The subtler warning signs that your dog is in pain

yawning can be a sign of pain

We all can tell that a yelping, limping dog is in pain – but not all dogs show pain so clearly. Anna Webb, a canine nutrition and behaviour expert who hosts the award nominated A Dog’s Life podcast, explains what are the subtler signs that your dog may be in pain…

I find so many owners are oblivious to the subtle signs dogs give us, so that messages get lost in translation. Dogs are masters at trying to disguise pain, so it’s about observing your dog, getting to know your dog overtime to recognise when they are trying to tell you something in dog language. Discomfort in dogs like us isn’t always physical, and can be emotional. An awareness that dogs can smell our stress and moods, which can influence how they are feeling, and how their mood affects any underlying health conditions.

There are so many ways that we help our dogs lead a happier and more comfortable life day to day, such as supplements like Pawable Collar-Gen, and Calming, which contain active ingredients to help keep your pet pain free, both physically and emotionally. Just as collagen depletes in humans as we age, the same is true in dogs, and collagen is an important structural protein for joints, skin and digestion. Calming contains a combination of active anti-inflammatory ingredients, like omegas, turmeric, and thyme, to help battle inflammatory conditions like arthritis.

Subtle signs that your dog may be in pain include:


This is a signatory calming signal. Whilst the context for all dogs’ body language is important to consider, yawning is rarely a sign that your dog is tired. Very often it’s your dog saying in dog language that they are uncomfortable. They might be overwhelmed by a situation, it could be indicating some pain if out walking or it’s an indicator of being stressed out, perhaps in a crowded busy environment.

Chewing and licking their paws

This could be a behaviour that’s become habitual, a bit like humans biting their fingernails. Chewing and licking is a compulsive behaviour that can be triggered by stress or anxiety, and becomes a learned reaction to a trigger such as being left alone.

It can begin by your dog having itchy feet triggered by environmental stressors like grasses, or chemicals on pavements, floor cleaning products. It could be a nagging aching pain from stiff or arthritic joints in their toes, or their wrists. The nibbling of their paw pads could be caused by small grazes in the paw pads that are sore, and can become more sensitive as the dog continues to lick and nibble their paws obsessively.


Out on a walk your dog might have a hunched top line, their tail carriage might be low. Their head low and their ears might be pinned back. Their eyes might also be wider than normal. This could indicate a tummy upset, or just having a bad day. But combining these signs with a reluctance to climb stairs, jump in the car, or jump on the sofa might be signs that your dog is showing signs of physical pain and mobility issues. These could be caused by arthritis, a torn muscle, or  soft tissue damage, or a graze that’s become infected.

Physical signs

Trembling when it’s not cold, lip licking away from mealtimes, head turning away from you not wanting to hold your gaze is a sign they are trying to tell you that something isn’t right. Sudden panting when it’s not hot is a sign of pain and or feeling stressed by a situation. Behaviours can change when your dog isn’t feeling well.

Perhaps being a bit snappy that’s out of character. Perhaps they might want to retreat to their dog bed and be alone. They might become picky with their food, and less willing to engage or play a game with you. They may suddenly become more vocal, and sensitive to environmental noise triggers: builders, traffic; other dogs. They may want to sleep more in the day, and be less attention seeking.

This is a guest essay by Anna Webb. Want to write for us? Visit or email


  1. My two senior king Charles spaniels are now reluctant to get out of the car and when I lift them out they stand firm and won’t move..
    Could it be the wet cold weather?
    Or are they bored with the same walk area?


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