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It is never pleasant to see your beloved dog in pain and it’s only natural to want to do what you can to soothe them and make them feel better.
You’re probably wondering what can I give my dog for pain?
Pain relief is rarely straightforward. With humans, the right choice depends on the source of the pain and the needs of the individual, and pain relief for dogs can also be complex.
Dogs should never be given human pain medicine. Since many of the ingredients can be toxic for canines, it isn’t a simple case of scaling the human dosage for your dog’s weight for safety.
Dogs should always be given their own over-the-counter and prescription pain medications.
While many of the active ingredients will seem familiar, they are designed for the unique metabolisms of dogs.
Your vet will be able to advise you on what the best options are depending on the source of your dog’s pain and will give you the correct dosage.
In this article we will look at some of the most common pain medicines for dogs and when you are likely to use them.
We will also look at how to tell when your dog is in pain, and what to keep an eye on when your dog is taking pain relief to identify signs of toxicity.
DISCLAIMER: We are not veterinarians. This post is based on our experiences and research. If your dog is in pain you should always contact your veterinarian before giving him/her any type of medication.
Can I Give My Dog Human Pain Medication?
Never give your dog human pain relief medicine. Many of the most popular human painkillers contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs and may make things worse rather than better.
Specifically, dogs should never have ibuprofen, which is commonly found in Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin; acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol; and naproxen, which is found in Aleve.
While the ingredients of some human pain relievers, such as aspirin, are safe for dogs, they will need a different dosage.
It isn’t just a matter of scaling the human dosage for the weight of your dog; the metabolisms of dogs work differently.
They are much faster and it can be easy to accidentally give your dog too much, which can result in serious side effects.
Always consult your vet to determine the source of your dog’s pain and the best pain relief medication for that type of pain, plus the correct dosage, so you are never putting your dog at further risk by trying to help.
Common Canine Pain Relief Medication
If you consult your vet about pain relief for your dog, they are likely to prescribe or advise that you administer one of a small range of medications depending on the source of their pain.
The most common pain relief medications for dogs are listed below.
NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
If you are looking for the doggy equivalent of aspirin, you will probably give them one of several NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Many human pain relief drugs are also classified as NSAIDs but have different compositions.
NSAIDs are used for short-term pain relief linked with an accident or illness and following surgery and are also good for joint pain issues, such as arthritis.
They can reduce swelling and stiffness as well as block the effects of pain-inducing enzymes.
The most common canine NSAID brands include Rimadyl (carprofen), Deramaxx (deracoxib), Previcox (firocoxib), and Metacam (meloxicam).
They are usually only available with a prescription from your vet.
NSAIDs can cause issues if your dog is given too much.
Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy and overdosing can cause kidney problems and liver dysfunction.
Speak to your vet and follow the guidelines that come with the drug for dosage, but you can typically expect your dog to require 5-7.5mg per pound of body weight, administered two to three times a day.
Aspirin is another type of NSAID that can be prescribed for dogs, and your vet may sometimes recommend that you use over-the-counter or baby aspirin.
It is usually prescribed for osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal inflammation.
Adverse reactions to aspirin are fairly common in dogs, though. The most common signs of a problem are vomiting, diarrhea, and a black, tarry stool.
Other Prescription Pain Medications
There are a variety of other pain medications that your vet may suggest for your dog.
Amantadine blocks neurotransmitters and is often prescribed for arthritis, disk disease, and cancer pain.
Gabapentin is used to treat nerve pain and can be used as a mild sedative for minor operations and to manage seizures.
Tramadol is a mild opioid medication that is used in older dogs for chronic pain due to its addictive nature.
Morphine-based medications are used for short periods, often to manage surgical pain and deal with severe trauma.
Buprenorphine is another pain killer that is reserved for short term use and is used for cancer pain and trauma recovery.
Rather than being swallowed, it is squirted into the mouth and absorbed by the vessels under the tongue.
Non-Prescription Pain Medication
While you will usually go to your vet for a prescription to manage your dog’s pain, many pet parents look for alternative, non-prescription pain relief, especially for pets suffering from chronic pain.
Cannabis-derived oils can offer relief to pain in dogs in a similar way as they can for humans.
This oil does not contain the THC hallucinations associated with recreational cannabis.
You can find treats for dogs that are already infused with CBD oil or add a few drops of oil to their food. This can help keep your dog calm as well as manage pain.
We’ve used CBD oil with Raven to help calm her during thunderstorm and around the Fourth of July. CBD was helpful but not a cure all for Raven’s noise anxiety.
Many pet parents give their dogs joint supplements to manage pain associated with issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
Supplements do not numb pain, but rather boost cartilage repair to ease discomfort. The most popular joint supplement for dogs is glucosamine.
When Stetson and Linus reached their later years they noticeably had a more difficult time getting up in the morning and sometimes limped around the house.
We later found out they had arthritis and our vet recommended over the counter glucosamine with chondroitin.
There was a huge difference after they started their supplements. Both dogs got up in the morning like they were 5 years younger and no more limping around the house.
Of course, you need to talk to your vet to find out the proper medication and dosage if your dog is experiencing arthritis and joint pain.
The Assisi loop is a non-pharmaceutical, anti-inflammatory device that uses low-level pulses of energy to reduce pain and swelling.
It can speed up the healing process and also reduce pain. Read more about the Assisi Loop here.
Other Methods For Managing Your Dog’s Pain
Medication is not the only method available for managing your dog’s pain.
There are little things that you can do to make your dog’s life more comfortable and temporarily ease aches and pains.
Your dog loves a good pat, but it may also benefit from a good massage.
Massage encourages healing by improving blood flow to areas of the body, stimulating nerve regeneration, relaxing the muscles, and relieving stress.
Light massage on areas affected by chronic pain may offer your dog some relief.
It is easy for dogs to get a little overweight as their loving parents shower them with treats. Especially as your dog gets older and his metabolism starts to slow.
If your dog is suffering from joint-related pain or movement difficulties, though, losing a bit of weight could be beneficial as it means less weight for them to carry around.
The easiest way to help your dog lose weight is to start counting calories and give them a small calorie deficit.
Don’t forget to count the calories in any snacks and treats.
This is probably some good advice for me (the doggy dad) as I’ve noticed a huge slow down in my metabolism coupled with an increase in weight (aka I’m starting to look less like Adonis and more like Budha)
Make sure the food you are giving them is high in protein and animal fats so they have lots of energy and protein for regeneration despite the drop in calories.
When your dog is in pain they probably won’t feel like moving a lot but a little bit of activity will usually help them feel better.
Make sure you are taking your dog out for light exercise, but stay close to home so you can come back when it becomes too much for them.
If your dog is suffering from joint issues but enjoys the water, swimming can be a great low-impact source of exercise that they can engage in relatively pain-free.
You can make a few changes to your home to help your dog adapt to pain and more limited mobility.
An orthopedic bed might do a lot to increase their comfort, as well as a bed they can step in and out of without the need to jump.
Clearing objects to give them an easier path between key areas of the home will also help with mobility issues.
How Do You Know When Your Dog Is In Pain?
How do you know when your dog is in pain in the first place?
If they have recently had surgery or an accident you may assume that they are in pain, but how do you identify new pain or identify the level of chronic pain for dogs suffering from things like mobility issues and cancer?
There are a variety of signs that can indicate that your dog is in pain. Consider the following.
Antisocial or aggressive behavior
Your dog’s usual responses to being called or petted may change as they feel unsettled, vulnerable, and distracted as a result of their pain.
Changes in water intake
Your dog may stop drinking water or start drinking water excessively in response to pain.
Loss of appetite
Certain types of pain, especially stomach and tooth pain, can significantly decrease your dog’s desire to eat.
Your dog will probably lack energy and want to limit their movement to manage pain, and will probably also sleep much more than usual.
If your dog is wounded or has a particular pain site they will probably be driven to lick this spot excessively.
Increased barking, yelping, and verbalizing
much like humans, dogs will cry and complain when they aren’t feeling good and give you audible cues as to their discomfort.
Panting and heavy breathing
panting is often a dog’s response to pain as they may automatically try to manage their body temperature as a response to certain types of pain.
if your dog is in physical pain it will struggle to get comfortable, which can result in restlessness if it cannot stay comfortable in one spot.
if part of your dog’s body is feeling tender, they will compensate in their movement to avoid putting pressure on the relevant bones, joints, and muscles.
Shaking and trembling
This can be an involuntary bodily response to pain.
This can be one of the first signs of mild pain as your dog’s ears will naturally droop when they aren’t feeling their best.
If you know that your dog has an issue, these symptoms can be a sign of the level of pain that your dog is in.
Locate their symptoms on scales like the canine acute pain scale created by the Colorado State University Veterinary School.
It starts at 0, which represents a comfortable, happy, content dog, to 4, which indicates severe pain.
Pet parents should consider whether pain management treatment might be needed at around level 2.
What is safe to give my dog for pain?
Always give your dog pain medications specifically designed for dogs, and never human painkillers.
Most prescription painkillers for dogs will be NSAIDs.
Follow dosage guidelines you receive from your vet closely as the fast metabolism of dogs means that it is easy for them to overdose.
Is baby aspirin safe for dogs?
Some vets will recommend baby aspirin for dogs, and it is safe to give them in small quantities; however, aspirin made for dogs is a better option if available.
Managing Your Dog’s Pain
If your dog is suffering, there are a number of medications that you can use to help manage its pain.
Always use pain medications designed for dogs, rather than sharing your own pain medication with your canine companion.
Many human painkillers contain active substances that are toxic to dogs.
It is also not possible to simply adjust the dosage for the size of your dog as their different metabolism means that your dog needs a much smaller dose.
If your dog is in pain, your vet can give you a prescription for an appropriate medication based on the source of the problem.
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