A close-up of a dog laying his head down on the cushion.

Recognizing pets in pain

Team Walmart Pets

May 28, 2021


min read

Our main goal as loving pet parents is to give our four-legged companions the best life we can. Sometimes that means helping them cope with pain or discomfort in the best and most compassionate way possible. This starts with being able to know if our dogs and cats are in pain. 

Recognizing pain in dogs and cats

The ways that our dogs exhibit pain span a huge spectrum. Some dogs are incredibly stoic (most Bulldogs), while other breeds can be big ‘ol babies (most Labs and Huskies). 

It also depends on the simple fact of whether your pet is a dog or a cat. For example, cats are better at hiding signs of pain since they evolved from being solitary hunters. Whereas dogs, who evolved from pack animals, are much better at telling their pack-mates (you) that they need help.

How to know if your dog is in pain

Sometimes it’s really obvious when and where your dog is in pain. Maybe they’re limping, or refusing to use a certain paw. Some less obvious signs that your dog might be in pain are:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Being unusually quiet or unresponsive
  • Unusually aggressive or submissive behavior
  • Avoiding being handled/pet OR seeking more attention than usual
  • Difficulty getting comfortable

If your dog’s joints are causing the pain, some of these joint supplements could help ease it. But you should never give your dog these without consulting a vet first.

How to know if your cat is in pain

Is your cat in pain? It can be more difficult to spot due to the cat's independent nature and predisposition to being solitary hunters.  The top signs that your cat is in pain are:

  • Drop in appetite
  • Hiding in unusual or new places
  • Avoiding people/other pets altogether

You can also try joint supplements for cats to help ease their pain, but you should only administer them after talking to your vet first.

Managing pain in your pets

No pet parent ever wants to see their pet in pain. And sometimes, your pet’s change in behavior can hurt your feelings or be really hard to understand. If you aren’t sure if your pet’s in pain, but think they’re acting strange, take them to the vet to be sure. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

And if you do know that your pet is in pain, never administer human medication to them without talking to a vet first. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen, for example, while mild to humans, are often toxic to dogs and cats.

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Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash