As pet owners, we are our pet's strongest advocates. That is why it is so important to understand our pet's communication and behavioral habits. By getting to know our pet's communication styles, we can better identify when our pet is in pain. September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so we wanted to take this opportunity to educate our clients on signs of discomfort in pets. Below, you can find 5 major signs of pain in pets, as told by our vet near Tucson. Keep reading to learn more about how you can identify pain in your pet.

Decreased Appetite

A decreased appetite is one of the first things pet owners notice when their pet is experiencing a health issue. If your pet refuses to take their regular food, or even their most prized treat, there is probably a reason. Our pets love to eat, so any refusal of food should be taken seriously. If this goes on for the whole day, your pet may be experiencing a stomach ache or they may have an intestinal blockage. They may also have a dental health issue and could be experiencing pain in their mouth. If your pet won't take food for several hours, you need to call our vet near Tucson and come in for a check-up. Refusal to eat is not always due to pain, but it could also be a sign that your pet is uncomfortable.

Change in Gait

Some joint pain or injuries may cause your pet to change their posture or their walking style. It can be challenging to notice your pet's change of pace because they may still be generally active and look comfortable moving. However, a change in gait could be a sign of a serious problem developing in your pet's paws or limbs. Tell our vet near Tucson if you notice your pet babying any one paw or if they seem to favor one side. This change in posture or gait could be nothing, but it could be an early sign of a more serious health issue. We may be able to recommend some pain management or physical therapy to help ease your pet's discomfort.


While our pets do require a lot of sleep throughout the day, consistent lethargy could be a sign of an unhealthy animal. If your pet is in pain, they may sleep more often to try and ease their discomfort. Several underlying health issues can cause lethargy, so try to monitor how much sleep your pet is getting all day. If your pet seems to be moving slowly, avoiding activity, or if they are generally less motivated, there may be an underlying issue. Lethargy is often accompanied by other symptoms of discomfort, so keep an eye out for your pet's behavior day-to-day.

Antisocial and Submissive Behavior

One of the first signs that something may be wrong with your pet is decreased social interaction. Your pet may not feel up to socializing if they are feeling ill or uncomfortable. If you notice that your pet isn't getting up to greet guests, they aren't playing with their toys, or they tend to hang on the sidelines, there may be something going on. Anti-social behavior is a common sign of a sick or uncomfortable pet. Submissive behavior like laying belly-up, avoiding eye-contact, and keeping their head down could all be signs of a pet that isn't feeling their most confident. A sick or uncomfortable dog may act more submissive to let you know that they need your assistance. If you believe your pet is behaving out of character, or if they seem to be low-energy, bring them in for a check-up. We can give them a thorough examination to see if there is anything going on.

Excessive Grooming

Pets like to groom themselves just to stay comfortable and clean, but excessive grooming could be their way of trying to manage pain or illness. Frequently chewing their fur or licking themselves could be them trying to comfort themselves and reduce irritation. This behavior could be a sign of a skin allergy, a reaction to their soap, a UTI, or another underlying health issue. If your pet seems to be constantly grooming themselves, talk to our vet near Tucson. Frequent chewing or scratching could lead to your pet injuring themselves, so you want to really keep an eye out for frequent grooming. A simple change in their daily routine or an adjustment to their diet may be a simple fix to some skin allergies. Talk to our team to learn more about why your pet may be uncomfortable in their own fur.

It is important to understand the communication differences in cats vs. dogs because they may exhibit discomfort differently. Cats tend to hide their illness a bit better than dogs, so you'll need to be more proactive when monitoring their health. If you are a pet parent to a cat, make sure you keep an eye out to their daily habits and behavior for signs of discomfort. It can be hard to notice if your cat is in pain, so bring them in for a visit if you suspect something is wrong. We can give them a physical examination or bloodwork to see if something might be wrong. Discomfort in dogs will most likely be easier to identify because your dog will want to alert you to it. Dogs naturally want to communicate and connect with their owners, so just monitor their behavior for any irregularities.

Not all pain is obvious, so it can be very difficult to identify when your pet is experiencing discomfort. Discomfort can't always be attributed to old age or slowing down, and in fact some pain can be due to underlying health issues. Understanding the signs that your pet is uncomfortable can alert you to a possible underlying health concern that you should be aware of. Pain is not always a given even as your pet gets older. There are so many ways that we can help treat your pet's discomfort so that they can live a more comfortable and fulfilling life, well into their senior years. Call our vet near Tucson to learn more about pain management for your furry friend.