Whining, crying, or other vocalizing. This is more common with an acute injury, but can happen with stomach pain or other types of pain as well.
  • Not going up or down stairs. As our dogs get older, they can start to develop arthritis and other joint problems that can make it tough for them to go up and down stairs without pain. They may still try to use the stairs, but they might be slower than normal. Or, if it hurts bad enough, they may just refuse to go on the stairs at all.
  • Having trouble jumping. Pain - especially in the back, hips, and back legs - can make it tough for dogs to jump. Whether it's getting into a car, jumping up on their favorite chair, or jumping into bed at the end of the night, having trouble or refusing to jump can be a sign of pain.
  • Difficulty standing up, especially after lying down for a long time. If your dog looks stiff when he first gets up in the morning or after his afternoon nap, he's probably in some pain.
  • Changes in posture, especially when going to the bathroom. If you notice that your dog stands or sits differently (with a leg held up, or with a back leg cocked out at a different angle), or if you notice that his "bathroom position" is different than normal, it might be because it hurts to be in his regular position.
  • Decreased activity. Lots of things can cause a dog to be less active, and pain is definitely on that list.
  • Decreased appetite. Many things can make a dog not eat as well as normal. Pain, especially mouth or tooth pain, is always on our list of possibilities if a dog doesn't eat as much as normal or completely stops eating.

What Can I Do if My Dog is in Pain?

The first thing you should do if you think your dog is in pain is to take her to see your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your pet's pain, when it started, if anything seems to make it worse or better, and anything else that might be going on. Your veterinarian will also do a complete physical examination, and may recommend other tests to determine the cause of pain and the best way to treat it.

You should never give your dog any pain medications without talking to your veterinarian first. Many pain medications that people can take are dangerous for dogs (and cats) and should never be given to animals.

If your veterinarian thinks that some medication may help your pet, they will prescribe the correct medicine at the correct dose during your visit.

Do you think your pet is hurting? We can help! Call us if you have questions, or come in during our regular business hours. The Princeton Veterinary Hospital always accepts new patients, and does not require appointments.

Let us help your dog feel better!

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