How Can ​​​​​​​you Tell When Your Pet is in Pain?

dog on couch

There are many different challenges to pet ownership. One of the most frustrating is trying to understand your affectionate animal since she cannot properly verbally communicate with you. Instead, she is reliant on you picking up any signals or symptoms she shows you and coming to the right conclusions.


There can be a variety of reasons why your pet might need to communicate with you, but one of the most important is if she is unwell or in pain. Unfortunately, your furbaby will almost certainly spend a number of weeks and even months trying to mask her symptoms before she will finally succumb to exhibiting them. This is a natural instinct that stems from the time that all animals lived in the wild and had to protect themselves from predators. They would hide any signs of weakness, including if they were unwell, so that they didn’t seem vulnerable and a good target for other creatures. While predators aren’t anything that a domestic animal really needs to worry about, the instinct to mask vulnerabilities is still ingrained in them. This can make it extremely difficult to tell if your pet is sick or in pain – something that no loving and compassionate owner wants.


So, how can you tell if your furbaby is in pain? Fortunately, there are a few symptoms of pain that are not obvious signs of weakness, but are identifiable to us if we know to look for them.

Unusually vocal or quiet

All animals are different when it comes to their ability and desire to vocalize. While some are quite noisy, others can be so quiet that hearing any sort of sound from them can be surprising. If you notice a definite change in how much noise your pet is making, then it could indicate that she is in pain. She may become extremely quiet and withdrawn, or she may yelp, whine, howl, snarl or bark.

Localized grooming

You are probably well used to your pet’s usual grooming routine. However, if she starts suddenly paying a lot more attention to a specific part of her body, it could be that there is something in that area that is causing her pain or concern. For example, if she repeatedly licks one leg, it may be that she has injured it somehow. It is also important to note that many dogs will lick their paws as a method of self-soothing if they are in pain.

Strange behavior

If you have had your pet for a while, you should be fairly used to her behaviors. However, if she starts acting out of the ordinary then it may be worth making an appointment with your vet. Animals that in pain often become withdrawn and hide away, or alternatively, aggressive and territorial. She may suddenly seem to forget where and when she should do her toileting business or start scratching furniture. Strange behavior doesn’t always mean pain or illness, but they should be ruled out.

Mobility problems

Not all pain comes from illness, sometimes an injury may have occurred that is causing your pet discomfort. If she has been injured, her mobility may be affected. You might see her limping or avoiding putting weight on a certain part of her body. She might be holding herself differently, or spending much more time than usual laying down. Your vet will be able to undertake a full assessment of her body to check for injuries that could be responsible for her pain.



As her parent, you know and understand what is ‘normal’ for your pet and what isn’t. If you suspect that your furbaby may be suffering and in pain, don’t hesitate to contact us and make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.