What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

Updated: 12/21/20232-4 minutes
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Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you there are few things as important as the happiness and well-being of their faithful canine companion. So, you can imagine the helpless feeling dog owners have when their dogs show signs of pain.

If you’re wondering, “What can you give a dog for pain?,” the first thing to do is call your veterinarian and explain the signs that your dog is exhibiting. If you believe it’s an emergency or it’s after hours, phone or visit an emergency vet clinic in your area.

The good news is, with help from your veterinarian, you can take steps to help diagnose and reduce the problem, ease the pain and help your dog become more comfortable.

Signs Your Dog May Be in Pain

Many dogs are masters at hiding physical pain and, therefore, may not show obvious discomfort, while others may be less inhibited. Regardless, if you remain observant of your dog’s behaviors, you’ll likely be able to pick up on some subtle or not-so-subtle hints they might not be feeling their best.

Signs your dog may be suffering from pain include:

  • Limping while walking or running
  • Difficulty laying down or getting back up
  • Problems going up or down stairs
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Decreased interest in playing
  • Less ability or inability to jump up on furniture (if allowed)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Whimpering, groaning or yipping when physically touched ·
  • Aggressive behavior such as growling, pinning back ears, baring teeth or biting when approached or touched
  • Excessive panting
  • Licking, scratching or biting at a specific area of their body
  • Increased sleep

If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s time to call your veterinarian for a diagnosis and find out what pain treatment options will be necessary.

Pain Treatment Options for Dogs

Before we get into the most common pain treatment options for dogs, remember that any medication should only be given under the direction and supervision of a veterinarian after they’ve been diagnosed with injury or illness. Attempting to treat your dog's pain on your own without the advice of experts could result in injury, illness or worse.

Pain Relief Medications

The most common pain remedy for dogs are analgesics, which come in two forms: painkillers or NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).

  • NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are used for the management of mild to moderate pain by reducing inflammation and are more commonly used to manage chronic pain, like arthritis or to lower high fever and can be used to ease post-surgery pain. Common NSAIDS for dogs include carprofen, firocoxib and grapipant. NSAIDs do have some side effects, however. In some cases, the drugs can cause gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting or diarrhea, decreased or loss of appetite or decreased activity level.
  • Opioid-based painkillers: Opioids work by blocking pain signals to the brain and are most typically used to treat acute pain like bone fractures, bladder stones and bowel obstructions. Examples of opioid-based painkillers for dogs include morphine, codeine, butorphanol and Demerol. These drugs are more commonly used on dogs feeling a significantly high amount of pain. Side effects of opioids in dogs can include excitement, sluggishness, positive or negative mood changes, vomiting, defecation, sedation, panting and vocalization.
  • Supplements: While supplements aren’t pain medications, they can play a role in potentially preventing or lessening pain caused by arthritis. Talk to your veterinarian about which supplements—and what dosage—are appropriate for your dog. By providing your pet with chondroitin, omega-3 fish oil, green-lipped muscle or glucosamine for dogs, you can help protect cartilage and support joint health with these supplements.
  • For nerve-related pain relief, veterinarians may treat your pet with gabapentin (an anticonvulsant) and amantidine (an antiviral).

Nobody likes seeing their canine friends in pain or discomfort, so it’s crucial to be proactive at the first sign of trouble. With guidance from your veterinarian and some TLC from you, you can help give your dog the support they need to feel more comfortable and back to their regular selves.

Other Pain Relief Options

Some of the following techniques may be used together with medication or on their own if your veterinarian determines medication isn’t necessary.

  • Massage Therapy: Like humans (and other animals), dogs can benefit from a massage. By moving your pet’s joints or applying moderate pressure to sore muscles, certified practitioners can help improve your pet’s range of motion and ease discomfort. There are certain techniques you may be able to try at home as well.
  • Acupuncture: The ancient Chinese art of acupuncture can be an effective way to treat soreness in your dog. With acupuncture, a professional painlessly and gently inserts needles at specific points throughout the body. “There is a growing body of evidence specifically in pets of how acupuncture can provide relief in a variety of conditions—from arthritis to anxiety to intestinal issues,” says Purina Senior Veterinarian RuthAnn Lobos, DVM, CCRT, CVAT, who is certified in acupuncture for pets.
  • Physical Rehabilitation: Physical rehabilitation involves the use of therapeutics and certain exercises to alleviate pain and strengthen your dog’s body.

Get more insight, tips and advice about dogs from our experts on our Pet Expertise page.

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