What can I give my dog for pain?

Sarah Sypniewski

sad dachshund on blue couch

If your dog is in pain, he needs your help. Oftentimes, we don’t know what is wrong or where it hurts exactly; we only know he’s limping or whimpering or not acting like himself. If your dog is displaying symptoms that he might be painful, the very best thing to do is make a vet appointment to get a thorough exam. Depending on what’s happening and his medical history, he may go home with any number of treatments.

Here’s a rundown of the most common medications and supplements your vet may recommend. You should not try to procure the medications yourself.

Note: Never give pets human pain medication. Dogs have thinner stomach linings than we do which makes them prone to ulcers and bleeding, even from a tiny dose of human medication.

NSAIDs

If your pooch is suffering from pain that is a result of inflammation, swelling, stiffness, or joint pain, your vet may prescribe a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID). These are typically used for a set period of time, and it’s recommended that your dog take NSAIDs with food. Some commonly prescribed veterinary NSAIDs include:

  • Deramaxx/Deracoxib
  • Rimadyl/Carprofen
  • Metacam/Meloxicam
  • Previcox/Firocoxib

Note: NSAIDs are not good for dogs with heart, liver, stomach, or kidney issues. This is why it’s important that your vet has your dog’s complete medical history and possibly does a blood panel before prescribing a medication.

Talk with your vet about potential side effects, including:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Ulcers
  • GI bleeding

Steroids

Due to their potent nature, steroids are usually only prescribed for emergency or acute conditions, such as allergic reactions. They significantly reduce pain and inflammation, but the side effects are substantial. You should make sure your vet takes a full blood panel before prescribing steroids. Here in our house of dogs, we tend to get prescribed steroids when one of the pooches has gotten themselves into a cycle of non-stop itching and has infected scratches. It’s the one thing that stops the itching cycle dead in its tracks. Some commonly prescribed doggie steroids are:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Fludrocortisone
  • Methylprednisolone

Again, make sure you talk with your vet about side effects. Use steroids only if the condition is severe, and only for a short of time. Watch out for:

  • Weight loss
  • Fur loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Thinning of the skin (shows up as unusual cuts or scrapes, which can also indicate the steroids have caused Cushing’s Disease)
  • Ulcers
  • Weakening of the bones
  • Thyroid suppression

Opiates/Opioids

This is a very serious class of drugs. They are controlled substances and are not prescribed unless absolutely necessary. Because these drugs are similar or identical to the human versions, many vets will examine your pet thoroughly, and may also look at your medical and prescription history before dispensing these medications to avoid abuse of them.

Although there are many options, the most commonly prescribed opiates for pets are Tramadol for serious pain (such as after surgery) or chronic pain (like that in aging dogs) and Hydrocodone (commonly used to control coughing). Our dogs have been on both, but only in severe circumstances and I usually halve the dose the vet prescribes. Side effects may include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Heavy sedation/listlessness
  • Constipation
  • Mood changes
  • Restlessness
  • Confusion
  • Excessive drooling

Other Prescriptions

  • Amantadine was developed as an anti-viral medication but works well as a pain reliever by blocking certain neural transmitters. It is prescribed to treat arthritis, disc disease, and cancer in dogs.
  • Gabapentin treats nerve pain and is often prescribed as a mild sedative for seizure management in addition to being used for pain relief.
  • Galliprant is newer; it’s a first-in-class drug that relieves osteoarthritis pain in pooches. Our oldest dog (19 years old!) just started it and we’ve already seen relief.

Prescription drugs are not the only tools for pain management. There are many holistic treatments available.

Supplements and Herbs

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: although the research is light, there are plenty of cases of dogs with arthritis or joint pain who have benefitted from taking omega-3s. Definitely worth looking into.
  • Glucosamine: this anti-inflammatory has few to no side effects, which means it is ideal for long-term use. It’s great for dogs with chronic joint pain and it can even eliminate the need for NSAIDs!
  • CBD oil: since this is just now being used for pets the research isn’t available yet, but there are thousands of pet owners who swear by the amazing results they have seen from giving their dogs CBD oil or treats.

If you’re interested in herbs, check out this site for more information.

Holistic treatments

There are tons of holistic treatments available to your dog for managing pain. These are drug and supplement free, but shouldn’t be treated any less seriously. All of these treatments should be administered by a trained and licensed professional. If your dog isn’t responding to medication, or you don’t want to go that route, try some of these options:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cold laser treatments
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy
  • Swimming/hydrotherapy

Diet

Just like all of us, dogs are what they eat. Our collective knowledge in the area of dog food and feeding is getting larger and more sophisticated. We are beginning to understand run-of-the-mill kibble isn’t the best way to feed our pets and may even be contributing to some of this pain and chronic disease. What to feed your dog on a daily basis is a whole different story, but for now, here are some great pain-fighting foods you can consider as treats or add-ins:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Alfalfa
  • Papaya
  • Blueberries
  • Celery
  • Coconut oil

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

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