7 Signs Your Dog is in Pain

Dog Looking Off - Signs of Dog PainOne 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.

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. In the case of canine lymphoma, while there are promising new treatments available like TANOVEA®-CA1 (rabacfosadine for injection), it’s equally important that we continue to pay attention to any signs that they 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 seven 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 health concern.

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.

Excessive grooming. It’s 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.

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.

Other unexplained behavior 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.

VetDC: 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.


Please provide us with the following before posting a comment

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.