what can i give my dog for pain

What Can I Give My Dog for Pain? – Expert Advice From Our Vet

Looking for safe and effective pain relief options for your furry companion? Find natural remedies, over-the-counter medications, and vet-approved solutions to help alleviate your dog's discomfort.

As a pet owner, it’s truly distressing to witness your usually lively and energetic dog wincing in discomfort or pain. Helplessly seeing them struggle to move around or lose interest in their favorite activities can tug at your heartstrings.

As a veterinarian, I completely empathize with the concerns of pet parents desperately seeking safe and effective pain relief options for their beloved dogs. But navigating the world of dog pain relief can feel like a minefield. Many common human medications are dangerous for dogs, making it challenging to determine what’s safe without expert advice.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of pain relief options for dogs. Drawing upon my experience as a veterinarian and the wealth of scientific studies on this topic, we’ll uncover the options available for alleviating your dog’s pain.

Key Takeaways:

  • 1

    Discover how to recognize pain in your beloved dogs.

  • 2

    Gain knowledge about human pain medications’ potential dangers to your pets.

  • 3

    Learn about prescription and alternative pain relief options for dogs.

Recognizing Pain in Dogs

Changes in Behavior

As a veterinarian, I frequently come across dogs experiencing pain in my everyday work, and one of the key indicators of discomfort is a change in their behavior. Dogs in pain may become anxious, aggressive, restless, or start whining and whimpering. Excessive licking or chewing at a specific area on their body, reluctance to move around or play as usual, and hiding from family members are also tell-tale signs a dog may be in pain.

Posture Changes

Another way to identify a dog in pain is to pay attention to their posture. From my experience, dogs with joint pain caused by arthritis or other musculoskeletal issues often show signs such as arching their back, limping, favoring one leg over another, or holding up a paw while standing still. How they move around could signal pain – do they hang their head low or look sad compared to usual? These are all signs that your dog could be suffering.

Appetite Changes

Your dog’s eating habits can offer valuable insights into their well-being. If your furry friend shows a decreased appetite, it could indicate severe discomfort. In some cases, this discomfort may arise from dental issues such as toothaches, making eating a challenge. On the other hand, some dogs may actually have an increased appetite when they’re in pain. This behavior may stem from a coping mechanism or an attempt to self-soothe. You can better understand and address your dog’s needs by paying attention to their eating patterns.

Human Pain Meds and Dogs: What You Need to Know

Although it may be tempting to grab some otc pain meds from your medicine cabinet for your dog, it is crucial to understand that many of these medications can be highly dangerous. Dogs possess a very different metabolism, which means that drugs that are safe for us humans can potentially lead to toxicity in our furry companions.

I’ve seen a fair share of dogs that have accidentally eaten ibuprofen, many of which suffer dramatic consequences. As a veterinarian, I cannot stress enough the importance of understanding which human pain medications are unsafe for dogs.

Unsafe Human Pain Medications for Dogs

  • Ibuprofen and Aspirin: While ibuprofen may be the first drug you reach for, these non-steroidal pain drugs can cause serious side effects in dogs, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, kidney damage, and liver failure.
  • Naproxen: Also a non-steroidal pain medication, naproxen is unsafe for dogs due to its toxic effects on the kidneys and liver. Even small doses can lead to life-threatening complications in pets. I’ve had to treat dogs who ingested naproxen accidentally, and it’s never a pleasant experience for the owner or the pet.
  • Tylenol: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may surprise you, but it can cause severe liver damage or red blood cell injury in dogs, leading to oxygen deprivation, so it should never be given to a dog for pain.

If you’re unsure about giving your dog human painkillers, I would advise avoiding them altogether. There are only a few options safe for dogs, and those should only be administered based on instructions from your veterinarian. It’s not worth risking liver or kidney failure to treat your dog’s pain.

The good news? There are plenty of analgesics available that are specifically formulated for our canine friends, preventing you from needing to reach for human medication in the first place.

Prescription Pain Medications for Dogs

dog pain relief

I’ve prescribed various pain medications for dogs in my time as a veterinarian, aiming to help them cope with pain and live a comfortable life. Here are some of the most commonly prescribed options to treat pain in dogs:

  • One of the most common pain relievers for dogs is NSAIDs. They effectively reduce inflammation and discomfort related to arthritis or acute pain. Some examples of NSAIDs are Rimadyl, Meloxicam, and Deramaxx. However, it’s crucial to know that these drugs can cause side effects like gastrointestinal issues or kidney damage. Always consult your vet before administering any NSAIDs to your dog.

  • Opioids

    When NSAIDs don’t provide enough relief, opioids may be prescribed for more severe acute or chronic pain cases. Common opioids include methadone, buprenorphine, codeine, and fentanyl, many of which are used in routine procedures for dogs. These powerful analgesics work by blocking pain signals in the central nervous system. But keep in mind that opioids can cause side effects such as sedation and respiratory depression, so close monitoring is essential.

  • Originally created to treat neurological pain and seizures in humans, gabapentin has also proven to be an effective pain reliever for dogs. It can be used alone or in combination with NSAIDs or opioids. Some dogs may experience side effects like drowsiness or loss of coordination.

  • As a prescription medication, tramadol helps manage moderate to severe pain in dogs. It functions similarly to opioids, binding to receptors in the brain responsible for perceiving pain signals. Tramadol’s advantage lies in its lower potential for addiction and fewer side effects. However, it should still only be administered under veterinary supervision.

Through my experience with numerous patients, I have witnessed a profound improvement in their quality of life through the proper use of pain medication. Although all drugs carry potential side effects, ensuring regular veterinary check-ups for your dog can reduce any associated risks.

Remember that it’s crucial to always seek advice from your veterinarian before providing your dog with any prescription medications for pain relief – they have the knowledge and expertise needed to guide you in making the right choice for your pet.

What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

As a veterinarian, I’m often asked if there are any natural ways to relieve pain in dogs. And you know what? It’s a great question! Because if we can find effective alternatives to prescription medication, we can avoid those pesky side effects in the first place.

Let’s look at some natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can help provide effective pain relief for dogs; while these tend to work best for mild to moderate pain, if effective, they can help control pain without the need for prescription drugs.

Natural Remedies

  • Turmeric: This spice is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce joint pain and inflammation in dogs. I recommend mixing turmeric powder with peanut butter or wet food to make it more appealing to your pet.
  • Ginger: Ginger has natural pain-relieving properties and can help ease arthritis pain in older dogs. Try grating fresh ginger root into your dog’s food or adding ginger supplements to their diet.
  • Fish oil: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve joint health. Be sure to consult with a veterinarian about appropriate fish oil dosages for your dog.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Keeping your dog’s weight in check is essential, as excess pounds can strain their joints, exacerbating arthritis pain. Work with your veterinarian to create a suitable diet plan and exercise routine.
  • Make modifications to your home: Providing carpets on slippery floors, for example, can give your dog better traction. Adding ramps to stairs will also make it easier for them to move around without straining their joints.
  • Elevate food and water bowls: If a dog experiences neck pain when bending down, consider raising their bowls to shoulder height for more comfortable eating and drinking.

Please remember that these remedies may not be suitable for every dog and every level of pain. If your dog suffers from moderate to severe pain, prescription painkillers may be necessary. Always consult your vet to determine the best option for pain control in your dog.

Alternative Therapies for Dog Pain

dog acupuncture


I have personally seen the benefits of acupuncture for dogs in my clinic – a fellow vet I work with swears by it, and the results speak for themselves. This ancient practice uses thin needles placed at specific points on the body to stimulate healing and relieve pain. Acupuncture helps reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and release endorphins, which are natural painkillers. I have found it particularly helpful for older dogs suffering from severe arthritis pain, joint issues, or nerve-related discomfort.

Massage Therapy

Massaging your dog is not only an enjoyable bonding experience, but it also provides therapeutic benefits. Massage increases blood flow and oxygen supply to tissues, reduces tension, and promotes relaxation. It can also help with pain relief and mobility in dogs suffering from sore muscles due to exercise or injury.

Physiotherapy (Physical Therapy)

I’ve seen physiotherapy performed in a few different ways in dogs, all of which can be great for not only reducing pain but also for helping your dog return to their normal activities:

  • Harness-Assisted Walking: A harness supports your dog’s weight during walks, preventing strain on painful joints or limbs.
  • Hydrotherapy: Exercising your dog in water provides buoyancy and reduces the impact on joints, making it particularly helpful for dogs with arthritis or post-surgery recovery.
  • Range of Motion Exercises: Gentle stretching and movement exercises maintain joint flexibility, which reduces stiffness and pain caused by inflammation or injury.

Laser Therapy

If a dog is in pain, laser therapy can certainly help. Using low-level lasers stimulates cell regeneration, reduces inflammation, and promotes healing in injured tissues. It can be effective in treating chronically painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, and neuropathic pain in dogs.

Chiropractic Treatments

Dog chiropractors use spinal adjustments to correct misalignments that cause discomfort or mobility issues. Chiropractic treatments can alleviate joint pain, muscle spasms, nerve irritation, and other musculoskeletal issues.

Before starting any alternative therapies for your dog’s pain management, it’s crucial to consult your vet as there may be conditions that these therapies could worsen. Your veterinarian will guide you through the best options tailored specifically for your pet’s needs while ensuring their safety throughout the process.


As a qualified veterinarian, I’ve encountered many situations where pet owners ask, “What can I give my dog for pain?” We must remember that not all medications are safe for our canine companions; that’s why it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian for appropriate guidance if you suspect your pet is in pain. Identifying the root cause of their discomfort is vital, as this enables proper treatment and can ultimately support a path to better health for your beloved dog.


Can I give my dog human pain medication?

As a veterinarian, I strongly advise against giving your dog human pain relief medications without consulting a vet first. Many of these medications are toxic to dogs and can cause serious side effects.

What’s the best way to manage a dog’s pain?

Managing your dog’s pain depends on the underlying condition causing the discomfort. As a dog owner, it’s essential to consult with your vet, who can prescribe the appropriate pain medications, recommend home remedies, or suggest alternative therapies like acupuncture or laser therapy.

Are there any home remedies for dog pain?

In my experience, some natural remedies could help alleviate minor discomfort. For instance, a turmeric paste mixed with black pepper has anti-inflammatory properties that might assist with minor joint pain. Additionally, applying a warm compress could provide relief from sore muscles in some cases.

How can I help a dog in pain?

Offer your dog comfortable bedding, maintain an ideal weight through proper diet and exercise, and consider using joint supplements if needed. You might also explore alternative therapies like massage therapy or chiropractic treatments under professional supervision.

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