One of the most common questions asked by veterinarians is, "What can I give my dog for pain?" In this article, we answer this question. Remember, however, that decisions about the administration of painkillers are best made after consulting a veterinarian.
Watching your dog in pain is a depressing situation, but before you start rummaging through the medicine cabinet for over-the-counter pain relievers, let's take a deeper look at how to tell if your dog is really in pain, which medications are safe and what are unsafe, and what the best holistic treatment options are your dog.
How can you tell if your dog is suffering?
When it comes to masking pain, dogs are true masters. Hiding pain is instinctive for dogs and dates back to their wild ancestor. Namely, while living in the wild, showing signs of pain is dangerous and makes the dog vulnerable and loses its social position in the pack.
Therefore, by the time the dog begins to show signs of pain, the condition causing anxiety is likely progressing. That said, pet owners need to be able to recognize when their dog is suffering. The good news is that you don't have to be a mind reader to detect distress in your pup.
Here are the warning signs that your dog is likely suffering:
- Decreased energy levels and lack of interest in daily activities
- Loss of appetite and reduced water intake
- Marked swelling, inflammation, limping
- Vocalizations (howls, whines, groans)
- Hanging tail or tail tucked between legs
- Dull, droopy or tired-looking eyes
- Behavioral changes (usually hyperactivity and increased aggressiveness)
Traditional painkillers for dogs
Giving your dog pain medication is not something you should decide on your own. You need the approval of a trusted veterinarian, as well as guidance on the instructions for use (dosage and frequency). Here are some of the more commonly used medications to relieve pain in dogs.
Aspirin for dogs. Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) with antipyretic, analgesic and anticoagulant properties. In addition to managing pain, inflammation, and fever, aspirin can also be used for certain eye problems and cancer therapies. It can be administered in doses of 10 to 40 mg per kilogram of body weight. However, the use of aspirin in dogs must be carefully monitored by a veterinarian.
Tramadol for dogs. tramadol is a synthetic opioid used to treat moderate to severe acute or chronic pain. Tramadol is a Schedule IV controlled substance and should be used with extreme caution. The three main reasons for prescribing tramadol to dogs are chronic osteoarthritis, cancer pain, and postoperative pain. The dose of tramadol is 1 to 4 mg per kilogram of body weight.
Gabapentin for dogs. Gabapentin is a structural analog of the inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA. Gabapentin's exact mechanism of action is poorly understood. We know that this drug is helpful in managing pain, seizures, and anxiety in dogs. In the treatment of pain, it has a supportive role, which means that it is used to enhance the analgesic properties of other drugs. The recommended dose is approximately 5.5 mg per kilogram of body weight.
Painkillers you should never give your dog
Not every human pain reliever can be used in dogs. In fact, most traditionally used painkillers can do more harm than good when used in dogs and given in the wrong doses. Here are some painkillers that must never be given to a dog.
NSAIDs: anti-inflammatory for dogs. Ibuprofen (e.g. Ibuprom) is the most common toxicosis in dogs. However, not only ibuprofen is dangerous for dogs. All NSAIDs developed for humans have narrow safety margins and are potentially toxic to dogs.
Members of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug class work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. This enzyme is crucial for the production of prostaglandins - hormone-like chemicals responsible for various functions - some good and some bad.
The problem after ingesting NSAIDs depends on the size of the dog and the amount of human drug ingested. In general, here are the NSAID side effects you can expect:
- Digestive disorders (vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, stomach ulcers)
- Kidney failure (risk is higher in dogs with pre-existing problems)
- Problems and deficits in the central nervous system (depression, seizures, coma)
It should be noted that there are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs specifically formulated for dogs. They are completely safe, but require a veterinary prescription. The most popular NSAIDs for dogs are:
- Carprofen (Rimadyl)
- Meloxicam (Metacam)
- Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
- Firocoxib (Previcox)
Paracetamol is one of the primary painkillers in humans. However, it must not be used in dogs due to its toxic effects. This active ingredient causes irreversible damage to the kidneys and liver in dogs. Additionally, to make matters worse, acetaminophen is fast-acting and has harmful effects soon after ingestion.
Naproxen is an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. Unfortunately, it is very toxic to dogs, even when administered in relatively small doses. In addition to gastric ulcers and intestinal perforations, Naproxen is associated with anemia, neurological problems, liver and kidney failure.
There are only two opioids approved for use in dogs - butorphanol and buprenorphine. However, veterinarians often prescribe human opioids. While opioids are not bad for dogs in general, they definitely cannot be used without your vet's instructions - even minor miscalculations can result in overdoses, extreme sedation, and respiratory depression.
The risks of conventional pain management in dogs
While giving your dog these medications will help ease the pain, it's also important to be aware of their potential side effects. A good rule of thumb is to always visit the official website of the medication prescribed by your veterinarian for more information on how the medication may affect your pet.
Some reported side effects of traditional painkillers for dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of coordination
- Convulsions or convulsions
Veterinarians are well aware of the potential side effects associated with conventional painkillers. Therefore, before writing a prescription, they carefully assess the dog's overall situation to determine whether the benefits of the medication outweigh the drawbacks.
Natural pain relief for dogs
As more and more pet owners turn to natural, holistic pain treatments, you may be wondering if they are right for your dog. Here is a brief overview of some of the most popular holistic pain management methods.
CBD for dogs. CBD oil can help dogs deal with pain and discomfort on different levels. Additionally, while dealing with pain, Cannabidiol will support your dog's overall health. Here we can offer Green Paw Couch Potato oil
Green Mussels for Dogs. Green mussels are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are therefore great for managing the pain associated with inflammation. The most common cause of such pain in dogs is arthritis.
Turmeric for dogs. Another popular, praised and old natural pain reliever is turmeric. Since dogs aren't big fans of turmeric's spicy flavor, it's best to use turmeric-rich supplements.
These are just examples. There are many natural ways to keep your pet comfortable and pain-free. Which option is best depends on the condition of the dog.
For example, if your dog is suffering from arthritis, your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the following approaches:
- A healthy diet and maintaining an ideal body weight
- Foods with anti-inflammatory properties (ginger)
- Tailored exercise regimen and physiotherapy
- Joint supplements with all-natural ingredients.
Our final thoughts on what I can give my dog for pain?
Now that you know the best and safest OTC pain medications, we suggest you stock up and include them in your dog's first aid kit. Just like you have a medical cabinet, your dog needs one too.
Finally, remember that treating pain is treating the symptom. After providing first aid for pain, make sure your dog gets examined by a veterinarian so you can begin to address the root cause of the pain.
- Paracetamol Poisoning in a Dalmatian (nih.gov)
- Diagnostic Tests for Paracetamol Poisoning in Dogs (researchgate.net)
- Pharmacokinetics of paracetamol after intravenous and oral administration in fasted and fed Labrador Retriever dogs (wiley.com)
- Treating a Massive Naproxen Overdose with Therapeutic Plasma Exchange in a Dog (nih.gov)
- Toxicology brief: ibuprofen poisoning in dogs, cats and ferrets (dvm360.com)
- The Opioid Epidemic: What Vets Need to Know | FDA