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Silent pain in dogs – Spot the signs!

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

All dogs age! It is a natural process that starts to occur when a dog reaches the peak of their physical development. This creates the impression that it is inevitable, we cannot do anything about it. Therefore, acceptance is perfectly reasonable. However, part of the problem with acceptance is that the misinterpreted signs of aging such as, slowing down on walks, becoming stiffer, postural changes and reluctance to partake in activities can often be the first signs of silent pain.

Free Muscular health check

In my last blog 'The Harsh Reality!' I explained the harsh realities of silent pain and how a free muscular health check by a skilled therapist of the Canine Massage Guild is the only way you can be sure of identifying silent pain in your dog. These checks need to be done frequently because so many of your dog’s Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) can cause silent pain. This includes, sleeping in an awkward position, slipping on laminated flooring, boisterous play, a misjudged jump onto/off something. The list is endless!

But how can you (the pet parent) identify if your dog is in silent pain?

You (the pet parent) are in the best possible position to look for subtle signs of discomfort in your dog. But how do you know what signs to lookout for? How do you distinguish between a dog that is showing subtle signs of aging or a dog that has developed a new habit? It really is quite simple!

Get into the habit of closely observing your dog!

I cannot stress this enough!

Once a week dedicate a few minutes of your time simply watching your dog!

This might be when your dog is quietly pottering around the garden, relaxing in the house, or doing their favourite activity. Observe, how does your dog stand, sit, lie down? How do they behave? How do they move? It may be useful to, take pictures, keep a diary or jot down anything of note.

Do you notice any of the following?


You can tell a lot abut the way your dog looks!

Coat Changes – Did you know that coat changes in your dog can be the result of underlying soft tissue dysfunction? Have you noticed any new flicks, swirls, changes in direction? Is the coat rough, dry, thickened or bald in certain areas? Read my blog Silent Pain in Dogs - Coat Changes to discover more.

Nails - Is there uneven nail wear i.e. nails shorter on one side than the other?

Proportions - Is there muscle wastage (atrophy)? Are the muscles even and balanced on both sides of the body?


Look for very subtle changes in your dog’s posture including the way they stand, sit and lie down.

Standing – Are the wrists turned out in a ten-to-two position? Are the elbows braced or abducted from the body? Does your dog stand with their hindlegs tucked underneath them or extend away from them? Is your dog equal weight bearing or do they shift one leg further back, alter their stance or favour a leg? Is the back roached/swayed/curved? Does the pelvis drop away?

Lying down – Can your dog lie down on both sides evenly or is one side more comfortable than the other? Do they always lie in a certain position or find it difficult to lie in others? Do they struggle getting up from resting?

Sit – Does your dog sit square, or do they look crooked? Do they throw a leg out or sit with their pelvis underneath them?

Tail & Head carriage – Is the head carriage low or tilted? Does the tail look limp or is it held to one side?


Lookout for very subtle changes in your dog’s behaviour. Anything that is different from normal no matter how insignificant it may seem. Lookout for,

· Any sense that something is not quite right.

· An increase in your dog’s reactivity or aggression towards other dogs

· A reluctance to be petted/touched/groomed/examined

· A reduction in play behaviour or not wanting to play

· Depression – an animal suffering with silent pain day-to-day, over a long period will appear withdrawn and disinterested in life

· A reluctance to jump up on the sofa, bed or into the car

· New behaviours such as frequently rolling on their back, scratching or excessive licking/nibbling of their extremities.


Look for changes in how your dog moves. These changes can be very subtle and develop over a long period of time making signs very difficult to identify. Lookout for,

· Reduced range of movement

· Any signs of slowness or stiffness when moving or getting up/down

· Slowing down on walks

· Unusual gait patterns i.e. hopping, skipping, pacing, throwing a leg, single tracking, crabbing

· Flickering or twitching of the skin

· Intermittent lameness

· Not stretching or stretching a lot

· Unable to do a vigorous shake from the nose through to the tail.

Still unsure if your dog has silent pain?

Are you unsure if your dog has sustained an injury? Are you wondering if your dog is in discomfort? Do you think that something isn't' quite right but you just cannot put your finger on it?

I am now offering "Hands Off Assessments" for your canine companion!

Book a 45 minute online chat with me to discuss subtle changes in your dog which may indicate discomfort or injury. You will be able to share videos and photos you have taken of your dog along with any concerns you may have. We will also discuss many simple, lifestyle and environmental changes and improvements you can make to prevent injury, reduce pain and enhance the well-being of your beloved dog. Book Here

How can Clinical Canine Massage Therapy reduce Silent Pain?

In the autumn of 2018, the Canine Massage Guild made history when both Sparsholt and Winchester universities conducted the first ever in-depth clinical trials on the efficacy of clinical canine massage therapy and specifically, the Lenton Method (a 3-tired approach to the evaluation, treatment and re-evaluation of the canine patient who presents with soft tissue or musculoskeletal injuries and/or degenerative disease like osteoarthritis).

The study ‘Effect of massage therapy on pain and quality of life in dogs: A cross-sectional study’ (Riley, Satchell et al, 2021) showed,

95% of dogs respond positively to clinical canine massage therapy!

The dog’s pain severity significantly reduced after just one massage therapy session and continued to significantly reduce with each subsequent treatment.

There are so many other benefits too!

So owners can be assured that Clinical Canine Massage Therapy has a rational, scientific basis and is justified and effective when used for musculoskeletal pain and mobility issues.

Don’t delay get in touch with your local Clinical Canine Massage Therapist today!

Your dog will thank you for it!

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