You have been noticing that your dog has been limping a bit and suspect that it could be arthritis setting in. You are worried that your dog is in pain as he eases his way into his bed and grunts as he gets up slowly. Now, you find yourself asking, “What can I give my dog for pain?”
It’s natural to be concerned and want to ease your dog’s discomfort. Your first instinct may be to check your medicine cabinet to see what is available and give your dog an aspirin or some other type of pain reliever that is meant for human consumption.
Before you decide the dosage – STOP – and call your veterinarian right away.
Drugs such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and even aspirin can kill your dog and should not be given under any circumstance. Are there pain medications that are safe to give to your dog? Yes, some of them them are over-the-counter pain meds for dogs, but the most strong ones will need to be prescribed by your veterinarian.
It is most likely that your vet will prescribe NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). They are commonly used pain relievers for both humans and animals. These are considered safe to use for your dog, and are usually given for conditions like osteoarthritis.
There are NSAIDs that are formulated especially for dogs such as Rimadyl, Metacam, and Piroxicam. We'll talk more about these in a minute. When giving your dog an NSAID pain reliever, these medication are safer choices than anything you'll have on hand in your medicine cabinet for your own consumption.
It's always difficult to see a dog in pain, but pain management for pets should not be considered lightly. While there are safe pain meds for your dog, be aware that you should follow your veterinarian’s advice and administer the appropriate dosage for your dog. Be sure that the NSAID that you are giving your dog is formulated for your dog.
NEVER give your dog human NSAID pain relievers because they can do extreme amounts of damage to his liver and kidneys, possibly resulting in death (KuKanich et al. 2012).
ALWAYS consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any medications, whether you give them prescription ones or buy over the counter dog pain meds. You need to make sure your dog will not have any adverse reaction to anything you give him for pain.
RELATED: Top 6 Best Dog Pain Relief Aids
What Can I Give My Dog For Pain and What To Avoid?
NSAID Pain Relief Drugs for Dogs
There are specific NSAID pain relievers that are made just for dogs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, work by targeting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. Cyclooxygenase or COX stimulates cells to produce a substance called prostaglandins, which are present throughout the body. This is important because this is the substance that contributes to pain, inflammation and fever.
NSAIDs work by blocking cyclooxygenase which will reduce the amount of pain, inflammation and fever that your dog is having. By blocking the enzyme COX your dog’s body has less prostaglandins, and feels less pain. When trying to answer the question “What can I give my dog for pain,” most people will find the answer with NSAIDs.
Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate pain reliever for your dog’s condition and in the correct dosage. It is important that you follow the directions accordingly. Here are some common NSAlDs for dogs that are available:
These NSAIDS are generally considered safe for your dog and will have few side effects. You should be aware that in some dogs there can be reactions that can cause several types of medical issues. Your veterinarian will tell you to keep an eye on your dog for any reactions.
Learn the Signs of Reactions
Your dog may do very well and get good results from taking NSAIDs for pain relief. However, when answering the question “What can I give my dog for pain,” you need to understand that many of these drugs are not meant for long term use. They should be used with caution, and if used for more than a week, only under the supervision of your veterinarian.
As your dog is beginning to take NSAIDs you will need to watch for signs for adverse reactions. Not all dogs tolerate these medications well. There is an easy way to remember what to look for in your dog if you can just remember that your dog is your B-E-S-T friend:
- Behavior changes
- Eating less
- Skin redness, scabs or hair loss
- Tarry stools, diarrhea or vomiting
If your dog starts to have any of these B-E-S-T symptoms while taking NSAIDS, or any medication, STOP giving NSAIDs to your dog and call your veterinarian immediately!
Your dog could have a more serious medical problem and your veterinarian could prescribe a prescription pain reliever instead of an NSAID. Your dog may be having problems with taking NSAIDS or may have different or more intense pain relief needs.
Your veterinarian will talk to you about the different medications available and their uses. It can depend on your dog’s condition and needs, but there are many different types of pain relief medications that work in a variety of different ways.
Opiates are narcotics and are the strongest pain medications for dogs. These drugs work by blocking a dog’s ability to recognize pain. Many veterinarians do not like to prescribe these types of drugs due to stiff regulations by the DEA.
When you're trying to answer the question “What can I give my dog for pain,” sometimes you're going to realize that he may need more than what an NSAID can provide. Some options that your veterinarian may discuss with you are:
- Amantadine – This is an anti-Parkinson’s drug for humans that helps to block pain. Dogs with serious conditions like cancer, disk disease, or degenerative arthritis may be prescribed this medication. Your veterinarian will have you watch for common side effects, which can include diarrhea and agitation.
- Gabapentin – Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin, is an anti-seizure and neuralgia medication for humans that can treat pain from damaged nerves in dogs. This medication requires close monitoring from your veterinarian and can sometimes be prescribed in conjunction with other medications. One noticeable side effect is drowsiness but this may go away once your dog adjusts to the medication.
- Tramadol – While many veterinarians avoid most opiate medications, Tramadol is a painkiller that chemically works like a mild opioid medication while containing no actual opiates. It is still a very strong painkiller, that can have serious side effects. It is given to control constant pain and discomfort in aging dogs so that they may have round-the-clock relief.
RECOMMENDED: 7 Vet Recommended Supplements for Dogs
You can also try to give your dog dietary supplements that may give your dog some relief without the use of drugs. Alternative treatments can be a first choice for some dog owners, as they do not want to have their dogs suffer from unnecessary side effects from the use of stronger prescription medications.
Some popular supplement choices for arthritis pain are glucosamine and chondroitin. These supplements work over time by helping the body heal and repair cartilage, which also reduces swelling. Supplementing your dog’s food with extra omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) also work to reduce joint inflammation and pain.
With all medications, including natural remedies and supplements, you should consult your veterinarian for advice. Your veterinarian can help you find the right type of relief for your pet, including knowledge of alternative treatments. They will guide you in answering the question, “What can I give my dog for pain?”