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Severe pain in pets


  • If your pet is in pain, contact your vet. If they are in severe pain, it could be an emergency. Severe pain often indicates a serious problem, even if it the cause isn’t obvious.
  • Signs of severe pain include crying, hissing/growling or protecting a part of the body.

First aid

Stay calm

  • Reassure your pet with a soothing voice.

Protect yourself

  • Even the friendliest pet can scratch or bite if they are in pain.
  • If necessary, use a muzzle or towel to protect yourself but never use a muzzle if your pet is struggling to breathe or have an injury on their face.

Move your pet to a safe space

  • Make sure both you and your pet are safe, and if necessary, gently move them.
  • If necessary, use a blanket, board or towel to help move them.

Call your vet

  • Call your vet for advice.

If your pet has a life-threatening problem

  • Such as trouble breathing or heavy bleeding, take them to your vet as soon as possible.
  • Call your vet while you are on your way to let them know you are coming.


Severe pain is usually obvious, but some pets try to hide it as much as they can. Some of the common symptoms of being in pain include:

  • Crying
  • Rapid breathing
  • Lying very still/being rigid
  • Protecting an area of their body
  • Growling or hissing, especially when touched
  • Tooth grinding (especially rabbits)
  • Wide pupils

Possible causes

There are many different things that can cause pain including:

Published: May 2020

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.