What Medicines Can I Give My Dog For Pain?

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No pet parent likes to see their dog in pain, but it is important to know the source of your dog’s pain before treating it with any sort of dog pain medicine.1 While there are some excellent options for managing your dog’s pain, many human medications are toxic to dogs and can cause more harm than good.  

The Quick Hits

  • Remember that every dog’s medical history is different, and even “safe” medicines might not be the right choice for your dog. As a result, it's important to consult a vet before giving your pet any type of medication, and make sure your pet is updated on their vaccines.
  • Over-the-counter Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for humans, such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen, can be toxic to dogs.  Giving your dog these medicines can cause side effects such as gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers, severe bleeding, and even kidney or liver failure. 
  • Even if a veterinarian has prescribed pain medication for your pet, it is best to check before giving the prescription to your dog for different pain.
  • Do NOT give your dog Tylenol 

How to Know if Your Dog is in Pain 

There are a few ways to tell if your dog is in pain. Here are some of the most common symptoms:  

  • Decreased energy level 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Swelling/inflammation 
  • Aggression 
  • Vocalizations (howling, whining, whimpering, grunting, groaning, yelping) 
  • A sagging tail or a tail tucked between the legs 
  • Dull or tired-looking eyes
  • Biting (either biting at others who try to touch them or biting at themselves)

Human Medicines Dogs Should Not Take 

There are some human over-the-counter (OTC) medications that dogs should never take.  These OTC human pain medications can be toxic to your dog: 

Ibuprofen  

Ibuprofen is the main ingredient found in over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin.2 While these medicines are safe for humans in the appropriate doses, it just takes one pill to cause severe problems for your dog. Dogs and cats can get stomach ulcers or kidney failure from these medications.3

Naproxen 

Naproxen is the active ingredient in Aleve, which is a pain reliever that is available without a prescription.  It can be used to treat symptoms related to inflammation, pain, and fever. 

It is sometimes prescribed to treat the same conditions in dogs; however, it can have toxic side effects.4

Tylenol (Acetaminophen)  

Acetaminophen, commonly known as Tylenol, has long been used as a pain reliever, even in young children. However, the same cannot be said for our furry friends5; in dogs, small amounts of Tylenol cause liver failure, so dogs can not have Tylenol.6

Can You Give Dogs Aspirin? 

According to veterinarians.org, if your vet suggests giving your dog aspirin, make sure it is coated.7 Although internet searches will tell you it is safe to give buffered aspirin, it is not recommended.8

Some companies are even making “Aspirin for Dogs.” However, just because companies make something in fancy flavors doesn’t mean it’s a good purchase.  Always remember, Aspirin is not without risks.9

Are There Specific Medications for Dogs? 

Some medications work for dogs the way over-the-counter pain medications work for people. They are called Veterinary NSAIDs, and your dog’s veterinarian is the one who should prescribe them. 

Common Veterinary Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs 

NSAIDs block the effect of pain-causing enzymes.  This allows your dog to get around more comfortably. 

The following are the most commonly prescribed NSAIDs for pets: 

  • Rimadyl: generic name novox carprofen, is usually prescribed to treat inflammation arthritis, and pain following surgery.10
  • Deramaxx: generic name deracoxib 
  • Previcox: generic name firocoxib 
  • Metacam: generic name feloxicam11

Other Dog Pain Killers 

If your dog requires something other than a Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, your vet may prescribe one of the following medicines: 

  • Gabapentin is often used to treat nerve pain in older dogs.  It can help manage chronic pain and seizures.12
  • Tramadol is a mild opioid that is used to treat chronic pain. 
  • Amantadine works by blocking certain neural transmitters in the brain. It is used to treat arthritis, disc disease, and cancer in dogs.13 

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Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance. Get your free quote today. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

1 The Subtleties and Seriousness of Chronic Pain in Dogs, American Kennel Club, Gemma Johnstone, 2021 

2 Can my Dog Eat Ibuprofen, Rover, Cecily Sailer  

3 Top 10 Human Medications that are Poisonous to Pets, Pet Poison Helpline  

4 Naproxen Poisoning in Dogs, Wag! 

5 Acetaminophen, WebMD 

6 Naproxen Poisoning in Dogs, Wag!

7 https://www.veterinarians.org/  

8 Are Over the Counter Medications Safe for my Dog?, MetLife Pet Insurance 

9 Aspirin for Dogs: 6 Risks and Safe Alternatives, Dogs Naturally Magazine, Julia Henriques, 2020 

10 What Can I Give my Dog for Pain Relief, Veterinarians.org 

11 What Can I Give my Dog for Pain?, Rover, Elisabeth Geier 

12 Gabapentin Tablet, Extended Release 24 Hr, WebMD 

13 What Can I Give my Dog for Pain?, Rover, Elisabeth Geier