What Can I Give My Dog For Pain? (Know the Safe Medications) | 99PetCare
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What Can I Give My Dog For Pain? (Know the Safe Medications)

As a dog owner, there are few things that make you feel more helpless than when you see your four-legged friend in pain. You obviously want to help him feel better, but you may not know how to do so. Is there something – anything – you can give him?

How to Recognize Pain Before It Becomes Overwhelming

We’ve all wished that our dogs could talk at one time or another. The reason for this desire doesn’t stem from a need to break down last night’s baseball game or discuss the weather, although that would be neat. Rather, it comes from a longing that they could communicate what they’re feeling – especially when they are feeling bad.

Obviously, any verbal communication we’re going to have with our pooch is going to be one-sided. Still, there are plenty of ways that your dog can let you know that he’s in some sort of discomfort. More importantly, some of these signs will start manifesting themselves before the pain gets to excruciating levels.

Some of the signs you’ll want to look out for include whining, obsessive licking in a specific area, limping, restlessness, unusual aggression, a lack of appetite, and an inability to sleep. Not all dogs will exhibit the same signs of discomfort; however, chances are good that they will show one of these symptoms.

How Should You React to These Signs When You See Them?

If you notice that your dog is exhibiting signs of pain, the best thing you can do is to remain calm. If you panic or get nervous because your dog may be in discomfort, your dog may react to your stress by stressing out himself. This will only serve to aggravate whatever pain he may be feeling.

You’ll also want to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian as quickly as you can. Your vet will be able to run a thorough analysis of your pooch in order to determine the cause of the pain, whether it’s a nasty sprain or something significantly more nefarious. He or she will also be able put together a solid path of recovery for your pooch.

Dogs and Aspirin: When It’s Good and When It’s Bad

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your dog in the event of an injury is withholding something you should never give him – aspirin. Do not give your pooch an aspirin, baby aspirin, or acetaminophen (Tylenol) under any circumstances at home. Doing so could make your dog really sick – or even worse.

The reason for this has to do with the dosage. While a small dose of aspirin can be a good thing for your pooch, giving him an aspirin directly from the bottle would be more or less overdosing him and the truest sense of the world.

While aspirin does trigger enzymes that naturally block hormones that cause inflammation and pain, the very hormones that are blocked keep the GI tract’s lining regulated. In an overdose, the GI tract becomes completely compromised, which could cause all kinds of horrid health issues, up to and including death.

With that being said, a small dose of aspirin can be an effective painkiller for your pooch, provided that it is administered to the pooch via a veterinarian in prescription form. Always let your vet make the call on this, and don’t try to be clever and break an aspirin into little pieces for your pooch to consume.

Dog-Specific Pain Medications You Can Give Your Pooch

What Can I Give My Dog for Pain 2

There are several FDA-approved painkillers you can administer to your dog if he’s in pain. These medications are classified as Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), which is the same classification designated for aspirin. The big difference here is these painkillers are specially formulated for a dog’s body.

Arguably, the most recognizable names on the market include Rimadyl and Previcox, although there are several approved generics out there to choose from as well. These medications are either taken orally or by injection. They are shown to control pain and reduce inflammation in bones, muscles, and tissues.

These drugs are typically safe for dogs, and carry very few side effects. With that being said, there have been uncommon cases of liver, digestive, or kidney problems stemming from the use of the painkillers. Your vet will be able to work with you to ensure such potential issues are nipped in the bud before they get out of hand.

There are also a few heavy duty medications you can give your dog if he is suffering more intensive, ailment specific pain. These medications won’t necessarily eradicate the issue causing the pain. Rather, they will work to make living with the pain more manageable.

For instance, Amantadine may be prescribed for dogs suffering from disk disease, arthritis, and cancer. It is the same medication that is used for humans to treat Parkinson’s disease. The side effects associated with the painkiller include agitation and diarrhea.

A second heavy duty medication, Gabapentin, helps to curb the pain cause from damaged nerves in dogs as well as humans. It’s not uncommon for vets to prescribe this particular medication for use in conjunction with other prescription drugs. Your dog may get excessively sleepy when he starts taking the drug, but this effect will eventually pass.

Tramadol is a mild opioid that your vet may prescribe to an aging dog that is constantly battling discomfort. Side effects for this medication include dizziness, vomiting, and an upset stomach. Vets may give prescriptions to stronger opiates, but those particular types of drugs will only be doled out on a short-term basis.

What are Nutraceuticals and What Are Their Benefits?

You don’t necessarily need to give your dog hard painkillers to help him cope with discomfort. Indeed, there’s an ever-growing industry for what is known as nutraceuticals, a term used to describe food or part of a food that provides medical or health benefits. Some of these benefits include disease treatment and prevention.

It’s a booming industry – it’s estimated that 40 % of the country’s population use nutraceuticals for their pets. It’s also a diverse category; one that is split up into specified groups that hone in on different aspect of canine health, up to and including pain management.

One of the categories is functional foods, which help to improve a dog’s overall nutrition. This could be a great ally for dogs that have joint pain brought about by excessive weight. Another category is dietary supplements, which are designed to provide boosts in various vitamins and minerals.

Overall, nutraceuticals are designed to be preventative medicine that can help in the long-term as opposed to quick fixes for short-term ailments. These could be particularly helpful to provide to older dogs who are healthy, yet have bodies that are simply breaking down due to age.

How Should You Administer Pain Medication to Your Dog?

It is vital that you follow all instructions of giving pain meds to your dog to the letter. Remember, while these drugs are designed to help your pooch with the pain that he’s in, misuse of the drug could have devastating consequences. If you don’t understand what the label says, don’t guess – contact your vet immediately.

Typically, you’ll end up giving your pooch the medication around his mealtime, usually with or after his food. If you happen to miss a dose, don’t do anything rash like double up on his intake the next time around as a means to compensation. Just proceed as normal and move on.

Don’t Forget About Hot and Cold Packs

Sometimes, the best treatment for pain is the simplest treatment. This applies for the human world, and it certainly applies in the canine world. To that end, you can’t get much simpler than a good old fashion cold compress or heating pad.

A cold compress – or cold therapy in general – works by reducing the swelling and inflammation associated with a short-term injury such as a sprain. It will also decrease the amount of muscle spasms, which could also lead to faster healing.

Using a heated pad as part of hot therapy can be an effective way to combat chronic or long-term pain, such as arthritis. If you don’t have a heating pad handy, you can use a microwaveable wheat bag to bring the relief to your dog’s aching, sore joints.

In either case, it is important that you consult with your vet prior to deploying this method of pain relief for your pooch. If your vet does not give you the green light to provide this type of aid to your dog, deploy a different means of help. Remember, the vet is trained to help pets improve their health; he or she knows better than you.

Whatever You Do – Do Something!

Your ultimate goal when it comes to dog pain is to find a way to help your dog suffer as little as possible. There are various ways for you to do this, and it is imperative you work with your vet to find the way that works best. It may be a touch difficult, but knowing your dog will benefit from your research makes the effort worth it and then some.


Laura Harris

Dr. Laura Harris is our resident dog health expert. She started to fact-check dog health-related information for 99PetCare during her internship and contributes since then. Her expertise is in dog nutrition, senior dog care, especially critical care medicine and internal medicine.

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