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  • Jo De Klerk

    How Do I Know If My Stoic Dog Is In Pain?

    My Collie is the most stoic dog ever. How do I know if he is uncomfortable if he never yelps or demonstrates that he is in pain? – Judy

    I can completely relate to your problem, Judy. Part of my line of work as a vet is to understand how comfortable my patients are. It’s particularly hard, because they can’t tell me where it hurts, and it is even harder when they are stoic, and won’t give me any indication at all. But there are some tell-tale signs to look out for, which even stoic dogs will demonstrate if they are in pain.

    A Change In Breathing

    Dogs in pain generally breathe at a faster rate. This can be shallow, or it can be panting. People often mistake it for their dog feeling hot or worn out, but it should not be forgotten that pain often causes this symptom.

    Behaviour Changes

    These can be changes such as increased aggression, avoiding affection, reacting when picked up, or generally being quieter than usual.

    Poor Coat Quality

    Sometimes when a dog is in pain or unwell, their coat becomes duller and greasier. This can be because of a lack of grooming, or because of internal ill-health.

    Struggling To Settle

    Lying down in a comfortable position can be a struggle for a dog in pain. You are likely to see him circle round and round before lying down, and once he’s down, it won’t be long before he’s up again.


    One of the most common indications that somewhere is sore, is obsessive licking of the area. Dogs find comfort in licking areas of pain, whether the pain originates from the skin, musculoskeletal system or internal organs.

    Difficulty Passing Stools

    If your dog suffers from either back or hip pain, squatting to pass stools can be very uncomfortable. They may avoid passing a motion because of the pain, and as a result become constipated, or they may get themselves into an awkward position to do their business.

    What it comes down to, in stoic dogs, is to just know your dog very well and be on the lookout for subtle signs. If your dog is painful, they may show all, some or none of these symptoms, but if you’re in doubt, it is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt and getting a vet to check him over.

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    Jo De Klerk

    Jo is a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College, London. She has a Masters degree in Tropical Animal Health, and has spent most of her career working in mixed veterinary practice.

    Recently, she has become involved in one of the UK’s fastest growing veterinary telemedicine services for dogs and cats.

    She is a published author of several books, and enjoys working as a freelance veterinary writer around her clinical work.

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