Why Does My Senior Dog Groan A Lot?

Dogs don’t actually moan out of pain – they don’t want to tell their predators about their weakness. (Dogs are not only hunters but also prey animals. They are eaten by larger predators, e.g. regularly by tigers and leopards in India.) However, a low moaning or grumbling can also occur when there is pain.

If your dog regularly moans or sighs when it lies down – if it always has, even as a puppy, then it’s just going to be a “personal quirk”. Even dogs can sigh contentedly when they have found the perfect position. For some, it sounds more like grunts or moans. And also, when dogs dream, some of them make noises: a soft bark, woofing, or even a real hounding sound when the dream rabbit runs away from them.

The age of the dog is also important for assessing moaning in dogs: different diseases come into question in a puppy than in an adult. It looks different with a dog senior. Does the dog moan when it lies down to rest? When he gets up again after a long period of rest? Or does your dog moan in his sleep? If he’s lying on his back with all four legs in the air, it’s more likely to be his individual version of a comfortable sigh. If he groans when lying down, the suspicion of pain increases.

Groaning in the adult dog

There are other causes of moaning in adult dogs.

  • Osteoarthritis can start early. If the dog regularly licks one spot, a leg, joint, a specific paw, it can indicate pain.
  • Muscle overload can also start early and lead to pain.
  • Abdominal pain in the broadest sense can make the dog groan when lying down. Because the internal (abdominal) organs change their position when lying down or there is pressure from below.
  • Back pain can also make a dog moan. A vertebral blockage or general pain in a segment of the body (an area supplied by the spinal cord nerves) always affects the painful musculoskeletal system.

Again, it depends on the situation. A satisfied sigh can sound like a dog’s moan. But it can also actually be a pain-related moan.

Groaning in the old dog

Quite a few aging dogs and senior dogs moan when they lie down. Unfortunately, damage to the musculoskeletal system accumulates over the course of an active dog’s life. Stiff muscles hurt. Tendons are not as supple as they were when we were younger. Joints react painfully to overload …

  • According to a study by Swedish osteopaths, almost 2/3 of all dogs showed back pain on examination. (Anders Hallgren: back problems in dogs: investigation report, Animal Learn Verlag 2003). In my practice, it is almost 100% of the dogs that we find with back pain. About as many dogs suffer from back pain as their humans. Back pain can be treated well and successfully.
  • Due to the segmental structure of the spine with the nerves that emerge after each vertebra, every vertebral blockage leads to an irritated nerve – and every nerve that is irritated by the disease of an internal organ leads to a disorder in the segment of the spine. In the course of a dog’s life, a lot of tiny injuries accumulate, which lead to damage to the spine. Acupuncture is a very good treatment option here.
  • Hip dysplasia leads to the overloading of other parts of the body due to lifelong protective posture. Unfortunately, the biomechanics cannot be tricked: If more weight is shifted forward because the hind legs cannot work as they should, then this has consequences. Painful consequences for the dog. Here, consistent and at the same time, well-tolerated therapy should not be delayed. Even if an emergency operation is required, a dog with HD can grow old happily – if the pain is treated consistently.
  • Osteoarthritis of the knee and torn cruciate ligaments are other causes of a dog groaning when lying down. Because now the large joints, i.e. knees and hips, have to be bent as much as possible.
  • But painful diseases of the internal organs can still lead to moaning in senior dogs.

All in all, it has to be said that moaning when lying down or changing position during sleep can be a sign of pain in a dog – but it doesn’t have to be. Much depends on the situation. Anyone who is unsure should consult a therapist who examines the body with “instinct” and is familiar with the physique and movement patterns of the different races. Because a Chihuahua walks and moves differently than a dachshund, than a pointer, than a German shepherd, than a Newfoundland – and each has their own weaknesses.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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