Petline Insurance

How to Tell if Your Pet is in Pain – From a Veterinarian

| November 12, 2021

It might not be obvious to you that your pet is in pain, but there are some signs that you should watch for. Petsecure’s Veterinary Medical Director, Dr. Colleen Fisher, breaks these down so you can be there for your pet when they need you.

While cats and dogs are very different, they both may show these signs when they are in pain:

  • Losing interest in their favourite games
  • Sleeping longer or are slower to wake up
  • Changes in their eating habits, like chewing more slowly or laying down to eat
  • Hiding from busy family activity
  • Growling, hissing, or snapping when approached, especially around unpredictable young children

Keep an eye on your pet’s body language for signs of pain as well:

1. Flat ears when approached or touched

This could mean your pet anticipates that their pain may be increased by being touched or handled. If your pet’s ears move like satellite dishes away from each other or flatten against the head, something is making them anxious.

2. Eyes may become squinty or open wide

When pets anticipate that movement or interaction is painful, they will squeeze their eyes closed just like we would. If they don’t realize that something is going to hurt, their pupils will dilate, and you may see the whites of their eyes.

3. Body postures become tight as they protect a painful body part

Depending on the type of pain experienced, animals may “tuck in” on themselves. Painful limbs may be held out at abnormal angles. If a pet is experiencing pain in their abdomen, their bellies may feel very hard and tense.

4. Changes in whisker position

When cats are in pain, their whiskers are held straight and are angled away from the cheeks. This is more challenging for dogs because of the huge variation in facial structures among different breeds.

5. Swallowing food without chewing or chewing on one side of the mouth

Dental disease can be incredibly painful for pets. Watch for changes in how your pet eats, drinks, and licks their lips after finishing breakfast and dinner. Pets who become disinterested or bored with previously loved treats and chew toys may have dental, mouth, or throat pain.