No dog owners like to see their pet in pain, but it’s important to know the source of your furry friend’s pain before treating it with any sort of dog pain medicine. While there aren't over-the-counter (OTC) pain meds for dogs, dogs can take veterinary NSAIDs. These have to be prescribed by a vet.
Most human medications are toxic to dogs and can cause more harm than good. Talk to a veterinarian before giving your dog anything from your medicine cabinet. Let’s dig into what you need to know about treating dog pain at home, including ways to treat it without medicine.
- Remember that every dog’s medical history is different, and even medicines safe for dogs might not be the right choice for your dog. As a result, it's important to consult with your vet before giving your pet any type of medication.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) 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 vet has prescribed pain medication for your pet, it’s best to check before giving the prescription to your dog for different pain.
- Do NOT give your dog Tylenol.
There are a few ways to tell if your dog is in pain. Here are some of the most common signs of pain in dogs:
- Decreased energy level
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- 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)
Consult with your vet if you think your dog may be in pain as there are options, including medication, to keep your dog comfortable.
You can give your dog veterinary NSAIDs for pain. A veterinary NSAID is prescribed by your dog’s vet for specific types of pain. NSAIDs block the effects of pain-causing enzymes, allowing your dog to get around more comfortably. Unfortunately, you can’t get OTC pain meds for dogs, so there is no such thing as popping into the pharmacy to get a pain reliever whenever you need one.
The following are the most commonly prescribed NSAIDs for pain relief for dogs:
- Rimadyl: Its generic name is novox carprofen. It is usually prescribed to treat inflammation arthritis, and pain following surgery.9
- Deramaxx: Its generic name is deracoxib.9
- Previcox: Its generic name is firocoxib.9
- Metacam: Its generic name is feloxicam.9
If your dog requires something other than a veterinary NSAID, 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.9
- Tramadol is a mild opioid that is used to treat chronic pain.9
- Amantadine works by blocking certain neurotransmitters in the brain. It is used to treat arthritis, disc disease, and cancer in dogs.9
There are some human OTC medications that dogs should never take. These OTC human pain medications can be toxic to your dog:
Ibuprofen is the main ingredient found in over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin.3 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 toxic medications.4
Naproxen is the active ingredient in Aleve, which is a pain reliever that is available without a prescription in the United States. It can be used to treat symptoms related to inflammation, pain, and fever.
Unless a vet specifically prescribes a low dosage, naproxen should be avoided. Dogs have a low threshold for naproxen toxicity. 5
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 friends; in dogs, small amounts of Tylenol cause liver failure.6
If your vet suggests giving your dog aspirin for osteoarthritis or something else, make sure it’s coated, so it can dissolve slowly.7 Stay away from buffered aspirin (which contain antacids) because it’s not safe for dogs.
Some companies even make “aspirin for dogs.” However, just because companies make something in fancy flavors doesn’t mean it’s a good purchase. Always remember, aspirin (even baby aspirin) is not without risks. Long term aspirin use can cause ulcers, bleeding, and kidney and liver issues.8
If your dog is in pain and you can’t use a prescription NSAID for whatever reason, there are a few natural pain relief options you can try. Just make sure you call your veterinarian first and consult with them before administering any at-home treatment.
CBD oil has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that it can help treat inflammatory pain in dogs.10 CBD is not psychoactive and cannot get your dog high. However, you should still talk to your vet about the proper dosage and potential side effects before giving your dog CBD treats.
Cold and heat therapy can both be used to help treat dog pain at home. You can apply heat packs, hot water bottles, or ice packs to your dog. Never apply heat or cold directly to their skin (use a towel or blanket as a buffer), and give them breaks every 10 – 20 minutes.11
Cold therapy is best for short-term injuries from within the past 48 hours. It can help treat the swelling and numb the pain.11 Meanwhile, heat therapy is more useful for long-term chronic pain. It can help ease muscle soreness and help increase range of motion in an injured area.11
If your dog suffers from joint pain, you may want to consider giving them joint supplements to help reduce inflammation and pain. Both chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine can help manage symptoms and maintain joint health.12
Most dog insurances cover prescription medications like veterinary NSAIDs for injuries or illnesses.2 Pet parents should consider investing in a MetLife Insurance policy now to help cover any prescription medications your dog will need in the future.1 Invest in your dog’s wellness and get a quote today.