Symptoms of Pain and Illness in Dogs
Dog owners, who recognize the early signs and
symptoms of illness or pain in their dogs, will not
only relieve their loved one's suffering but may
also be able to save themselves an expensive trip to
the veterinarian. Not only is it important to
recognize these signs early to relieve pain and
suffering, but it is much more effective to treat an
illness when it is detected early.
The dog owner should keep an accurate and detailed
account of their dog's symptoms to help the
veterinarian correctly diagnose and effectively
treat the dog's illness or condition. Most canine
illnesses are detected through a combination of
various signs and symptoms:
Temperature, Respiratory Rate and Heart Rate
A newborn puppy will have a temperature of 94-97º F.
which will eventually reach the normal adult body
temperature of 101.5º F. at the age of 4 weeks old.
Take care when trying to take your dog or puppies
temperature as the thermometer can easily be broken
off in the canine's rectum. Also any form of
excitement can cause the temperature to rise by 2-3º
when the dog is actually in normal health. If your
dog's temperature reaches 105º or above OR 96º or
below please take him/her to the emergency vet
An adult dog will have a respiratory rate of 15-20
breaths per minute (depending on such variables as
size and weight) and a heart rate of 80-120 beats
per minute. You can feel for your dog's heartbeat by
placing your hand on his/her lower ribcage just
behind the elbow. Don't be alarmed if the heartbeat
seems irregular compared to a human's heartbeat, it
is irregular in many dogs. Have your vet check it
out and get used to how it feels when it is normal.
Behavior ChangesAny behavior changes that are not associated with a
change in the household atmosphere, such as jealousy
over a new pet or child may be an indication of an
illness. Signs of behavioral changes may be:
If your dog shows any of these signs, he/she needs
to be kept under close watch for a few hours, or
even a few days, until positive signs develop or
he/she has returned to normal. Do not try to
exercise the dog or put him/her in any situation
that may cause stress. Most veterinarians will want
for you to keep track of when the symptoms first
appeared, whether they are getting better or worse,
and also whether the symptoms are intermittent,
continuous, or increasing in frequency.
PainDogs that are in pain will likely indicate that they
are suffering by giving you clues as to where the
area of discomfort is. For instance, a dog that has
abdominal pain will continually glance toward their
belly, bite or lick the area, and will not want to
leave his/her bed. The dog may stand hunched over,
or take the 'prayer position' which is when a dog
gets down on it's forelegs with the hind legs still
standing, because of the pain in her abdomen area.
Dogs can not tell you that they are hurting or cry
real tears but a dog may vocalize their pain in a
different way. A dog that is hurt suddenly (such as
being stepped on) will cry out or wimper in pain.
This also happens when an external injury or
internal injury (such as an organ) is touched.
Whining or vocalization that is unprovoked may be
caused from an internal injury as well. Some breeds
of dogs (such as the American Pit Bull Terrier) have
a higher pain threshold and need to be watched more
closely for signs of pain. Breeds with a high pain
tolerance are more likely to endure the pain without
Another clue to pain is a change in temperament. A
dog that is in pain may show signs of aggression.
Please take note of this before concluding that a
dog has become vicious and let your veterinarian
know so that the correct treatment can be
administered. Also females in general (even humans!)
have days when they are just in a bad mood for no
obvious reason. Take note of days of times that
these mood swings occur as well as any events that
might have triggered them.
Other signs that your dog may be sick:
-Ears: discharge, debris, odor, scratching, crusted
tips, twitching or shaking.
-Eyes: redness, swelling or discharge.
-Nose: runny, thickened or colored discharge,
-Coughing, sneezing, vomiting or gagging.
-Shortness of breath, irregular breathing or
-Evidence of parasites in the dog's stool, strange
color, blood in the stool, or lack of a bowel
-Loss of appetite or not drinking as much water as
-Strange color of urine, small amount of urine,
straining, dribbling, or not going as frequently as
-Bad odor coming from mouth, ears, or skin.
-loss of hair, wounds, tumors, dander or change of the
-Biting of the skin, parasites, scratching or
licking the skin frequently.
The preceding article was meant to help educate you
to the signs and symptoms of probable pain or
sickness in your dog. If any of these symptoms occur
over a prolonged period of time, please seek the
help of a veterinarian. I hope that this article
will help stress the importance of keeping watch
over your dog's health patterns and the importance
of keeping an accurate, detailed health record for
your veterinarian's convenience.