Animal expert shares three subtle changes that can indicate your pet is in pain

Child hugging dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We all want the best for our pets, and we want them to be happy – after all, that’s why we always look for the best dog treats and tasty snacks for cats. However, just like humans, our pets can sometimes feel pain. 

Sometimes, the cause of the pain can be obvious – as anybody who’s accidentally stepped on their pet’s tail will know. But, other times, pain can be caused by more serious health conditions. But it’s not as if your pet can tell you that they’re in pain, so how do you know?

There are some signs of pain in cats and dogs to watch out for, as certified cat behavior consultant and registered veterinary technician Tabitha Kucera of Chirrups & Chatter has shared in an Instagram post. Familiarizing yourself with them could potentially save a life.  

Something to watch out for, according to Kucera’s post, is a change in your pet’s daily habits. For example, a change in appetite, sleep, or grooming. Similarly, changes in your pet’s activity levels could indicate pain. If your pet is restless, doesn’t want to move, or isn’t resting in their favorite place, it might be a sign of pain.

Unexpected aggression can be another sign of pain, from displays of irritability to growling, hissing, and biting, as can excessive licking in dogs, or biting or scratching of a body part. Changes in posture, including an arched back, a hunched abdomen, and a lower head posture, can also indicate pain.

Kucera also recommends looking out for changes in facial expressions, too. Flattened ears, grimaces, enlarged pupils, and a vacant stare can all be signs of pain. And, she explains that a pet who’s in pain may be reluctant to be touched or held, and could growl or hiss when people or other animals get too close. They might also protect a part of their body, or be hesitant to put weight on one of their limbs. 

Nobody likes to think about their pets being in pain. However, if you can identify pain, you can address it, even if you’re not sure how to choose the best pain relief for dogs or cats. 

As Kucera says in the Instagram post, “The good news is that there are numerous options available to manage and alleviate pain in animals. These include pain medications, adapting the environment to their needs (low entrance litterboxes, elevated food and water, orthopedic beds, nonslip surfaces, etc.) physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, and more!”.

Ultimately, pain can manifest in various different ways. So, if you are at all worried about your pet’s health don’t leave it until it’s too late to consult your vet. 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.