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Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Dogs

Signs of Pain or Discomfort in Dogs

It can be scary if your dog is suddenly crying out in pain or if they are showing other disturbing symptoms. It's important to know what to do when this happens. In this post, our St. Louis vets talk about the typical signs of pain in dogs, the different types of pain they may experience and what you should do if your dog is in pain.

What are some ways that you can tell if your dog is in pain?

Your dog will do everything they can to hide their pain. It's not because they don't want to feel better, it's just how they are hardwired through centuries of survival.

Luckily, you spend every day with your dog and you should be able to spot the typical symptoms of pain pretty soon after they begin. It's crucial to have their pain diagnosed and treated as early as possible before complications arise.

What are the different types of pain that your dog might experience?

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a variety of health conditions that cause acute or chronic pain, such as dental health issues or internal conditions from heart-related and immune system disorders to gastrointestinal issues. Tumors and different types of cancer can also lead to pain. Acute pain can be caused by a foreign object getting stuck in their paw, an injury while exercising, a fall, an accident or other mishaps. 

Parasites, diseases and various disorders can affect dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds. Senior dogs may experience pain from joint or bone disorders. diabetes or other health issues. 

The Common Symptoms of Pain in Dogs

One of the most common questions that our St. Louis veterinarians are asked is 'how to tell if your dog is in pain'. Dogs will show a few telltale signs of pain or discomfort including:

    • Significant decrease in appetite 
    • Tail tucked in or lowered
    • Spending more time sleeping
    • Yelping or whining 
    • Irritability 
    • Limping 
    • Reluctance to climb stairs or jump 
    • Reduced play or enjoyment of exercise 

If you are used to your dog running non-stop, eating well and generally being social then one day you find that they have barely touched their food and won't come out of a hiding spot then there is a chance that they may be experiencing some type of pain. Changes in behavior can indicate suffering and should be tended to by your veterinarian, who can examine your dog and diagnose the underlying health issue or condition. Since the pain can exhaust dogs just as it does humans, many pooches become tired more easily. You may notice your dog sleeping more if their pain has become a problem recently or they are experiencing chronic pain. 

If you have noticed concerning symptoms including pain in your dog, contact our Saint Louis veterinary center so the underlying issue can be diagnosed. If your pup has been injured and the pain is accompanied by bleeding, loss of consciousness, vomiting or diarrhea, this is considered a veterinary emergency that should be treated right away. The vets at our St. Louis animal hospital can also detect, diagnose and treat health conditions that cause chronic pain. 

What are the treatment options for pain in dogs?

Depending on the cause of your pet's pain and their diagnosis, your vet may recommend treatment options such as pain medication, wound care, various therapies or surgery.

The team at our St. Louis veterinary clinic is well-equipped to manage any veterinary emergencies that may occur unexpectedly.

Treating Dog Pain With Medication

There are a number of medications that our St. Louis veterinarians may recommend to help with managing your dog's pain such as:

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are used to treat mild to moderate pain and discomfort by impeding your dog's body's production of the inflammatory molecules that trigger pain and swelling. While often effective, these drugs must be used with caution since they can lead to the development liver, kidney, stomach, and/or intestinal problems in some dogs.


Opioids including morphine, codeine, fentanyl, buprenorphine, and hydromorphone are typically used for more severe pain in dogs such as surgical pain, or pain caused by severe arthritis or advanced cancer. This class of drugs can help dogs to maintain a good quality of life by managing chronic pain.


Although traditionally used to help control seizures and anxiety in dogs gabapentin can also be used to manage some types of chronic pain including pain from degenerative joint disease


Vets often prescribe tramadol for dogs suffering from pain due to arthritis, cancer, surgery, or chronic pain disorders. In some cases tramadol is also helpful in treating anxiety in dogs.

Cortisone & Synthetic Cortisone-Like Medications

Drugs such as prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone can have a very profound impact when it comes to treating dog pain thanks to their potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Treating Dog Pain With Therapies

Along with medications, the vets at our animal hospital in St. Louis may also recommend a variety of therapies to help diminish the pain your dog is experiencing like:

Veterinary Acupuncture

Acupuncture for dogs can help to stimulate healing and provide effective pain relief. When used post-surgically, veterinary acupuncture can help to improve the dog's comfort level and speed healing. In some cases, this therapy can be an effective way to reduce or eliminate the need for chronic medications. Acupuncture for dogs is most often used in conjunction with medications and other treatments.

Cold Laser Therapy

Laser therapy can be used to manage your dog's pain by stimulating the lymphatic drainage system which can help to reduce painful inflammation, activating nerve cells in order to block pain signals from reaching your pup's brain, and stimulating the production of endorphins that can be helpful in counteracting pain.

Massage Therapy

As with people, massage techniques can be used to relax your dog's muscles, reduce stress, improve circulation, and decrease pain. Massage can be especially helpful in pets suffering from pain due to athletic injuries or arthritis.

Neuromuscular Stimulation (TENS)

When electrical stimulation is used on dogs it can help to strengthen muscles and reduce muscle wasting in dogs suffering from temporary or partial paralysis. TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) can be used to stimulate the release of pain-relieving substances from nerves.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog crying or having a difficult time getting around? Contact our vets in St. Louis to schedule an examination right away.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Animal Emergency Clinic is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from St. Louis and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

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