Pet parents often wonder, “what can I give my dog for pain?” The simple answer would be nothing that comes without a prescription from your trusted veterinarian.
Managing your dog’s pain is more complex than opening your medicine cabinet and offering an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Over-the-counter pain meds formulated for humans can do more harm than good in pets.
There are many pain meds for dogs, and by pain meds for dogs, we mean pain medications formulated specifically for dogs. When deciding what to offer your dog for pain, the role of the veterinarian is vital.
Signs of Pain in Dogs
Some dogs are very skilled at hiding pain, while others are good at galvanizing their pain and discomfort.
In general, these are some frequently reported signs of pain in dogs include:
- Yelping, crying, whining
- Decreased playfulness
- Reluctance to jump on and off surfaces
- Reluctance to go up and down the stairs
- Pronounced sleepiness
- Lowered tail
- Increased irritability
- Loss of appetite
What Can I Give my Dog for Pain?
If your dog is in pain and exhibiting one or more of these signs and symptoms, talk to your veterinarian about what you can give your dog for pain management.
It is vital to consult with your vet before offering your dog some human pain medication from your medicine cabinet – not every pain reliever you find inside is safe for dogs.
To relieve your dog’s pain, stick to pain medications for dogs prescribed by your vet. If you do not have any prescription pain meds on hand, call your vet and ask what is safe.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs for Dogs
The pain treatment of choice for dogs with arthritis pain is NSAIDs, but NSAIDs are formulated for dogs. Popular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs you can give your dog include:
- Carprofen (Novox, Rimadyl)
- Firocoxib (Previcox)
- Dearcoxib (deramaxx)
- Meloxicam (Metacam)
These NSAIDs for dogs are particularly good because of their ability to relieve both pain and inflammation. However, like any other drug, they need to be administered in the right dose and following the vet’s guidelines.
Other Pain Relief Meds for Dogs
Usually, NSAIDs offer satisfactory pain relief for dogs. However, a dog with severe joint pain may need stronger medication. In such cases, the veterinarian will probably give your dog a prescription for:
- Gabapentin -exceptionally good for nerve pain relief. It can make your dog a bit sleepy, but this is a transient side effect.
- Tramadol – a mild opioid medication and a great choice if your dog is in pain. It may cause side effects like irritations of the gastrointestinal tract manifested with vomiting and stomach pain.
These pain meds for dogs are not available over the counter and must be used carefully and following the guidelines provided by your vet.
Is Ibuprofen Safe for Dogs?
No, it is not safe for dogs. In fact, it is toxic and likely to cause gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidney damage. We will explain exactly how NSAIDs affect your dog’s health in the section below.
Risks and Side Effects
The side effects associated with this NSAID option can be classified into four groups. For easy remembering, you can use the BEST abbreviation:
- Behavioral changes (mood swings, irritability)
- Eating less than normally
- Skin redness and scabs
- Tarry stool or diarrhea and vomiting.
Medications Unsafe for Dogs
Pet parents need to be aware of which human medications are safe and which are not for dogs. The general rule of thumb is never to use over-the-counter medicine for your dog’s pain.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
The most popular OTC pain relievers belong to the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and include naproxen, baby aspirin, Advil, and regular aspirin.
All pain medications from this group work by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase – an enzyme that produces hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins.
The prostaglandins promote pain, inflammation, and fever. However, they also ensure regular blood flow to the kidneys, adequate blood clotting, and secretion of mucus that lines and protects the gastrointestinal tract.
Therefore, the use of NSAIDs can result in:
- Bleeding disorders
- Stomach ulcers
- Vomiting and bloody diarrhea
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney dysfunction
- Liver damage.
- Some dogs are more sensitive to NSAIDs and may experience severe side effects even if given the right dose.
- Cats are more sensitive to this group of human pain relievers but are less frequently exposed, which results in a lower number of complication cases.
- Using these pain medications concurrently with other drugs (like steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or in dogs with health conditions (like liver damage, gastrointestinal disease, or kidney failure) can be lethal.
Therefore, giving your dog aspirin, baby aspirin, or any other NSAID can do more harm than good. Ask your veterinarian whether it is safe to give your dog an NSAID formulated for humans and in which dose.
Aspirin is another popular over the counter, human NSAID option. Aspiring can be administered to dogs but only as an emergency pain relief for managing a short-term condition. Long-term use is associated with severe side effects, including damage of the gastrointestinal tract lining and bleeding.
When giving your dog a medication like aspirin, you need to:
- Be accurate about the dose and length of use (both provided by your vet)
- Use coated aspirin tablets as they are easier on the stomach
- Ensure giving your dog the aspirin tablets together with food.
Finally, we should note that not all pets are equally sensitive to aspirin. In cats, this human pain medication is extremely toxic and may have lethal consequences even if given in small amounts.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not belong to the NSAIDs family, but it can be just as dangerous if used inadequately. The exact mechanism behind the Tylenol effects is unknown. Basically, Tylenol can reduce pain and fever, but it does not affect inflammation. In larger amounts,
- Cause liver cell destruction and life-threatening kidney damage
- Convert the hemoglobin to methemoglobin which results in poor tissue oxygenation.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is dangerous for your dog, but if you a multiple-pet household, you should be well aware that it can be fatal in cats. In cats, one regular-strength Tylenol tablet can cause toxicosis, and two Tylenol tablets can be lethal.
What to do if Your Dog Consumes Ibuprofen
If your dog consumes an ibuprofen-based medicine, you need to make an urgent trip to the nearest vet clinic. Ideally, it would be best if you had your dog examined by a veterinarian specializing in poisoning.
Intoxications caused by human NSAIDs are considered life-threatening emergencies and require immediate veterinary attention.
Prompt and adequate vet attention.
Holistic Pain Relief for Dogs
To achieve the best pain relief for dogs, the veterinarian will recommend using certain natural remedies, supplements, and physical therapy.
On their own, these approaches are not enough for pain relief and inflammation reduction, but when used together with pain medications, they can be quite helpful for pets.
When it comes to pain relief for dogs, CBD oil is the latest hot topic. Based on a recent study, supplementing dogs with 2 milligrams of CBD oil per kilo per day results in decreased pain and increased activity levels.
Derived from hemp, pet CBD oil is beneficial for arthritic dogs because of the following features:
- Supports joint health and flexibility
- Provides connective tissue support
- Helps maintain a normal inflammatory response
- Manages inflammation processes
- Can help reduce orthopedic pain and discomfort
- Eases joint stiffness due to normal daily exercise and activity
- Provides connective tissue reinforcement
- May help discomfort associated with normal daily exercise and activity.
Plus, pet CBD products are THC-free, meaning they cannot make your dog high. They are also very unlikely to cause side effects, and even if they occur, they are usually minor and transient. Overdosing your dog with pet CBD oil is virtually impossible – worst-case scenario, your dog will sleep off the effects.
Pet CBD products for dogs come in several forms, including oils, capsules, and chewable treats. You should choose the product that is most convenient for both you and your dog.
According to a study from 2016, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are natural supplements you can give your pet for pain caused by arthritic changes. In the study, dogs receiving 75 milligrams of fish oil (the most potent source of fatty acids) showed reduced clinical signs of osteoarthritis.
There are three different types of omega 3 fatty acids – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid). To maintain healthy joints, dogs need EPA and DHA. Once again, the best source of EPA and DHA is fish oil.
Finally, a study from 2010 demonstrated that dogs that are supplemented with fish oil daily could receive lower carprofen (NSAID for dogs) doses to achieve the same pain management effect.
There are many joint health supplements for dogs. These are some of the most popular supplements you can give your pet for pain and joint inflammation management:
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Glucosamine chondroitin
- Green Lipped mussels
- Eggshell membrane
- Hyaluronic acid.
All of these supplements work by protecting the cartilage and offering cartilage building blocks, preventing enzymatic cartilage damage, or limiting the inflammatory processes that promote cartilage destruction.
For simpler use, the veterinarian can recommend CBD-infused treats with added natural joint supplements.
There are many different physical therapy options for dogs. Ask your vet which physical therapy option is best suited for your dog. To achieve optimal results, the veterinarian will recommend combining some of the following therapies:
- Laser therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
- Balance exercises
- Passive range of motion (PROM)
- Strength training
- Land treadmills
- Electrical stimulation therapy
Our Final Thoughts
Pet parents need to be aware of the importance of consulting with the vet before giving their pets even something as simple as baby aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol. When used in pets, human medications can trigger serious side effects or can even be toxic.
Luckily, the modern market offers many pain meds for dogs. They are efficient, potent, and safe even when used in the long term. Just consult with your veterinarian, and the vet will be happy to discuss your dog’s treatment plan and prescribe pain relievers.
To ensure the highest level of joint pain relief without compromising your dog’s health, the veterinarian may recommend a multimodal pain management approach and include natural remedies, supplements, and physical therapy in the treatment plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I give my dog ibuprofen for arthritis?
No, it is toxic for dogs and will likely cause gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidney damage. There are many medications you can safely offer your dog for pain, but this is not one of them.
How much ibuprofen is safe for a dog?
This human medicine has a very narrow safety margin for dogs. A 25-pound dog can develop toxicosis signs when given as little as 200 milligrams.
What pain killers can I give my dog?
There are many medications you can give your dog for pain – carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl), deracoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), and meloxicam (Metacam). If using human medications, talk to your veterinarian before giving the drug as most over-the-counter pain meds for humans can adversely affect your dog’s health.
What home remedy can I give my dog for arthritis?
There are many natural remedies offering pain relief for dogs with arthritis, including turmeric, comfrey, yucca, frankincense, and alfalfa. Joint supplements, diet, and exercise are also helpful for managing pain and inflammation and improving the arthritic dog’s quality of life.