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When it comes to your dog, you’ll go to great lengths to care for your pet. Unless it is clear that your dog is in pain by way of a physical cut, noticeable limp, or lack of mobility, often times dogs must signal distress in other ways. When dogs are stressed, their personality can change, which you as the owner should be able to pick up on.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my dog acting unusual?
  • Does my dog seem overly anxious or depressed?

If your answer is yes to either question, your dog may need your help to identify what’s causing the stress, so that you can quickly seek out the best way to bring them relief.

Animals communicate differently from us humans. They are not able to verbally express how they are feeling and what caused their pain. Babies can cry out to their mothers and children can tell us when their tummy aches. However, our pets cannot come right out and tell us what hurts and where.

Instead, a dog’s exaggerated body language or unusual behaviors can signal to its owner that it is hurt and in need of medical attention. Because many of the signs that your dog is in pain are subtle, it’s much easier to recognize them when you understand which behaviors are normal for your pet. When these signs of distress are recognized in your dog, you can take immediate steps to diffuse the situation and bring comfort to your pet.

Let’s examine five common signs to look for when your dog is in pain.

Animals communicate differently from us humans. They are not able to verbally express how they are feeling and what caused their pain.

1. Excessive Grooming

Have you ever noticed your dog repeatedly lick the same area over and over again? It may be somewhere on the dog’s side or paw? Chances are your dog has been bitten on that very spot. Your dog is excessively grooming in order to help soothe and bring comfort to that area. Think of your natural instinct when it comes to a bite mark on your body.

For example, if you were bitten by a mosquito, you would most likely be tempted to scratch the bite mark to bring relief from the pain. This is what your dog is doing. When your dog is bitten by an insect, for instance, the animal’s natural instinct is to clean the wound and bring relief by licking over it. If you notice your pet engaging in excessive grooming habits such as this, particularly when such a behavior is out of the ordinary for your pet, you can help your dog find immediate relief through cold therapy treatments. By applying ice water to the area that your dog is continuously licking, you are helping to reduce the pain by taking the sting away.

2. Personality Changes

One of the easiest signs to spot is when your dog’s personality changes. Instead of being the carefree, loving pet you’ve grown to love, when your dog is stressed, the animal’s personality can change from avoidance to aggression. More specifically, your dog may avoid contact because it doesn’t want to be picked up.

If your dog is hurt, moving the animal will only cause your pet more pain. On the other hand, your dog may act out and become noticeably aggressive toward other animals or people. Aggressive signs may be accompanied by a fearful body posture and facial expression. This personality change can happen if your pet doesn’t have anywhere to hide, increasing the chances that you may move them. Or if the injury is visible, your dog may also exhibit aggressive behavior.

It’s best to consult your veterinarian before the aggressive behaviors continue. These specialists can help assist your dog with its anxiety and anger by focusing on behavior management techniques.

3. Excessive Panting

It’s common for dogs to pant or breathe with short, quick breaths to cool off after being outside for long periods of time on a hot summer day or after they have been running around in a park playing fetch or chasing other dogs. However, heavy panting is different. When your dog appears out of breath excessively, this is a sign that your dog is dangerously overheated, coping with a serious health problem, or experiencing high levels of stress. In fact, maybe you have noticed your dog panting excessively in stressful situations such as in a veterinarian’s office. This is your dog’s way of alleviating stress.

Dog Excessive Panting

Depending on their size, dogs take between ten to thirty breaths per minute. If you notice an unusual change in your dog’s breathing patterns, it’s best to seek medical attention. Heavy panting may indicate that your dog may be suffering from heatstroke or may have consumed a toxic substance. If it’s not obvious for why you are observing a sudden change in your dog’s breathing patterns, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. It’s ALWAYS better to play it safe than sorry when it comes to noticeable changes in your dogs breathing.

Depending on their size, dogs take between ten to thirty breaths per minute. If you notice an unusual change in your dog’s breathing patterns, it’s best to seek medical attention. Heavy panting may indicate that your dog may be suffering from heatstroke or may have consumed a toxic substance.

4. Restlessness/Impatience

We all tend to get restless and dogs are no different. If your dog seems to be always pacing or moving about from one spot to another, which is not typical behavior for your pet, this can be a sign of pain. Your dog may exhibit an inability to get comfortable and lay still or may be constantly readjusting their position by getting up and down and repeating the cycle again.

You may also begin to notice a change in your dog’s sleeping habits. You may observe your pet sleeping more than usual or showing difficulty in getting to or staying asleep. These are all causes for concern and should not be ignored. Restlessness or impatience can be your dog’s way of signaling to you that they are in pain, discomfort, or distress.

5. Eating Grass

Maybe you have noticed the unusual behavior of your dog eating grass. This is a common sign your dog is in pain and often takes place when they need to vomit. This is because when your dog has an upset stomach or is dealing with digestive issues, the dog eats grass to help them relieve the pain.

Dog Eating Grass

Eating grass helps your dog vomit and/or poop. There are also other reasons why your dog might be eating grass, including as a way to improve digestion, to treat intestinal worms, or to fulfill some unmet nutritional need in their diet. This can be overcome by switching to a dog food of a high-fiber variety to help alleviate the problem.

How To Help A Stressed Dog

It’s always best to consult with a veterinarian if your dog’s behavior changes suddenly, so that he or she can address any underlying medical issues. You can also take action to lower your dog’s stress level. Just like us humans, dogs also need to have a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Ensuring your dog is getting the proper nutrition is essential. Playing fetch, taking your dog on walks, or going on a run together is a great stress reliever for both your dog and you.

Finally, consider creating a safe space in your home for your dog to escape to during high-stress events like thunderstorms or Fourth of July firework parties. Be sure to check in on your dog often during these stressful moments. Your physical presence can bring great comfort during these stress-inducing times. The sooner you can identify what’s causing the stress, the sooner you can bring your dog relief from whatever type of pain or distress your pet is feeling.

Related: The Health Risks Of Dirty Dog Ears