9 Subtle Ways Your Dog Tells You When They Are In Pain

Don't hesitate to get your pup the help they need.

dog lying on the floor Timo Piredda / Pexels 

Our furry friends are the light of our lives. Is there anything better than the moment when you open the front door to see your dog, wagging their tail and covering you in slobbery kisses, letting you know how much they missed you?

Dogs are so much more than just pets. They’re our constant companions, our work-from-home buddies, and our emotional support fur-balls. They take care of us, and in return, we take care of them, which includes knowing when they’re not doing well.




Here are 9 subtle ways your dog tells you they’re in pain:

1. Licking

Dogs lick a lot, and most of the time, it’s normal behavior. But sometimes, constant licking can be a sign that something’s wrong. 

If your dog is licking itself obsessively in one particular spot, it could mean they’re experiencing pain, itchiness or discomfort on or under their skin. Hyper-focused licking could also be a sign of anxiety.


9 Subtle Ways Your Dog Tells You When They Are In PainPhoto: Tranmautritam / Pexels

While licking offers temporary relief, it can irritate the skin and exacerbate your pup’s pain in the long run.

RELATED: 15 Sweet Signs Your Dog Thinks Of You As Their Mom Or Dad

2. Drooling more than usual

Drooling is another example of normal dog behavior, yet in excess, it could be a sign of discomfort. If your dog is drooling more than usual, pay close attention to other signs. If the drooling is accompanied by bad breath, facial swelling, or trouble chewing, your dog might need a trip to the vet.


Drooling can signify a gastrointestinal issue. It can also arise from a sinus infection, kidney or liver disease, or an injury to a limb or tail. 

Excess saliva or foaming at the mouth can occur when dogs eat something toxic, like chocolate or grapes.



In extreme cases, drooling can be a symptom of bloat, which is a life-threatening condition. Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex, occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with air, causing pressure to build. Blood is unable to circulate from the heart to the hind legs and abdomen and it pools in the back of their bodies, sending the dog into shock.


If you think your dog is more slobbery than usual, don’t hesitate to call your vet.

RELATED: 7 Adorable Things Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You When They Roll Over To Show You Their Belly

3. Change in appetite

If you’ve noticed that your dog’s appetite isn’t what it usually is, that could be a hint that they’re in pain. 

Your pup might be refusing to eat, or eating less than their normal amount. It could signify a problem in their mouth, like a dental issue, or something more serious, like cancer. 

Dog owners should bring their furry friends to the vet if they notice an appetite change.

4. Sitting or standing in a strange position

Your pup’s posture can be a clue to how they’re feeling. Their muscles will change their tone in response to physical trauma as a way to protect the structures around them. 


A dog with hip pain might sit with a hind leg sticking out, or lower its head if it has neck pain. An arched back can be a sign of a spine injury. Your dog might even wag its tail less, or keep its ears lowered.

9 Subtle Ways Your Dog Tells You When They Are In Pain Photo: Pixabay / Pexels 

If your dog seems unsettled and is constantly changing their position, they could be in pain. Pay attention to your dog’s body language. If something seems off, don’t hesitate to get them checked out.


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5. Shaking or trembling

Dogs do their little shake-off motion when they’re making a change from one thing to the next. While this kind of shaking is normal, some types of shaking can be a sign that something’s wrong.

Canine distemper is a virus that can cause tremors. It occurs mostly in puppies and adolescent dogs that haven’t been fully vaccinated. Trembling can also come from an illness called Generalized Tremor Disorder, the causes of which are unknown.

As your dog gets older, they might experience joint pain, hip pain, or back pain, which can also cause them to tremble. 


6. Acting lethargic

If your dog seems more tired than usual and isn’t excited to go on walks or exert themselves physically, they might not be feeling 100% themselves. 



In older dogs, especially, we often overlook their slowing down as a normal part of the aging process, but it could also mean that they’re hurting, and we just don’t know it.

RELATED: 8 Sweet Signs Your Dog Is Happy And Feels Safe With You


7. Growling for no reason

Dogs are expressive creatures, but if you’ve noticed that your furry friend is growling more often than usual, it could be a cry for help.

Your dog might snarl unexpectedly or yelp when it changes positions. A dog in pain is likely to growl or snap, as they’re concerned someone might touch the area that's hurting.

9 Subtle Ways Your Dog Tells You When They Are In PainPhoto: Javon Swaby / Pexels 


8. Aggression towards other dogs

A dog that’s in pain is extra vulnerable, which could change how they act around other dogs.

If your fur baby suddenly exhibits aggressive behavior towards other dogs, when they’re usually friendly and playful, the change in temperament could mean something else is going on.

9. Altered breathing

Dogs pant when it’s hot out, or after a big play session, as a way to cool down. But if your dog is panting excessively while at rest, they might be having trouble breathing or have an elevated heart rate.



As your dog’s best friend, you understand them well enough to know if their mood or physical behavior is different than usual. 

If you suspect that they’re experiencing pain or discomfort, call your vet and get them checked out.


Your pup deserves to live a pain-free life, and you deserve the happiest and healthiest version of your pup.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.