What Can I Give My Dog For Pain Relief?

5 min read
Sep 12, 2023

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.

Quick Tips on Giving Your Dog Pain 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.

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 signs of pain in dogs:

  • Decreased energy level
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Limping
  • 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)

Consult with your vet if you think your dog may be in pain as there are options, including medication, to keep your dog comfortable.

Pain Relief Doesn’t Have to Cost a Lot

Pet Insurance Can Help

What Medicines Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

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.

Common veterinary NSAIDs

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

Other dog pain killers

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

Human Medications That Are Bad for Dogs

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

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 friends; in dogs, small amounts of Tylenol cause liver failure.6

Can You Give Dogs Aspirin?

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

How Can I Treat My Dog’s Pain at Home?

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

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

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

Joint supplements

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

Does Dog Insurance Cover Prescription Meds?

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 Learn more about how pet insurance works, or kick off your research process with a free quote.

Dr. Hunter Finn is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.

Help Your Pet Feel Better

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.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

3 “Can my Dog Eat Ibuprofen,” Rover

4 “Top 10 Human Medications that are Poisonous to Pets,” Pet Poison Helpline 

5 “Naproxen Poisoning in Dogs,” Wag!

6 “Acetaminophen Toxicity in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospitals

7 “Can I Give My Dog Aspirin?,”

8 “Aspirin for Dogs: 6 Risks and Safe Alternatives,” Dogs Naturally Magazine

9 “What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?,” Rover

10 “​​CBD for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know,” PetMD

11 “Treating Dog Injuries – When & How to Use Heat vs. Cold Therapy,” PetPlace

12 “A Guide to Joint Supplements for Dogs: When They Help and What to Look For,” GoodRx Health

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