12 signs of pain - National pain awareness month

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the pain and discomfort that animals may experience, and how we can help alleviate their suffering. As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our pets are healthy and happy, and that includes recognizing when they are in pain.

But how do we know if our pets are in pain? What signs should we look for? In this article, we’ll dive deep into these questions and more, so you can be better equipped to care for your beloved pets.


Dogs don’t often show pain in the way we would expect. Symptoms of pain can appear as physical and behavioural changes, they can also affect dogs of any age.

The signs are often subtle, as dogs usually try to hide when they are in pain:

  • Not eating or drinking

  • Shaking or trembling

  • Aggressive behaviour

  • Lethargy, sleeping more than normal

  • Biting or licking at a certain area of the body

  • Panting


Cats instinctively hide signs of pain, so owners need to be aware of any subtle changes in behaviour and routine. The symptoms of pain can appear as physical and behavioural changes and can affect cats of any age.

Recognising these symptoms and seeking advice as soon as possible is important.

  • Not eating or drinking

  • Decreased grooming, leading to mats in the fur and a dull coat appearance

  • Toileting in abnormal places

  • Moving slowly or stiffness

  • Sleeping more than normal

  • Vocalisation (meowing more)

Facial expressions and body language can also tell us that your pet is in pain, such as flattened ears, a hunched body posture, and holding their head lower.

There are many different causes of pain in cats and dogs, and pain can range from mild to severe. We recommend speaking with a veterinarian as soon as possible to help determine the cause and if any treatment is needed.

Do not give human medications to your pets without consulting a vet; most medications are extremely toxic.

Jennifer Macindoe BVMS MRCVS for Joii

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