Pet Owners: How to Tell if Your Pet is in Pain

Are you worried that your beloved fur baby is in pain? Observing changes in your pet’s behavior is critical for detecting pain. Dogs and cats have some similarities when expressing their pain, but there are also some differences.

Both cats and dogs will limp when they have trouble walking or difficulty moving. It is a common characteristic that when cats have pain, they can sometimes become aggressive. 

You must listen to your pet when they are sending you a message that they need help. When your cat or dog appears to be in pain, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible. This article will help you find out more about how to tell if your pet is in pain.

how to tell if my pet is in pain raleigh nc

How Do Can You Tell if Your Dog is in Pain?

Dogs can show their pain in many ways. If your pup acts differently or is suddenly more guarded, they may be experiencing discomfort. Some of the signs your dog could be in pain include the following:

Limping or Having Trouble Walking

If your dog demonstrates difficulty getting up the steps, walking stiffly, or limping, they may have injured themselves, or it could be a sign that they are experiencing arthritis pain. The extent of joint pain your dog is having depends on their age, breed, activity level, and injury history.

If your dog avoids putting pressure on a certain limb, or is favoring one paw over another, they may be suffering from an injury.

For dogs having difficulty standing and struggling to get up from a laying down position, arthritis may be the case. This will often be paired with a lower activity level, as they won’t run and jump like they used to, and is commonly found in older dogs.

Whining or Whimpering

dog in pain

Whining or whimpering is the way your dog communicates other than barking. Sometimes when a dog is whining a lot, it may indicate that they are in pain.

Your dog may be hyper-focused on an area where they are having the most pain and you may notice them licking or gnawing on or around it. This behavior is sometimes accompanied by whining. They may be more vocal or protective of a specific area of their body and not want to be touched.

Changes in Eating Habits

If your dog is hurting from oral pain, their eating habits may change. Chewing on only one side of the mouth or dropping their food as they are chewing are indications that your dog may have dental pain.

Your dog may also be avoiding eating dry food because it is too painful for them to bite down on and chew. They may also lose interest in their regular diet and treats.

Changes in Sleep Habits

A dog in pain may not lie still or get comfortable enough to sleep. They may pace excessively or get up and down frequently. It is difficult for them to find the proper position. Sleeping habits may also be affected.

A dog in pain may sleep more than usual, or they may not be able to go to sleep or get enough sleep. Sometimes when a dog sleeps more than usual, they could be trying to heal themselves from their pain.

How Can You Tell if Your Cat is in Pain? how to tell if my cat is in pain

Cats are known for hiding when they feel sick, and it is often difficult to tell when they are in pain. There may be subtle changes in their behavior, therefore it is good to be observant. Some of the signs your cat could be in pain include the following:

Limping or Difficulty with Movement

Cats who limp often feel pain due to injury, inflammation, or arthritis. Many people do not think that cats suffer from arthritis, but that is not true. If a cat has arthritis, they may demonstrate overall stiffness or discomfort and avoidance of activity.

If this is the case, your cat may be moving slower than usual. They may also have difficulty jumping or may not want to jump at all. These are both signs of arthritis in cats. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones deteriorates.  This leads to pain, inflammation, and limited mobility from the bones rubbing together.

Like dogs, cats may also have difficulty walking up the stairs and may not be interested in playing like they usually do. Sometimes when a cat experiences an injury in their joints, it can cause arthritis.

Different or Unusual Posture

A cat experiencing pain may stand with their front limbs back under their chest to take the weight off their hips or rear limbs. When in a lying position, they may fold their legs underneath them instead of stretching out on the side of their body.

They may sit in a hunched or defensive position having their back curved higher than usual. They will sometimes lower their head and have their front paws resting underneath them.

Vocalizing More than Normal

If a cat is crying or meowing excessively, they may be experiencing pain. They could be trying to ask for help and are crying to get your attention. Sometimes cats will meow very loudly when sitting in their litter pan.

Crying in the litter pan can be due to pain from a urinary obstruction or from arthritis pain.  To alleviate arthritis pain in the litter box, use low sided litter boxes for easy access.  You can also remove the litterbox top for easier movement in the litter box.

Atypical Aggression

why is my cat hissing

If your typically gentle and loving cat suddenly turns into a hisser, it could be due to them experiencing pain. They may growl or hiss if they are approached or even express distrust toward you. They may not want to be pet or held.

If your cat has suffered from an injury or suffers from chronic pain, they may become irritable or aggressive. They may also not allow you to brush their hair or comb them and they may become hostile when there is any attempt to groom them.

What Are Some Preventative Measures You Can Take?

You should ensure that your cat or dog gets the nutrition they require to be healthy and active.

Obesity and weight management significantly impacts your pets’ pain associated with arthritis.  Prescription diets can promote healthy weight loss and provide additional supplements to help with arthritis pain and inflammation.  Regular veterinary visits can help diagnosis your pet’s arthritis and help maintain a healthy treatment protocol. Your veterinarian can perform the necessary bloodwork and tests to determine the source of your pet’s pain.

If your pet demonstrates arthritis, there are daily and monthly medications that they can prescribe for your pet. Dietary supplements, diet, and supportive medical care can help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with your pet’s arthritis. Never medicate your pet with human-grade medication; leave it to the veterinarian to prescribe prescriptions to your pet.


The most terrible thing for a pet parent is seeing your fur baby in pain. Our pets cannot tell us what is wrong, so we need to be observant so we know when they need our help. Luckily, your veterinarian can provide a variety of options to help your pet live a happy, comfortable life in spite of their arthritis diagnosis.

For pet parents in the Raleigh, NC area, Bowman Animal Hospital and Cat Clinic is here to treat your cat or dog if they are in pain. Give us a call at 919-847-6216 or make an appointment today!

Recent Posts


Managing Cat and Dog Anxiety During the Holidays

Managing Cat and Dog Anxiety During the Holidays Let’s face it: our pets are part of our…

Read More

Managing and Treating Joint Pain in Senior Pets 

Managing and Treating Joint Pain in Senior Pets November is Senior Pet Month, and it’s the purr-fect…

Read More
canine influenza symptoms dog flu in raleigh, nc

Dog Flu: Recognizing Canine Influenza Symptoms and Care Tips 

Dog Flu: Recognizing Canine Influenza Symptoms and Care Tips  We know you consider your furry family members…

Read More
cat drooling in raleigh, nc

Cat Drooling: What Cat Owners Need to Know 

Cat Drooling: What Cat Owners Need to Know  When it comes to our feline friends, a little…

Read More
why is my cat sneezing so much raleigh nc

Why is My Cat Sneezing So Much in Raleigh, NC?

Why is My Cat Sneezing So Much in Raleigh, NC? Like us humans, sometimes our pets sneeze…

Read More

About Bowman Animal Hospital & Cat Clinic

Established in 1986 by Dr. Gale Bowman, Bowman Animal Hospital and Cat Clinic is dedicated solely to the health and well-being of our pet community. We are a team of compassionate veterinarians and pet lovers who invest our time and resources into providing the very best medical care to your pet.