Pain Relief for Dogs: What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

By: Dr. Sarah WootenPublished:

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Pain Relief for Dogs: What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

When it comes to our dogs, we want to make sure they’re always happy. A pain-free dog is a happy dog, which is why it is important for pet parents to educate themselves on the variety of safe medicines that provide pain relief for dogs. If you have ever asked yourself, “What can I give my dog for pain?” then you’ll be happy to know that there are many OTC, prescription and holistic options you can try, with guidance from your veterinarian, of course.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

Veterinarians prescribe pain relievers to dogs in many situations. Reasons include controlling post-surgical pain, pain associated with dental procedures, pain following injury, pain from diseases, such as pancreatitis or urinary tract disorders, intervertebral disc disease pain, nerve root pain, painful skin conditions and osteoarthritis.

Signs of pain in dogs can be obvious, like limping or yelping. Sometimes, however, signs can be difficult to detect. The following behaviors may indicate your dog is in pain:

  • Limping
  • Yelping
  • Not playing as much
  • Sleeping more
  • Irritability
  • Lowered tail
  • Reluctance to jump or climb stairs
  • Decreased appetite

Over-the-Counter Pain Meds for Dogs

When a dog acts sore, most pet parents will look for over-the-counter (OTC) pain meds for dogs for the convenience and comparable low cost to prescription medication. So, what OTC meds can you give your dog for pain?

OTC pain relief for dogs is available in the form of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but not all OTC pain relief for dogs is safe. Take, for example, aspirin. Many pet parents want to know if it is safe for dogs. In the short term, aspirin is likely safe in most dogs, but it is not recommended for long-term pain control in dogs because of the risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding disorders. Before giving aspirin to your dog, talk with your veterinarian about what dose to give your dog for pain.

Other OTC pain meds for dogs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, should NOT be given to dogs. Both have narrow margins of safety and can be very toxic in dogs. Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, also poses serious risks to dogs and should not be given except under the strict guidance of a veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions About OTC Pain Meds for Dogs

Q:Can you give a dog ibuprofen?

A: No. Ibuprofen is toxic to dogs, and causes damage to the gastrointestinal tract and the kidneys.

Q:Can you give a dog Tylenol?

A: It depends. Tylenol should never be given to a dog unless under the supervision of a veterinarian, because it may cause kidney damage, liver damage, and damage to the gastrointestinal system.

Q:Can you give a dog Motrin?

A: No. Motrin contains ibuprofen which is toxic to dogs, and can cause damage to the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.

Q:Can you give a dog aspirin?

A: Yes, though some dogs can experience negative side effects due to gastrointestinal upset or bleeding disorders. Only give aspirin to your dog under the supervision of a veterinarian, and check with your vet for a safe dosage.

Q:Can you give a dog Advil?

A: No. Advil contains ibuprofen which is toxic to dogs, and can cause damage to the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.

Q:Can you give a dog Aleve?

A: Aleve contains Naproxen. In the past, Aleve was prescribed to dogs at a low dose to be given every other day, but due to its toxicity, now Aleve is only recommended to be given to dogs that cannot tolerate other NSAIDs. Aleve can cause kidney damage and gastrointestinal damage in dogs, and should only be given if prescribed by a veterinarian.

Holistic Pain Relief for Dogs

There are several options for natural pain relief for dogs. CBD oil is purported to be a natural painkiller for dogs, and a recent study published out of Cornell showed that CBD oil is effective at helping to control pain in arthritic dogs.

Another option for natural pain relief for dogs are the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish oil. A 2016 study reported that fish oil statistically improved symptoms in dogs with osteoarthritis dosed at 75 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Turmeric has been getting a lot of attention in the press for its anti-inflammatory properties in human pain control. But turmeric is not well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract of dogs, and is generally not very effective in pain control.

Even though these are natural alternatives, always discuss any supplements with your veterinarian, as some supplements may be contraindicated in some conditions (meaning they shouldn’t be used in certain cases) and/or interact with prescription medications. In addition, these natural painkillers for dogs usually do not provide enough relief on their own for dogs in moderate to severe pain, and may need to be combined with additional medications to provide adequate relief. Remember: Whenever you’re in doubt, consult with your veterinarian about what to give your dog for pain.

How to Talk to Your Veterinarian About Putting Your Dog on a Pain Reliever

If you suspect your dog is in pain, schedule a consultation with your veterinarian and share your concerns. Be specific in the signs you are noticing, because this will give your veterinarian clues as to where your dog hurts. Your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam, share the findings with you and make recommendations for additional testing and/or pain management.

If your veterinarian recommends testing, then do it. The information always proves valuable. For example, I have seen dogs who were diagnosed with arthritis from the physical exam and no X-rays were taken. After prescribed pain medications offered no improvement, the dogs were brought back for X-rays, only to find a bone tumor.

Veterinarians do not have crystal balls or psychic abilities—and if they do, consider getting a second opinion. We rely on our diagnostic tools to give you an accurate diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan.

Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian for pain management options, including natural supplements and/or generic formulations of pain meds for dogs. You also can look into online purchase options for convenience and price. Remember, your veterinary care staff’s primary job is to help you and your dog.

Also ask about testing requirements for long-term pain medications. Most veterinarians require an annual exam and bloodwork to ensure that the drug is working and not causing any harm to the pet’s other organs.

Lastly, ask if a multimodal (multiple actions) pain management plan is possible. We now know that if we target pain from several directions, we can provide more holistic relief to dogs.

As in the case of osteoarthritis, just giving a pain pill isn’t enough to help the dog. When the pain pill is combined with a joint supplement, proper diet and exercise, however, then we can effectively treat pain, build strength and improve quality of life. Besides, it will impress your vet if you pull out a fancy doctor word like “multimodal,” and that’s always fun.

Nobody should have to live with pain, including our fur friends. Pain lowers the quality and duration of life, and it causes anxiety, depression and the release of stress hormones that wreak havoc on the body. If pain is detected, either by you or your veterinarian, then your dog should be on some form of pain control and, if possible, a treatment regimen designed to eliminate the cause of the pain.

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By: Dr. Sarah WootenPublished:

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