Changes in behaviour are usually the most obvious sign to an owner that your cat or dog is in pain. They may stop usual behaviours or adopt new ones.

Pain in Dogs

  • More subdued, depressed
  • Or more anxious and attention seeking
  • Reduced appetite or picky with food. Possibly reduced water intake
  • Less active in general
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Change in gait pattern e.g stiffness, head bobbing, scuffing feet.
  • Unable to do activities they could normally do e.g. jump in the car, climb stairs
  • Change in body position they choose to sit/lie in. May be that they remain in this position to avoid moving and causing further pain.
  • Less interactive with people/ occurrences going on around them
  • Reduced play behaviour
  • Unsettled or restless- may move around a lot trying to get comfortable.
  • Change in posture- Hunched in abdominal/spinal pain; head held down with neck pain.
  • Pacing behaviour- common with abdominal pain
  • Becoming more vocal- whimpers, crying, groaning, barking, growling
  • Licking, biting certain areas of the body.
  • Reduced stretching.
  • Does not shake any more when wet.
  • Guarding particular areas of their body so you can not touch that area
  • Flinches when touched
  • Whimpers, cries, pulls away when an area of their body is touched.
  • Droopy eyes, worried facial expression (arched eyebrows, darting eyes), ears back
  • Weak tail wag, low tail carriage- maybe no longer wags his or her tail
  • Reduced weight bearing on a limb(s), lameness
  • Trembling, shaking.
  • Reluctant to respond when beckoned
  • Aggression possible
  • Physiological changes: increase in repiratory rate, increase in heart rate
  • Dull coat

Pain in Cats

  • Unsettled
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Less active i.e. no movement when not sleeping.
  • Decreased or picky appetite, decreased water consumption
  • Resents handling
  • Less interested in surroundings
  • Unusually quiet or alternatively a normally quiet cat becomes aggressive.
  • More vocal: hissing, growling
  • Seeking solitude, hiding in darkened areas around the house
  • Stay curled or tucked up. Not resting in usual position.
  • Body position changes: hunched in abdominal, spinal pain.
  • Reduced stretching.
  • Twitching along back when touched with spinal pain.
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Limping (lameness), stiff.
  • Hair coat may become rough
  • May intensively groom painful areas e.g abdomen, caudal areas of hindlimbs, tail base.
  • May hold body rigid when touched
  • Weak tail wag, low tail carriage
  • Twitch tail when agitated
  • Will growl, hiss or pull away if painful areas are touched
  • Furrowed brow, ears pinned back, squinting of eyes
  • Loss of brightness in eyes
  • Increased purring when lying down- purring does not mean they are content.
  • Reduced ability to jump up on high areas they usually are able too.
  • Decreased height when jumping.
  • Inappropriate elimination: Urination in areas outside of the litter box
  • Aggression and howling in severe pain
  • When pain becomes more severe they will become less responsive to surroundings and potentially more receptive to touch.
  • Physiological changes in cats: increased respiratory rate, increased heart rate