How to help a dog in pain

How to help a dog in painThe reasons for a dog being in pain are of course the same as for humans. It can be something sharp in one of its paws, A fractured leg, inflammation in the eye or arthritis when a dog gets older. In some cases it is fairly easy spot and recognize. A dog in pain is often vocally expressing his/her pain by yelping, whining, crying or growling. In those cases it is fairly easy to understand that something is wrong and that case you just need to figure out the cause of the problem. This is also obvious in some cases, for example when a dog is limping when walking, does not want to use his paw and soo on. In some cases the cause of the pain and the expression of it are much less obvious.

You might have a dog who does not want to play like before or a dog who prefers to lay in his basket and rarely get up. It could be that your dog is avoiding things that he did not have any problems with before, such as jumping or walking up the stairs. The key to recognize pain in a dog is to be observant and note any changes in behavior of your dog. Once you have recognized that your dog is in pain and needs help then you got figure out how to help a dog in pain.

Pain is something personal. The effects of pain and the way we express it varies from individual to individual. This goes for humans just as well as dogs. Dogs are individuals too and can express pain and distress differently. Some dogs will get in a bad mood and get aggressive, they might bark or growl and even snap at people getting too close. Others will hide in a corner and whimper and cry. Others still might be just as usual, they might limp when walking but still be happy and great visitors with affection and a wagging tail. By observing your dog you can learn how he/she reacts to pain.

Signs and symptoms of a dog in pain

Dog barkingLike mentioned, sometimes the signs and symptoms of a dog in pain are pretty obvious, like a limping dog who is whimpering and does not want to stand on his paw. But sometimes it can be more difficult to see that your furry friend is suffering and obviously you can not ask her what is wrong, however there are some signs that you should be attentive to.


  • Excessive Barking or vocalizing if your dog is barking and making more noise than she usually does this could be sing of a dog in pain. This varies a lot between individuals but even tough dogs will make more noise if they are in pain. So if your dog is barking, whimpering, groaning, crying, groaning, snarling or howling this could be caused by pain and should be investigated further.
  • Changed eating, drinking and sleeping habits. If your dog does not sleep eat or drink as usual and she often stays in her basket and avoid moving around then this is a sign that something is wrong. A dog who is ill or in pain will rest as much as possible in order to try to heal. And of course, if you are in pain you don’t want to do much. Usually the appetite goes down as well but often the dog drink more than usual.
  • Excessive Grooming in one specific spot. When a dog is injured or in pain it tries to fix it by constantly licking and chewing the affected area. If your dog is constantly licking and/or chewing a part of her body then there probably something that is bothering her. Check it out.
  • Changed Breathing Pattern. If your dogs breathing changes, for example your dog is panting even when resting or breathing becomes fast and shallow then that is a sign of something that is wrong.
  • Restlessness Sometimes a dog in pain has difficulties sitting laying down because of an injury. If your dog seems restless and is constantly moving around trying to find a comfortable position when laying down, this could be caused by an injury.
  • You notice changes to her eyes. If a dog is in pain the pupils of the eye usually get bigger. The opposite is true when the pain is in the eye.
  • Suddenly your sweet dog becomes aggressive A dog who is in pain might become aggressive because she thinks you might hurt her. So if your otherwise sweet and cuddly dog suddenly starts growling or snapping at you then there is a big chance that she is in pain. The opposite is true as well. Many dogs will start searching for affection all the time when they are in pain. So it is a good idea to carefully observe your dogs behavior and note if her behavior is different from what it usually is.



What to do if your dog is in pain

What to do if your dog is in painSo how do you help a dog in pain? Well, once you have figured out what causes the pain then you will have to determine if you can help your dog yourself or if you will need the help of a veterinarian. If your dog is calm then try to find out where the pain comes from by firmly (but gently) poke and squeeze your dog all over his/her body. Do not do this if your dog is aggressive as might cause it to bite. In some cases the problem is really simple such as a thorn in one of its paws. In this case gently pulling out should be enough. If the paw is injured though, then clean it carefully and then protect it using a sock or shoe for dogs. The link will take you to an online store where you could buy that.

If the problem is more complicated and something you will not be able to solve then a trip to the Veterinarian is going to be necessary. Better to act quickly and do something before the problem gets worse. Even though it might be tempting you should not give your dog any kind of pain killer without first consulting a veterinarian.

Very Important to note that you should not use any painkillers made for human beings. Medications such as Ibuprofen, Advil, Naproxen are very risky to dogs as they can develop liver and kidney problems when consuming these medications. If a dog is to be given this kind of painkillers the dosage has to be very exact and even if the dose is correct, problems might still occur. These kinds of medications should only be used under the supervision of a veterinarian.

There are however painkillers that are developed exclusively for canines. These are much safer and also more efficient for dogs than painkillers designed for human beings. However even these drugs should not be used without consulting a veterinarian as dogs are more sensitive to drugs than human beings are and a veterinarian must examine the dog to decide what medication and which dosage that should be used.

Common painkillers for dogs are: Rimadyl, Previcox, Metacam, Piroxicam, Novox and Deramax. These are referred to as NSAID which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. These are the most commonly used canine painkillers and are generally speaking both safe and efficient.
There are also stronger drugs such as opiates and these are often used short term in severe cases. Morphine and Codeine belongs to this group but today most veterinarians don’t prescribe them because of the side effects and often opt for NSAIDs instead.

There are a few other medicines that are also used to relieve pain, for example steroids which are sometimes used to combat inflammations which can be the cause of pain but again the side effects of steroids can be can strong and thus veterinarians avoid prescribing them when possible.

These are a few painkillers that a vet might prescribe. Your veterinarian can inform you of other possible drugs to relieve your dog’s suffering.

How to help a dog in painOther ways of helping a dog in pain

Painkillers are one way of relieving dog from pain but painkillers give temporary relief and sometimes you have to go to the root of the problem to find a long term cure.

Imagine for example a dog who is suffering from Arthritis and who is overweight. In this case, changing your dog’s diet to make it loose weight would do a lot to ease its pain as there would be less weight and strain on its joints. High quality dog food which is low on calories put with enough protein (a supplement of Fatty Acids like Omega 3 is useful to) will help to increase your dog’s muscle mass at the same time as it is loosing fat. The diet should be supplemented with exercise (gradually increased to avoid overloading the joints) and this can sometimes be soo effective so that no other actions are needed.

A new bed could also do a lot for a dog with Arthritis in his back. Sometimes little things can make a big difference.
There are also alternative treatments such as acupuncture, acupressure and laser treatments. These treatments can make a big difference without all the side effects that certain painkilling drugs gives. If needed they can also be combined with medical treatments as alternative treatments does not interfere with medications. You can read more about alternative treatments here


So these are a few things that you can do to help a dog in pain. The key is really to be observant and note any changes in your dog’s behavior, figuring out what is bothering it and then take the proper measures. If you have any doubt about anything call your veterinarian and simply ask him or her what the problem might be. Sometimes advice can be given over the phone without a visit even being necessary. If a visit is necessary then try to do it as soon as possible to avoid any further complications and unnecessary suffering.

I hope you found this post useful. If you have any suggestions, tips or ideas you would like to share then please write them below.

Wishing you all a great day.


Comments 2

  • I came across your post and I see the list of symptoms that you have for a dog that might be in pain.

    I think that my dog may be uncomfortable, but I am not sure if it is to the extent of in pain. She will keep licking one of the joint area of her front leg, but when we check with the vet, the vet said that there’s nothing wrong with it.

    As she is a really old dog (11 years old!) do you think it is possible that she is actually feeling uncomfortable around the particular joint area (which may be arthritis)? If so, why did the vet not detect it?

    • If a dog is constantly licking an area of her body then there is most likely something wrong. I think you should check with another veterinarian and get a second opinion. I also found an article about arthritis which I think you might find useful. You can access it here


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