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How To Tell If Your Pet Is In Pain

Animals cannot tell us when they are not feeling well or are hurting so pet parents need to become adept at reading the sign(s) their pets exhibit when they are in pain.


  1. Excessive Vocalizations - These may include whining, whimpering, yelping, growling, snarling, and even howling.

  2. Focused Grooming - Dogs in pain will often lick their paws to soothe themselves. They will also clean and care for themselves if there is a wound present but may also lick an area when an internal pain is present in an attempt to fix it. They will also lick their paws to rub their eyes if they are experiencing eye pain.

  3. Sleeping, Drinking and Eating - Many dogs may sleep more when in pain either because they are trying to heal or it is painful to move around. A loss of appetite and changes in the way and amount they drink is also common.

  4. Changes in their Breathing - Is your dog panting even though he/she hasn't been exercising? Does his/her breathing seem faster or more shallow? These can be signs that it hurts him/her to take a breath.

5. Changes to their Eyes - When a dog has eye pain they may squint and their pupils may be smaller. However, the opposite is true for pain in other parts of the body, the pupils will appear larger.

6. Cannot get Comfortable to Rest - Is your dog sitting or lying down in an unusual position? Are they having trouble staying put? For example, they may try to sit or lie down and then almost immediately get up and move around again.

7. Withdrawing or Seeking Attention - Some pets will try to distance themselves from you or even hide, whereas others will want constant attention.

8. Aggressive Behaviors - When animals are injured or in pain they will often react by growling or trying to bite you so use caution when dealing with your pet. Even your normally docile animal may react this way. On the other hand, dogs that are normally aggressive may be more docile when in pain. Pay attention to changes in your pet's behavior. If you notice any of these signs please make an appointment to have your dog

seen by your veterinarian. The earlier we find out what the problem is the sooner your buddy gets the help he/she needs.


Cats are notorious for not showing when they are in pain but if you watch for the following signs you can get your feline friend the help he/she needs now.

  1. Hiding.

  2. Cats will likely bite or scratch, and they aren't discrimanatory so be careful. They will react when the painful area is touched or moved but, also when they think they are going to be touched or moved.

  3. Sitting still and hunched up.

  4. Breathing - They may breathe faster and more shallow than normal and may even pant. The movement of their stomach and chest muscles may be different as both are used in the breathing process.

  5. Loss of interest in people, other pets, or activities.

  6. Neglecting to groom themselves or over-grooming in one area.

  7. Purring, excessive meowing or unusual vocalizations. Most people interpret purring as confirmation their cat is content and happy but purring can also signal your fur baby is in pain if he/she is also exhibiting one or more of the signs stated here. Purring may even increase if a cat is experiencing pain.

  8. Eyes - As with dogs, a cat's eyes can be very telling when they are experiencing pain or discomfort. This is true both for eye pain itself and for pain elsewhere in their body. Often times pain elsewhere in the body will result in larger (dilated) pupils, while pain in the eye(s) can result in either larger or smaller (constricted) pupils – depending on the underlying injury or disease process, and whether one or both eyes are affected. Squinting may indicate pain, either in the squinting eye(s) or elsewhere in the body. Similarly, a “bloodshot” appearance can indicate pain in the affected eye(s).

  9. Restlessness or aggression toward friendly surroundings.

  10. Going outside the litter box or not using it at all.

  11. Loss of appetite or drinking less. If the cause of their pain is their teeth or mouth they may drop food or water out of their mouth.

  12. Unusual vomiting.

  13. Clingy behavior or other noticeable changes in personality or demeanor.

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