How Do You Know if Your Dog is in Pain?

Joint pain secondary to arthritis is arguably one of the most common sources of pain in older dogs. But, because pet owners may not recognize the signs of joint pain, not all dogs are getting the treatment they need.

Certain signs, such as limping, yelping or holding a foot up can be obvious. But there are many other signs that dogs use to let us know they are hurting. Noticing these signs will allow you to provide better care for your dog, get veterinary attention earlier and can even help your veterinarian pinpoint the source of pain.

Signs Your Dog is Most Likely Suffering From Joint Pain
  • Holds one foot up
  • Stiff or slow to rise in the morning, but gets better after moving around
  • Stiff or limps after heavy exercise
  • Stiff or limps when it’s cold outside
  • Can’t/won’t jump into the car anymore
  • Has difficulty going up or down stairs
  • Has swollen joints
  • Has a crunchy sensation you can feel when you touch a joint (elbow, knee, etc.) that is being flexed or extended (your doctor will call this “crepitus”)
  • Has muscle loss, especially in the back legs
  • Has decreased range of motion: can’t flex or bend a joint as far
  • Has difficulty rising from a resting position, pulls self up with front legs: sign of pain in the hindlimbs
  • Sits with one leg out to the side (especially with knee pain)
  • Is bunny hopping or has an otherwise altered gait
Signs Your Dog Might Be Suffering From Joint Pain
  • Exhibits a general decrease in activity or exercise
  • Reluctant to walk, run, climb, jump, or play
  • Lags behind on walks or can’t walk as before
  • Experiences sensitivity when touched
  • Yelps or whimpers without an apparent cause
  • Experiences changes in personality, such as acting aggressive or withdrawn
  • Seems more grumpy
  • Flattens ears against head
  • Licks the affected area
  • Has difficulty getting comfortable
  • Experiences changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Seems lazy, sleeps a lot
  • Acts depressed or slow
  • Has a decreased appetite
  • Doesn’t enjoy the same activities as before (walks, fetch, tug-of-war, etc.)
  • No longer greets you at the door

Dog in Pain


If you notice any of these signs, there is a good chance your dog is suffering from joint pain and/or another disease condition. Make an appointment with your local veterinarian to discuss your concerns and learn about ways to help your dog live pain-free.


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