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Is Your Dog In Pain?

What We Learned in ‘Pain 15 Signs’ Parts 1 to 3

The previous three articles dedicated to My Dog Might Be In Pain 15 Signs To Look For touched on signs of pain related to reduced activities, reluctance to walk on slippery surfaces / negotiate stairs, becoming selective about what to jump up on or down from, difficulty lying down, getting up from lying down using the front legs, muscle bulking of the front end, and abnormal nail wear.

What We’ll Learn in ‘Pain 15 Sign’ Parts 4 and 5

The remainder of the series will cover changes in your dog’s behaviour due to pain.  Dogs that do not express the physical signs of pain are the strong silent types of the dog world.  They just grin and bear it – however these dogs have a difficult time masking changes in their behaviour.

The behavioural changes detailed below and the changes in physical abilities described previously may not strictly fit in one camp. For example, a reluctance to run and jump can be considered reduced social interaction.  Don’t worry about the exact category.  Many behaviour changes are also impossible for your veterinarian to witness because they are exhibited in the home environment, yet these behavioural issues are often more important in predicting the presence of pain than the loss of some of the physical abilities described above. If you suspect your dog is in pain, prepare a careful history of them for your veterinarian.

Behaviour changes include:

9)  Unwillingness to initiate play or other social interactions.  This is often confused with “aging” and can develop gradually and is therefore difficult to recognize.  Try to think back a few years, and compare then and now. This makes it much easier to detect a real change which could represent some kind of pathology.

10)  Aggression toward other animals. I have had clients tell me that their dog is suddenly growling and snapping at other dogs  – sometimes even at those they have lived with for years. Pain is a big motivator for your dog to impress upon their housemates that previous interactions are no longer acceptable.  Since their vocabulary is limited, this is often accomplished by a show of teeth, growling, or even snapping as if intending to bite.

11)  Aversion to being petted or brushed is another strong indicator of pain.  If your pet has never in their life enjoyed such activity, then this isn’t an indicator.  Firm petting and grooming can move joints in an uncontrolled way for your pet which can be painful.

Stay tuned for the fifth and final part in this series about changes in your dog’s behaviour that may indicate they are in pain.


Dr. Jeffrey Person practices in Edmonton at the Delton Veterinary Hospital and co-hosts the listener call-in show Pet Talk – Sunday mornings at 8a.m. on 630 CHED (AM dial).

To request an appointment call 7804759225 or email

Dr. Jeffrey Person