10 Signs Your Dog is in Pain

Beagle looking sad

One of the most endearing things about dogs is that they rarely “complain” about anything. They may whine a bit when it’s approaching dinner time, or when it is time to go outside to ‘do their business’. However, when faced with an illness or injury, dogs can often remain seemingly brave and upbeat.

Unfortunately, a dog’s ability to carry on in the face of pain or discomfort makes it difficult for an owner – who doesn’t know their dog is hurting – to provide proper care. This is especially problematic if a dog has a serious condition such as canine lymphoma, where the cancer may be present in multiple lymph nodes and/or organs throughout the body.

As noted in studies published on the website of the US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health, unrelieved cancer pain greatly decreases quality of life of cancer patients – in both humans and animals alike. In the case of canine lymphoma, while there are promising new treatments available like TANOVEA®-CA1 (rabacfosadine for injection), it’s equally important that you continue to pay attention to any signs that your dog may be in pain or discomfort and work with a veterinarian to come up with the most effective treatment approach.


Having Your Best Friend’s Back

When your dog is in pain, you want to do all you can to help. However, because your dog often can’t tell or show you that they are in pain, it is important to recognize certain behavioral clues. Anything outside your dog’s normal behavior should get your attention, but here are 10 common indicators that your best friend may be in discomfort:

Increased vocalization. Dogs that are in pain are often more vocal than usual. This can include increased barking, yelping, growling, snarling, or howling. They may make these sounds seemingly at random, or they vocalize with movement when you pet or lift them. Either way, it may be an indicator of a serious condition like canine lymphoma.

Shaking or trembling. There are many things that can cause a dog to shake or shiver, from being cold to feeling nervous. However, if a dog starts to exhibit muscle tremors on a more frequent basis, this is an indicator that something more serious may be going on.

Unusual Potty Habits. Sometimes when a dog is experiencing internal discomfort or is generally unwell, they will have problems urinating or defecating. You may notice that they are suddenly peeing inside the house or seem to lack control of their bladder. Another sign that they may be experiencing pain is if their stool changes consistency – which, upon ruling out any dietary changes – could be a sign of high stress due to a more serious illness. In addition to these signs, your dog may also exhibit a change in posture when they do their business, this could be in an effort to avoid pain caused by their typical posture.

Excessive grooming. It is normal for dogs to lick themselves, but when a casual habit starts to become an obsessive behavior, it’s possible that your pet is in pain. You should be especially suspicious if it’s an area that your dog has never paid much attention to in the past.

Heavy panting. Dogs pant when they have been exercising or when they are in a warm environment. However, panting is also a reaction to stress, and if you aren’t aware of anything that might be causing that stress, it may be pain-related.

Aggression or shyness. Each dog has a unique personality. Some are more outgoing, and some are more reserved. However, if you notice your dog’s demeanor changing, this should be a red flag. This can include things like showing signs of aggression that you’ve never seen before or becoming timid. Don’t take it personally if your dog growls or nips at you. To them, it may be the only way to communicate that they are in pain and don’t want to be touched.

Limping. This one may sound obvious, but if your dog is limping, it’s safe to assume they’re in pain. Limping shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if you did not see any incident that would have caused the limping. It’s important to see your veterinarian immediately so that they can assess whether the limping was caused by a physical injury like a sprained tendon, or if it’s the result of a disease like osteoarthritis, osteosarcoma or canine lymphoma.

Loss of appetite. In dogs, as in humans, being in pain is not conducive to a healthy appetite. While a dog’s lack of interest in food could be a sign of other things (a minor stomachache, for example), if it persists, it may be that your dog is hurting and needs medical attention.

Trouble resting. If your dog is in pain, they may have a hard time sitting or lying down. You may notice that they are regularly sitting or lying down in an awkward position. You may also notice that when they try to sit or lie down, they immediately stand up and move around. Both of these behaviors could be signs that an injury or condition is causing them significant pain, and they should be taken to their veterinarian for further evaluation.

Other unexplained behavioral changes. If you’ve had your dog for a while, you know what they like to do. They always run to the door when the doorbell rings or they frequently jump up on the couch to cuddle with you, for example. Canine lymphoma and other illnesses may cause a dog to lose interest in those behaviors.


Your Canine Lymphoma Experts

If your dog’s behavior leads you to believe that he or she might be in pain, the best thing to do is consult your veterinarian. As they say, “When in doubt, have a vet check it out.” That’s true whether the discomfort is related to canine lymphoma or any other condition. If you notice any of the signs above, it is important to consult your veterinarian or a veterinary cancer specialist as soon as possible.

We hope you find this information helpful. If you or your loved ones ever end up in the unfortunate circumstance of your dog being diagnosed with canine lymphoma, it may be helpful to speak to your veterinarian about new treatment options, such as TANOVEA-CA1 for the treatment of dogs with lymphoma. For further information, we invite you to follow our Facebook page or sign up for canine lymphoma updates at Tanovea.com.  And don’t forget to keep an eye on any signs that your pet is in pain!


Important Safety Information: TANOVEA-CA1 is indicated for the treatment of lymphoma in dogs. The most frequently reported adverse reactions included decreased white blood cell count, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased or loss of appetite, weight loss, decreased activity level, and skin problems. Serious and sometimes fatal pulmonary fibrosis has occurred. Do not use in West Highland White Terriers and use with caution in other terrier breeds. Please see the package insert for full prescribing information, warnings and precautions.


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  1. Thank you for your suggestions

  2. My 13 year old Corgi mix was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his left rear leg. Although he was limping I was completely shocked to find out! I’m trying to manage his pain with a trilogy of meds & CBD treats. Sometimes I think it’s managing ok but he has started panting quite a bit, especially at night. Is this a sign his pain is more severe than I realize?

    • Hello Jody –

      I am so sorry to hear about what you and your dog are going through. VetDC is not a veterinary consulting service so we are unable to offer any direction with your situation, I’m very sorry. I would encourage you to return to your veterinarian to discuss the clinical signs you are observing and determine if there is anything more you can do to help him. There are many factors that could be affecting his situation – the type of cancer (some cancers aren’t painful but might interfere with his functional abilities, other cancers might be painful); as well as the possible side effects of some drugs (some medications can cause signs like panting, but so can pain). A veterinarian can examine your dog and help you decide upon a course of action. I’m very sorry I can’t be of greater help.

  3. My golden retriever is 12 yrs old. In February she started bleeding profusely from her left nasal cavity. Despite many trips to her vet no diagnosis was found. In July I took to a specialist who performed a CT and diagnosed her with a nasal tumor. The night after the procedure she ate breakfast and started vomiting and having dark runny stools. Since that time she has stopped eating. I have tried all types of food to get to eat without success. Please help!

    • Found out my golden retriever has cancer Adenocarcinoma, we’ll be going to see a radiation specialist later today who will explain to us life expectancy and radon treatment. My boy is only 6 years old. The cost up to this point is close to $6,000 so far and I’m not sure how much more I can afford with radiation treatment varying anywhere between $5,000 to $8,000. Lee my heart goes out to you and I’m sorry you are going through this but please know you are not alone. God Bless you and your Golden

      • My heart goes out to any and all pet owners. We just lost our Golden, Shea of 9 years to cancer yesterday. No previous signs until 2 weeks ago when he displayed severe anemia. Ultrasound showed his liver was totally compromised, however the Vet indicated that could have been because of another cancer. We opted for no testing as we lost 2 Golden brothers back in 09′, and like all of us, decided to do radiation and chemo. They hadn’t reached 5. Personally looking back at that situation and seeing pics of them during treatment, I would never put my dog through that again. Cost was not a factor, however for both, it was over $10k. They were miserable 5 of 7 days and then back to the Vet for another treatment. We still have Shea’s sister and litter mate, Bella who we are taking for an ultrasound Friday. With Golden’s being the #2 breed most susceptible to cancer, We should have been more attentive, especially after losing 2. I hope this helps in some of the decision making.

      • Hello J.B. I’m so sorry to hear what you and your golden are going through. I hope your appointment went well and you were able to find some hope from it.

    • I am so very sorry to hear about what you and your beloved golden retriever are going through. It sounds as though it’s been frightening and overwhelming. I wish that I could offer you some advice, but because I am not a vet and haven’t examined your dog, trying to recommend anything could be potentially harmful to her.

      I would strongly suggest you schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible to see what kind off options exist to deal with the clinical signs she is exhibiting (perhaps medications for the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia), but also to discuss what kind of food they recommend. If she is painful, she may not be willing to eat certain things (like crunchy kibble); and if she is feeling really sick, she may need something really tasty to tempt her. One thing that is generally pretty safe is meat baby food (Gerber turkey, chicken, ham, beef). It is very aromatic and, if warmed up just a bit, can often tempt even the pickiest of dogs.

      I am so sorry I can’t be of greater help, I know how distressing it is to have a dog that won’t eat.

  4. I’m so grateful to have found this information about the new drug that could possible cure lymphoma. However, I am a senior citzen on a fixed income and cannot afford the medication. My rescue dog Smokey has been diagnosed with lymphoma and he is presently on Predisone and Gabapentin. I just want this cancer out of him and have been looking for clinical trials that I can put him in. Do you all offer discounts on medication for seniors?

    • Thank you for your message and your interest in TANOVEA-CA1. I’m so sorry to hear that your dog has lymphoma, it’s such a difficult diagnosis to face. Unfortunately we do not have any financial aid programs, but we are conducting several clinical trials currently. Can you please tell me a couple of things? First, where are you located? Second, has your dog received any kind of chemotherapy, or is the prednisone the only drug being prescribed for the lymphoma?

  5. I am so thankful to have found this page! Our 11 year old malamute was diagnosed with lymphoma this morning. I have noticed she is constantly panting. Not heavy, but non-stop. Does it sound likely that she is in pain? We have a camping trip coming up (we will be gone a week) and we were hoping she would make it, but I’m questioning whether it is cruel to take her, or if she may enjoy it. The vet put her on prednisone to help with symptoms, are there other measure we should ask about to ensure her comfort?

    • Hello Alex –

      Thank you for your interest in TANOVEA-CA1 and your message on the VetDC website. I am so sorry to hear about your dog’s recent diagnosis of lymphoma. It is a hard thing to be facing with a beloved member of your family.

      It is difficult to say whether the panting is due to discomfort, swollen lymph nodes, medications, nausea, tiredness, etc., so I would suggest that you talk with your veterinarian about your concerns, particularly before embarking on a trip with her. She may be well enough to enjoy it, but I would not be doing you or her any justice by trying to guess. There are certainly factors that are NOT in her favor (summer heat, her breed, her age, the lymphoma), but your veterinarian can provide guidance in deciding how to manage her activity level based on his/her physical examination of her.

      With regards to other measures to ensure her comfort, you will have to consider whether or not you want to treat the lymphoma in hopes of inducing remission which would be done with chemotherapy, like TANOVEA-CA1 or the CHOP protocol. You may wish to focus instead on keeping her comfortable for as long as she has left with palliative care (medications and treatments focused on relieving the clinical signs of the disease to increase comfort and quality of life, NOT treatment to induce remission).

      There are many clinical signs that dogs with lymphoma can experience such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, anorexia. increased thirst, dehydration, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, etc. Different parts of the body can be affected and therefore different signs may be apparent. There are many medications available to help relieve these signs of illness (like anti-nausea drugs), and your veterinarian can talk with you about the options available that he/she feels are appropriate for your dog’s needs.

      Please feel free to reach out if there is anything else I can do to help you.

  6. My standard dachshund has lymphoma. She is 11 an it’s pretty bad they said a couple of months I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks. It’s like my child. Is this a very painful cancer

    • Hello Lisa –

      I’m very sorry to hear about your dachshund’s diagnosis of lymphoma, I know it’s very difficult to face with a beloved member of your family. Lymphoma is not what I would call a “painful” cancer, but it can make a dog feel very unwell and uncomfortable as it progresses. Each patient handles it differently, and some dogs are more tolerant of the effects of the cancer than others.

      If you are not interested in pursuing chemotherapy in an effort to induce remission, you may want to consider speaking with your veterinarian about palliative care options. Palliative care is drugs/treatment/therapy designed to reduce the discomfort associated with the clinical signs of the disease. Basically, things that will make her feel better while you share the time you have left together.

      I hope this is helpful, and I am so sorry for what you are going through with her. She is very lucky to be so loved.

  7. Two weeks ago we took our 9 year old Pomeranian Bella into the vet to get a cleaning. Around two weeks before that they noticed that she had a heart murmur when we got her bordettla & k9 influenza shots. After she had the dental she started coughing & it just got worse. They ended up keeping her for two days & did X-rays & found a tumor wrapped around her trachea & other spots throughout her body. We are so sad because she’s been an important part of our family z& we adore her. We just lost our 14 year old American Eskimo last winter & this is happening to fast for us.
    They put her on medication. She’s still coughing but it’s not as extreme as it was. We are praying it’s not cancer but I’m sure it is. The vet said she could live for days, weeks or months. I want her to be with us for years. I don’t want to lose her but at the same time I don’t want to have her be in pain. She’s the best dog we’ve ever had. She goes outside with you and doesn’t have to be on a leash she stays right by you & she never barks. She’s a joy to be around & we just love having her. I don’t have a question because I asked my vet how long she has & I know that she doesn’t have long with us. I keep praying for a miracle. Thank you for listening..

    • I have a Pitbull named “Baby” She turned 8 yrs. this last March. She started having seizures a few weeks ago & I took her to the vet. They wanted to run tests on her but I couldn’t afford all of them. She got a shot for the seizures & put her onLevETIRAcetam 1,000 MG TAB AURO.ONE EVERY 8 hrs.. She didn’t have anymore seizures until about a wk.ago, took her back & I of. for some blood work. They want to send her to a neurologist for x-rays and other tests. I just can’t afford that.then they addedGabapentin (get) 300mg cap. She is to too 2 of them with other prescription. She still is having seizures .she seems to have stopped them now today (I’m hoping for good) she has been herself. I have been with her almost 24/7. What is ur opinion of her having cancer. She has always drank slot of water since I’ve owned her at 1 & half when I got her. She’s spayed & a bit over weight. I love her like my only child & I don’t want to loose her. People have mentioned giving her nature crystals from health food store, enzymes,, CBD 1.1thc seizures or CBG hemp. oil with0.00 the or CED with. 0.03 the, the crystals is Jet, Delimited,Labradovite & Blue Lane Agate the other thing someone said that their dog was on Painting & it stopped the seizes..Do u know anything about these suggested items?

      • Hello Debbie –

        I’m sorry to hear what you and Baby are going through. Unfortunately, VetDC cannot help you with any of your questions as we are not a veterinary consulting service. We make a drug that is used to treat a specific kind of cancer, and we are only able to address questions related to that. I would encourage you to speak with your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian before beginning any kind of treatment, though, as there could be interactions between the drugs Baby is currently taking, and the remedies you listed. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.

    • Hi Rebecca – We extend our deepest sympathies to you and your family. Bella’s diagnosis is heartbreaking, we’re very sorry that you and Bella are going through that. We hope that despite the presence of tumors, she can enjoy the remainder of her life and maintain a good quality of life. Continue to do what you can to make her comfortable and do all of her favorite things with her if she has the energy. Our thoughts are with you and your family during this time.

  8. Thanks for this! Our aussie shepherd has gastrointestinal problems, Diarrhea and IBD to be specific. Usually, loss of appetite and trembling are the signs that she’s having a stomach ache. Are there any natural treatments to deal with these? We’ve tried a lot of things different vets told us to do to keep her healthy but we still see signs that the stomach problems are not going away.

    • Hello Mike –

      Thank you for your post on our website’s blog. I’m sorry to hear that your aussie has chronic gastrointestinal issues – they can be hard to manage. It is very hard to see a beloved family member feel poorly – and particularly so when you are not be able to explain to them why they feel that way. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer any kind of veterinary advice or recommend any treatments. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to consider taking her to an internal medicine specialist to see if they can determine the cause of the issues – and perhaps, offer some alternatives for treatment (including any applicable natural treatments).

  9. My 14 week cocker has bloody urine which has so far been treated with two weeks of antibiotics. She’s still bleeding when peeing! She’s happy, eats well, plays, is learning and gives awesome cuddles. But what else could it be if it’s not a urine infection. I’ve sent another urine sample to the vet for further investigation, have you any idea please?

    • Hi Pat – That sounds like a very unsettling situation, we hope it gets resolved soon. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to advise you on this. Your veterinarian is best equipped to diagnose what the cause of the blood in her urine is, so please continue working with them.

      • My 2 year old shih tzu. Has been acting strange over past couple days.
        She is heavy panting. And wont leave my side. She even tries to climb up onto my shoulders.
        She is eating. But not drinking alot, and i have to give her water through a syringe. She has not been sick. Or has runny poo.

        • I’m very sorry to hear that your dog is acting strangely. I would suggest that, if her unusual behavior continues or worsens, you take her to your veterinarian to have them examine her and make sure she is not suffering from any kind of illness or injury. Unfortunately, what you have described could accompany many things – anxiety, pain, metabolic issues, etc., so it would not be safe for her for someone to try to determine what is going on without examining her. I’m sorry I can’t be of greater assistance.

  10. Please if you can give advice our dear Emma is a cross jack Russel and minature pincher .She had cancer 3years ago and had too have a back leg amputated .she has now been diagnosed today with cancer of the spleen and possible spreading to liver and bladder .Would you advise an op to remove the spleen .Your opinon would be apreciated .

    From what i have read the prognosis is 3 to 4 mths .I want what is best for our best friend .If the op can alleviate a peaceful departure it will be worth it or do we bite the bullet now .

    Please advise

    • Hello Ezio,

      I’m so sorry that Emma has been diagnosed with cancer again, she sounds like she’s been quite the fighter. As far as a treatment plan is concerned, we advise that you speak with your veterinarian for advice on how to handle Emma’s cancer of the spleen. Your veterinarian knows Emma better than we do, and would be able to give you the best advice.

      We hope that Emma’s quality of life stays high and she stays comfortable, she sounds like a very special dog. We wish you and her the best of luck in these trying times.

  11. Our beloved dog Trixie is a Yorker. She is either 9 or 10 years old. She has a large mass on the top of her head and ear area. We were told that it is cancerous and surgery is not an option. The mass has a very strong odor and she is becoming restless and fragile. What can we do to better accommodate her?

    • I am so sorry to hear that you and your dog are going through such a difficult time. Unfortunately, there is little advice we are able to give you as we are not veterinarians and have not examined your dog. I would suggest is that you talk with your veterinarian about things you might be able to do to keep her comfortable. They might also be able to prescribe medications or suggest other palliative care options that will help her be more comfortable. It sounds as though she may need some kind of medical intervention as soon as you are able to get her to the vet.

  12. I am wondering if we should be walking our 11 year old Sheppard cross who has just been diagnosed with Lymphoma (first noticed by an enlarged lump) appearing under the right side of his throat. He is showing signs of slowing down since having fluid taken from the site and although he still comes out with us, I don’t want to push him if it will hurt him and shorten his time with us. He’s on pred and losic so is very thirsty but still wanders around the block.

    • Hello Lorraine –
      I’m so sorry to hear about your dog’s recent lymphoma diagnosis. I would encourage you to sit down with your regular veterinarian or a veterinary specialist (oncology or internal medicine) and discuss the problems he is having to determine if there are any treatment or palliative options that might make him feel better. We are not able to make any recommendations, only a veterinarian that has examined your dog can do that, so I can’t say whether or not he should still go on walks with you. Prednisone does tend to make dogs very thirsty, and they will pee a lot, but hopefully he is also getting the intended benefit of the drug and will be more comfortable. I’m sorry I can’t offer specific advice.

      • My dog was dianoged with cancer in lungs, liver,speen and more shenhas lived for 4 months since than now she shows every sign of dying she is once in awhile spitting blod droplets by coughing so much how long does she have and what us the blo

        • Out of curiosity Have you received any other answers? Our baby is going through the same thing and we don’t know what to do.

          • Hello Amanda- Please see your email for a message I just sent. Thank you.

        • I’m so sorry to hear about what you and your dog are going through. I just emailed you privately – please feel free to reach out again if you have any questions.

  13. My 12 year Bichon has been diagnosed with cancer in his Liver although the vet feels that this is not the primary cancer and no treatment is worthwhile at this stage, he has started to pant, stand and stare into nowhere, snap if I go to handle him and is not eating things he normally enjoyed. I am really concerned that I am not being fair to him but he has always been a massive part of the family and its hard to let go, how will I know when he has had enough

    • Hi Graham, we are very sorry to hear that your boy has cancer, seeing him act outside his normal self is surely very hard on you and your family. In regards to your question about knowing when he’s had enough, your veterinarian is best-suited to advise you on that upon evaluating him. But, we have included a link to one of our blogs that provides tips for caring for your dog when they have lymphoma, we hope that it’s useful in helping him to be comfortable and happy during this tough time https://vet-dc.com/blog/six-caring-dog-lymphoma-treatment-tips/. Our thoughts are with you and your family during this time.

  14. My dog has cancer diagnosed since last monday . He started coughing today and is doing it a lot now , what does this mean plz ? Hes 12yrs old . Not much energy .

    • Hello Nora, I’m very sorry to hear about your dog’s recent diagnosis, and that he is not doing very well. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to say what might be going on with him. Dogs can be affected by many different types of cancer, so there could be different reasons for the increased coughing and lethargy, depending upon the type of cancer he has. Your veterinarian or a veterinary oncologist should be consulted to discuss what options there are for treatment. Whether you choose to pursue something intended to increase his survival time by inducing remission (like chemotherapy), or to just focus on giving him good quality of life for as long as possible by providing treatment/therapy that will help to decrease the severity of the physical signs he is suffering, your veterinarian can help you decide what the most appropriate path is. I’m sorry you and your dog are going through this, and I wish you the best in the time you have left with him.