Detecting and Managing Pain in Dogs

Our dogs don't have the words to tell us when they're in pain. However, they often let us know in other ways, such as changes in their appearance or behavior.

Causes of Pain in Dogs

Dogs can experience pain for lots of reasons. Just like us, they can be in pain after an accident, such as tripping down the stairs, stepping on something sharp, or getting burned. They may hurt due to an illness like canine influenza or other health conditions, such as arthritis, intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), ear infections, dental disease, or stomach upset.


Ear infections, gastroenteritis, and cancer are among the most prevalent dog health conditions. Learn about these and other common dog ailments.


Signs a Dog Is in Pain

Sometimes it can be quite obvious that your dog is in pain, for instance, if they have a visible injury or started favoring one leg. They may also pull away or wince when you touch a certain area. Other times, those signs can be more subtle. Here are some ways to tell if your dog is experiencing pain:

How Much Pain Is My Dog In?

Dogs can't explain to us how much they are hurting, but you can look at different factors to help assess their level of pain. Veterinarians at Colorado State University developed the Canine Acute Pain Scale with a pain score to help determine how much pain a dog may be experiencing.

What Can You Give a Dog for Pain?

If your dog is in pain, you should contact your veterinarian for treatment recommendations. They may suggest pain medication that is designed specifically for dogs. Never give your dog medication from your own bathroom cabinet since they can be toxic for dogs. You should also follow your veterinarian's dosage and timing instructions carefully to make sure your dog is taking a safe amount.


Do you know what to do if your dog eats something toxic? Get tips on handling a pet poison emergency.


Additional Options for Pain Relief

While medication may be needed for pain, there are other ways to help a hurting dog. For instance, your veterinarian may recommend alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, hydrotherapy, or physical therapy. They may also suggest that your dog lose weight, which can help alleviate pain from conditions like arthritis. In addition, prescription foods and supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine, can be helpful for certain ailments.

Tips to Care for Dogs With Chronic Pain

If your dog has chronic pain from arthritis or another health condition, you can help improve their quality of life by making adjustments to their environment. For instance:

Massage for Dogs

Massage can be beneficial to a dog who is in chronic pain, and it is something you can do at home. Ask your veterinarian to show you a safe technique, so you don't make the pain any worse. Massage can help your dog mentally as well as physically, since it can reduce boredom, frustration, and mental issues, like anxiety and depression. It's also a great way to strengthen the bond you share with your dog, which can get weakened if you're feeling worried about their condition or burdened by their increasing needs.

How Pet Insurance Can Help

If your dog is in pain, pet insurance can help you manage the costs of their care. It can reimburse you for tests to diagnose the problem along with treatments and medications needed to help your dog feel better. Get a quote to learn about the options for your dog and see how you can customize your plan to fit your coverage and budget needs.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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