VCA Grossmont Animal Hospital
Published: Oct 23, 2012

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If you're a dog owner, chances are you've had an experience that made you wish your dog could talk. Perhaps you forgot to feed her and she was unable to tell you, or maybe she was worried about another member of the family, but couldn't express herself. While it's unlikely that your dog will ever be able to form words, there are many ways canines communicate their emotions and thoughts. Knowing how to interpret your pet's body language will make it easier for you to understand her needs and wants.

It's more than just a wag
Perhaps the most clear indicator of your dog's mood is her tail. While some people may think that a wagging tail is a surefire sign of happiness, the way in which the tail wags can tell you more, according to An elevated tail, which you'll often see when out on walks, means that the dog is feeling confident. If you see your dog wagging her tail with her entire body, what may look like wiggling, it means she is quite happy. However, if your dog is wagging only her tail and not the rest of the body, it may mean that she is feeling anxious, interested, aggressive, or pensive. A tail between the legs can mean your dog is afraid.

When your dog speaks
Dogs make lots of noises, and each one can signify something different. A growl is easy to understand - it is a warning. When your dog whines, she is basically saying "I want." You may hear this when you're offering her a treat, and canines who suffer from separation anxiety in dogs will also frequently whine when their owner leaves the house. If you see your pet yawning with vocalization, or giving out a high pitched bark, it's likely that she is excited.

Keep an eye on the face
Your dog's face and the position of her head can also be indicative of how she's feeling, according to Modern Dog Magazine. A dog who puts her ears back, wrinkles her nose, shows her teeth and raises her hackles is likely fearful or angry. If your canine is doing this too often, it could be an indication of dog aggression, and you may want to speak to your vet about curbing this behavior.

Recognize warning signs
Some body language may indicate pain in dogs or other dog emergencies that require medical attention. If your canine is limping or favoring a part of her body, experiencing rapid panting, cowering or suddenly acting much less active than she normally does, it's essential that you get her to a vet clinic right away.


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:


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Emergency Care

IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY AFTER NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS: Please call the following emergency hospitals immediately:

Pet Emergency and Specialty Center
5232 Jackson Drive ● Suite 105 ● La Mesa, CA 91942 ● Phone: 619-462-4800

VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center
2317 Hotel Circle South ● San Diego, CA 92108 ● Phone: 619-299-2400