Many owners do not realize that their pet’s behavior changes are linked to pain.  Following are the top 5 signs that may indicate your pet is suffering from chronic pain.  If you see some, or many, of these in your pet, call your veterinarian to discuss these signs of pain and control measures.


Decreased Activity & Exercise Intolerance 

Does your dog not want to go on long walks or go with less enthusiasm than he or she used to?  Is your dog or cat lying around more than usual?

This slowing down is not necessarily a normal aging process; these changes could be caused by one or several medical conditions that warrant a veterinary visit

Ask yourself:

  • Has your pet been more or less active lately?
  • Are the distance, speed, and number of walks the same as usual?


Changes in Daily Living Activities

Have you noticed any changes in your pet’s routine activities? The important point is whether the pet has stopped doing anything he or she used to do.

Think about these activities:

  • Has the amount of grooming decreased? (particularly for cats)
  • Is your pet no longer jumping into the car or onto furniture?
  • Is your pet reluctant or refusing to go up and down stairs?
  • Has getting up become more challenging for your pet?
  • Does your pet no longer routinely stretch after getting up?
  • Is your pet interacting less with you and/or other pets?


Inappropriate Elimination

Dogs and cats eliminate inappropriately for many reasons. Talk to your veterinarian to differentiate behavior problems from medical conditions.  This is important because there are different appropriate treatments for medical vs. behavioral conditions.  Treating the wrong condition and not resolving the inappropriate elimination can be very trying on the entire family.

  • Dogs and cats may defecate and/or urinate in the house because they hurt too much to walk to their favorite elimination spot, to squeeze through the dog or cat door, or to navigate the steps or entrance.
  • Dogs may defecate as they walk because they have painful hind-end conditions that do not allow them to posture normally.
  • Cats may start eliminating outside the litter box because they have a painful orthopedic condition that makes climbing into the litter box too difficult.

Ask yourself:

  • Does your pet posture normally to urinate and defecate?
  • Have your pet’s elimination habits changed? Is your cat eliminating outside the litter box? or Is your dog urinating and/or defecating inappropriately?



Is your pet:

  • Walking with a different gait
  • Favoring one limb (i.e., lifting one or several limbs)
  • Unable to stand in one place for a long time
  • Appearing to walk on eggs
  • Shifting weight to one side or from front to back when standing

Any of these changes could be caused by joint pain.

Ask yourself:

  • Have you noticed your pet favoring or lifting one or several limbs while sitting or standing?
  • Did you notice a gait change such as skipping or hopping?
  • Have you noticed a change in posture such as stiffness or hunching over when your pet is standing?



Some pets in pain may try to protect a painful body part by growling, snapping at, or biting other pets or humans when they are approached or petted; another sign that some people may mistake for a behavior issue.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your pet growling, snapping, or biting when someone approaches a certain body region?
  • Is your pet unusually aggressive when playing with other pets?