happy dog with tongue out

Dogs and cats rely heavily on nonverbal signals to communicate their moods and needs. Their facial expressions, ear position, tail position and movement, as well as their overall body stance convey their feelings. It’s important to understand what a dog or cat is trying to tell you so you can best respect their needs. 

To understand your pet’s nonverbal cues, it’s important to take all of these components into consideration together. After all, one cue can convey different meanings when it’s paired with different nonverbal expressions. For example, dogs wag their tails when they’re feeling aggressive and also when they’re feeling friendly. Cats purr to indicate that they’re nervous and also to tell us that they’re content.

What are some easy ways to read a pet’s mood?

Generally speaking, the position and movement of a pet’s ears and tail are the easiest details to observe from a safe distance. These clues, along with body stance, provide the most information about the pet’s mood. Of course, some types of tails are more expressive than others! For instance, a Black Lab’s long, straight tail moves differently than a Pug’s shorter, curly tail.

Here are some common signs of a friendly, approachable dog:

   • Relaxed face, possibly slow panting
   • Corners of the mouth slightly turned up (smiling)
   • Relaxed body position
   • Tail wagging from side-to-side or in a circular motion
   • Standing: a neutral, happy stance (relaxed with weight evenly balanced) or a play bow stance (front end down, rear end up)
   • Sitting or lying down: one paw folded and tucked under

Here are some common signs of a friendly cat:

   • Eyes half-closed, blinking leisurely with narrowed pupils
   • Ears positioned slightly to a side and forward
   • Tail mostly still    
   • Paws kneading
   • Purring
   • Standing: tail straight up or curled forward at tip, possibly twitching side-to-side

Learn more about dog and cat body language here.

This blog post was written by guest blogger Kari Kells, a professional pet sitter and pet parent to Raggedy Andy, Emma and Rumi. Read more tips and advice from Kari on her blog.


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pet parents

dog with stethoscope

It can be a challenge to tell if your furry friend requires an unplanned visit to the vet since cats and dogs can often hide their pain and discomfort.

Here’s a handy list from Vet Depot of five common, subtle symptoms of illness in pets. As always, check with your veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet.

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pet parents

Sneezing Basset Hound

One of the best ways to help an allergy-prone pet is to try to prevent exposure to allergens. Here are some pointers to make your pet’s environment a little healthier:

• If the pollen count is high, keep your pet inside or limit time outside.
• Wipe off your pet’s paws after going outdoors to remove pollen.
• Put plush toys in the freezer occasionally to help kill off dust mites.
• Wash your pet’s bedding regularly with a gentle fragrance-free detergent.
• Dust and vacuum frequently, especially in your pet’s favorite spots.

Be sure to visit your veterinarian to identify the source of your pet’s allergies and get specific treatment advice. Visit our blog for more tips on what to do if your pet has allergies.

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Pet Health Insurance Headlines

Boarding Your Pet

The holidays can be a time for travelling to visit with family and friends, but it’s not always possible or practical to bring your pet with you. If you’re considering boarding your pet, here are a few tips to help.

• Be sure to visit and carefully inspect any potential boarding facilities, even if you have a good reference.
• Ask them about diet provisions, exercise routines, affiliations with veterinarians, and staff qualifications.
• Check references from other clients and consider asking local veterinarians about the facility’s reputation.

If you bring your pet along on your travels, remember you can use any licensed veterinarian in the US or Canada with our plans. This way, you can be covered even if your pet needs care on the road. View your plan for details.

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In their six years or so, my cats have moved at least four times, all while the snow was flying. According to the US Census Bureau, most movers save themselves a little trouble by moving in the spring and summer. But whenever the move happens, the change can be stressful for pets.

Moving company websites are a great source of advice if you’re planning to box up your belongings. Here are some tips:

• Visit the veterinarian before you go, and be sure to collect copies of your pet’s medical records. To find a veterinarian in your new neighborhood, visit the ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Veterinary Locator. With ASPCA Pet Health Insurance, you can visit any licensed veterinarian in the US or Canada.

• Take pictures of your pet, or consider getting him or her microchipped, in case you become separated during the move.

• Keep your pet in one cleared-out room of your old home while you’re moving your things, and identify one room of your new home to be a temporary sanctuary for your pet. Keep your pet supplies handy, and plan on moving them only after everything else is packed.

• Bring water from home to help ease the adjustment. Bring along enough to last several days. Be sure to take along extra food, too, in case you can’t find a store that carries your pet’s usual brand in your new neighborhood.

• Don’t pack the pet carrier–put it to use. Keep your pet in a carrier as you travel.

Because they’re stressed, your pets might initially behave poorly in their new surroundings. Give them time, and console them with plenty of attention and some of their favorite, familiar toys. They’ll be glad that though their surroundings have changed, their family has not.

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Pet Health Insurance Headlines


As we’re dedicated to making a difference for pets, we want to keep you informed about pet health topics and your ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Our blog will provide you with fresh, interesting and informative topics—from pet health tips and customer stories, to the latest industry news and a Pet Parent Q&A column. Most of all, we encourage you to share comments and join the discussion!

Meet the Author

Julia H.

Social Media Coordinator

Pet Parent to:

Lucy, an 8-year-old rescued Golden Retriever/Chow Chow mix

Blog Guidelines

While we’ll strive to present all viewpoints on this blog, comments will be reviewed before posting. Offensive or inappropriate language, off-topic remarks and comments containing personal policy information will not be featured.

Also, conditions discussed in this blog aren’t necessarily covered by every ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. For full coverage terms, conditions and exclusions, please refer to your plan.

As always, if you have a question about your plan, call us at 1-866-204-6764.

*Note: While these testimonials may include examples of recent claims payouts, reimbursement is subject to the terms and conditions of your plan. Identifying information has been changed.