Pain Medication for Dogs: Safe Options & Uses
There's a variety of medication we can take as humans when we are in pain, so it's natural to wonder if they are safe for our pets. It's not easy to see our dogs in pain, but we can't be giving the same pain medication for dogs that we use ourselves.
It is important to be able to recognize signs of pain and find ways to make your dog comfortable. Some physical and behavioral signs that indicate your dog might be in pain include:
Any unusual or worrying behavior should prompt a discussion with your veterinarian.
Risks of Human Pain Medications for Dogs
Pain relief for dogs differs from human painkillers. While many pain meds exist for humans, dogs have limited options.
Never give dogs the following pain medications:
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
This is because these medications can have numerous side effects, such as kidney failure, liver failure, and gastrointestinal conditions including gastric ulcers.
Safe Pain Medication Options for Dogs
One important factor to check as you search for dog pain medicine is the safety of that medication. Consider too, if you're trying to manage chronic pain or simply control pain for a short time.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce inflammation and, by doing so, reduce a dog's pain.
Your veterinarian may prescribe NSAIDs such as:
All of which are FDA-approved for dogs and are highly effective for pain.
Opioids, like codeine, tramadol, morphine, and fentanyl, are common medications used in controlling severe pain in dogs. They are FDA-approved, however, they require a prescription to obtain.
Most of these are used to control post-surgical and cancer pain. Your dog may experience side effects such as dizziness, lethargy, vomiting, constipation, and salivation when administered opioid pain meds.
Opioids should only be used under direct supervision of a veterinarian.
Gabapentin is another prescription pain medication for dogs. It reduces nerve pain and typically causes drowsiness for the first few days your dog takes it.
Gabapentin is an analgesic drug that limits the ability of your dog's nervous system to feel neuropathic pain. It is also used as an anticonvulsant and in some cases an anxiolytic.
A newer addition to the pain management landscape for dogs is Librela, a monoclonal antibody treatment targeting nerve growth factor (NGF) – a primary driver of osteoarthritis pain.
Unlike some NSAIDs, which may cause gastrointestinal issues or even kidney and liver damage with extended use, Librela is gentle on a dog's system.
Administered as a monthly injection by your veterinarian, it offers improved mobility and a significant reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms.
Supplements and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Options
If you're looking to avoid prescription medications, some OTC non-prescription pain medication may be used to relieve pain in dogs, depending on the cause of the pain.
However, only use OTC painkillers for your dog after consulting with your veterinarian.
📒 Note: Over-the-counter options come with higher risks and are generally discouraged since many of them are not FDA approved for pain control in dogs and they are usually developed for humans.
Joint supplements like chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, green-lipped mussel extract, and omega-3 fatty acids are useful in promoting joint health which can help to reduce arthritic pain.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a natural occurring compound from the cannabis plant. It has gained a lot of popularity recently due to its potential therapeutic benefits of reducing pain in humans and dogs.
When considering the use of CBD for dogs, it is important to do so under the guidance of a veterinarian as many OTC CBD products labeled for dogs are not effective or have risks.
⚠️ Be sure to research the laws and regulations about using CBD for dogs in your area.
Although not common, your veterinarian may prescribe specific types of buffered aspirin for needs like osteoarthritis pain relief.
However, you should not give dogs human aspirin because the dosages are different, and the tablets may have a coating that your dog cannot digest. Aspirin should not be given to dogs with asthma, ulcers, kidney or liver problems, or bleeding issues.
Specialized Diets and Natural Supplements
Incorporating anti-inflammatory food into your dog's meals is one way to offer pain relief to your pet.
Keep reading: 5 Dog Food Ingredients to Look For
Here are some foods and natural supplements that can become part of your dog's diet:
Fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids known to act as natural dog anti-inflammatory agents.
Fish oil supplements
Fish oil supplements come in capsule or liquid forms for your dog. You can introduce them as treats or simply pour natural fish oils into their food as they give the same benefits.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, and licorice-root have anti-inflammatory properties for relieving things like arthritis pain in your dog.
Ginger is useful for chronic pain management as it has bioactive compounds that have been shown to inhibit inflammatory pathways in the body.
Alternative Therapies and Complementary Treatments
Alternative therapies are non medicinal ways to relieve your dog's pain and improve their overall quality of life. Physical therapy like cold-laser therapy, heat treatment, acupuncture, and chiropractic can prove particularly helpful when your dog is in pain.
Heat therapy can be an effective and non-invasive way to alleviate pain in dogs, especially for muscle stiffness and joint pain. Heat therapy increases blood flow, relaxes tense muscles, and reduces stiffness.
It should be used with caution and under the guidance of a veterinarian as excessive heat can cause burns or worsen some conditions.
Cold-laser therapy is the use of light to decrease inflammation, increase circulation, and even help cell regeneration for wound healing. It can also be administered to your dog for pain.
Acupuncture for dogs involves small-gauge needles applied to specific points in the body to treat various conditions from pain management, stress reduction, and treatment of certain diseases.
Signs of pain in your pet should always be addressed quickly. As you try to relieve their pain, always make sure to do your due diligence to ensure the safety and efficacy of the dog pain meds available to you before using any.
Better still, enlist your veterinarian's help in choosing an appropriate pain medication for dogs, and remember not to use human medications.
Many dogs experience pain quietly and may never show signs of pain. Book an at-home pet pain management exam with your veterinarian now to ensure your dog is healthy and pain-free.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are human pain medications safe for dogs?
No. Human pain medications should never be given to dogs unless directed by a veterinarian.
How can I ensure the correct dosage when administering pain medication to my dog?
Always follow the dosage guidelines given by your veterinarian. Watch out for any side effects while your dog is on the medication, and communicate with your veterinarian if the medicines do not seem to control your pet's pain.