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A photo of a dog that commonly moans and groans because he is old

Understanding A Moaning Dog: Decoding Dog Moans And Groans

Grunts, whimpers, and whines are only among the many familiar sounds your dog may express. Hearing a moaning dog may be difficult and worrying for owners. As responsible pet owners, we must understand their needs and respond appropriately.

In this article, we will explore why dogs may moan and how to know when to make an appointment to visit your veterinarian.

Why Do Dogs Moan And Groan?

Dogs make a lot of intriguing vocalizations and other dog sounds, but what does it mean when your dog moans? It depends on the circumstances and pitch.

Low-pitched moans usually mean relaxation. On the other hand, high-pitched moans may mean your dog is trying to show excitement during playtime. Alternatively, if a dog is injured or experiencing discomfort, it may make high-pitched moans to express pain.

Many dogs start to groan more as they age, their joints ache, and they begin to feel uncomfortable. You'll notice the moaning when they stand, lie, or stretch.

Your four-legged friend can also groan more when he's tired and sleepy. Moaning during sleep usually means there's a dream happening.

A tired dog groaning on a sofa

Many dogs also groan with pleasure, like when you scratch them on the head or belly.

If your dog is also groaning or making amusing noises while you are petting them, they express joy and want you to continue.

Is Dog Groaning A Sign Of Pain Or Discomfort?

Dogs can moan for various reasons. It can be a sign of pain, discomfort, or anxiety, but it's not always the case. 

Don't ignore your dog when you think they're experiencing pain. Most of the time, their body language cues, such as tail wagging or panting, to interpret the meaning of the moaning. 

Additionally, age, breed, and personality factors can influence why a dog moans.

When To Be Concerned When Your Dog Is Moaning

A moaning sound from your pet may not be an immediate cause for concern. However, if you find your dog making strange noises or groaning while he is lying, they might be in pain, and there may be health issues or medical conditions that they need help with.

Reasons your dog is groaning when they are not well:


Joint pain can make moving around difficult for your pet, resulting in howling or groaning. This is most common in elderly dogs, so if you see your pet having difficulty climbing stairs, limping, or showing reluctance to walk, jump, or play, it might be a good time to visit the veterinarian so they can give them treatment options.


This is a condition where fluid builds up in your dog's abdomen and can cause swelling and pain for them.

Many dogs communicate that something's wrong by making strange noises.

Our four-legged friends like us can also experience acid reflux or gastric ulcers. In these cases, it is best to consult a veterinarian. They can recommend treatment options to alleviate your dog's source of pain.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is also one of the top reasons why a dog barks, groans, moans, or gives a long sigh.

When this happens, encourage them to relax on their own time and leave a special toy they can play with inside the house whenever you're not with them.

Getting a dog sitter is also a good option to minimize separation anxiety. Learn more about professional dog sitters here.

Puppy Growing Pains

Growing pains affect not just puppies but human children as well.

This is when your puppy's bones grow faster than its body can keep up. Any puppy under two years of age can have this problem, but the good news is that it does not last forever.

They Are Just A Vocal Breed

Some dog breeds sigh or groan because they are vocal breeds. Siberian Huskies, like wolves, tend to howl to signal their location to their pack.

They Might Be Sensing Some Danger

Dogs, unlike humans, seem to have some sixth sense when it comes to sensing danger.

They might moan and groan to get your attention. They may be smelling something or hearing something they are worried about.

Observe your dog's body language and attend to whatever concerns them or makes them uncomfortable.

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Why Does My Dog Roll Around In Stinky Stuff?

  A dog rolling around in stinky grass


It's confusing to us when our pups enjoy rolling around in garbage, poop, and even roadkill.

Why do they do it…and like it so much? Dogs are highly tuned in to scents, and what may smell disgusting to us could smell just interesting to them.

Some experts think it's a leftover behavior from their hunting days, as a way to camouflage their scent.

Others think that when dogs encounter a strong smell, they instinctively try to scent mark the area with their scent, rolling around to ensure it sticks. 

Why Does My Dog Eat Rocks?

  A golden retriever dog eating rocks on a beach

Dogs eat a lot of weird things, but biting and chewing on rocks is a particularly puzzling behavior to humans. Adult dogs can do it, but it's more common with puppies.

Puppies, in particular, will chew on rocks out of boredom, frustration, the need to chew, or to seek attention. An underlying medical condition may also lead to rock chewing.

Biting and swallowing rocks is not healthy for your dog to be doing. It's a good idea to provide many different chew toy alternatives for puppies to chew on and limit their access to rocks as much as possible.

Take your adult dog for a check-up at the vet if rock-eating is a new behavior.

Check out our article on what your dog thinks about to learn more

Why Does My Dog Stare Or Bark At The Wall?

  A dog staring at a wall


Many dog owners notice their dogs will spend minutes staring or barking at nothing. Does your house have ghosts? Probably not.

Your dog may see something you don't, but a more common cause is cognitive dysfunction, which can occur in aging dogs.

Older dogs can stare at nothing, or some random object, for no apparent reason.

If you notice this behavior and other symptoms such as confusion and disorientation, house soiling, and changes in activity level and the sleep/wake cycle, talk to your vet about cognitive dysfunction and rule out any other medical causes.

Why Does My Dog Turn Around Before Lying Down?

  A dog curled up on a chair after circling before lying down


Ever wonder why dogs turn in circles before they go to sleep? This behavior is an evolutionary leftover from the days before rugs and dog beds.

Dogs would turn in circles to flatten tall grass to sleep in and clear away any debris or possibly dangerous critters that might bite them if they lie down right away.

Some experts think this is also a way to expose more dirt, which is cooler than grass in hot weather.

Why Does My Dog Like To Whine Or Sigh?

Dogs communicate through barking, growling, whining, and sighing. While these have a specific purpose, sighing is different as it can have multiple meanings.

An occasional sigh can indicate relaxation, contentment, or satisfactionprobably the most optimistic explanation for your dog's sighing. They may also do this when feeling bored or anxious.

Dogs also sigh to express their emotions, particularly when they do not feel well or are under stress. Dog owners must pay close attention to their dog's sighing behavior, mainly if it occurs frequently or is accompanied by other signs of illness or anxiety.

In general, sighing is a natural behavior for dogs, and understanding the different reasons behind it can help improve their overall well-being.

Is Moaning A Sign Of Dementia In My Senior Dog?

Moaning can be typical in senior dogs, but it does not necessarily mean that your pet has dementia. Moaning or groaning can also indicate pain, discomfort, stress, and anxiety. 

Senior dogs can experience joint pains, which can cause them to moan or groan more often. If your old dog has been whining more frequently than usual, it is recommended to contact your vet. 

The vet can examine your furry friend to determine whether they are in pain, discomfort, or experiencing physical ailments.

On this note, if you're worried your pet hasn't lived its life to the fullest, you can make more memories with your senior dog using a doggy bucket list!

Why Do Dogs Lick You?

Dogs lick humans for various reasons, including affection, communication, and grooming.

When dogs lick their owners, it is a sign of love, bonding, and trust. Dogs also use licking to communicate, indicating hunger, fear, or stress. Additionally, dogs may lick their owners to show submission or to solicit attention or food. 

Licking can also be a form of grooming, as dogs use their tongues to clean their fur and remove dirt and debris. Overall, this is a natural behavior for dogs, and it is usually an indication of positive feelings toward their owners.

Dog Sounds FAQ

How do I get my dog to stop whining?

Determine the cause of the whining and address it directly. For example, if your dog whines to go outside, take it for a walk or let it out.

Is whining painful for my dog?

Whining itself isn't usually painful for dogs. It's mainly a method of communication that help dogs get your attention.

Can dogs moan for no reason?

Yes, dogs can groan or moan for no apparent reason. Still, be wary if your dog seems unhealthy or sluggish, as this may mean an underlying condition.

Should I worry if my dog howls regularly?

Regular howling in dogs isn't a cause for concern as it is considered normal behavior for many breeds like Huskies or Beagles. However, if a change in mannerisms accompanies this, you can see your vet for a general check-up.

Should I be concerned if my dog is not barking at all?

There are reasons why a dog might not bark. Breed differences (breeds like Basenjis are more quiet dogs compared to others), trauma, or aging can come into play. However, if your pet used to bark frequently,  sudden quietness may be a sign to visit your vet.

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Janet - November 27, 2023

I have a 14yr old staff she is moaning when she goes to her water she has never done this before only past couple of weeks her legs keep giving way on her is it time to put her to sleep

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