What Can I Give My Dog For Pain
Christopher Kjolseth - December 11th, 2019
Accuracy Review & Edit: Nicole Wanner, DVM - August 24th 2021
For an animal lover, there aren't many things worse than seeing a dog in pain. If you are anything like us, you consider your dog a member of the family, and you want to ease their suffering in any way possible.
Before you reach in the medicine cabinet, be aware that you may do more harm than good.
From Turmeric to Tramadol, and Ginger to Gabapentin, we will explore many of the pain relief options available to our four-legged friends, some of which can be effective and some you should avoid.
Table Of Contents
NSAIDS for Dogs:
Are NSAIDs safe for dogs?
OTC (Over-the-Counter) pain meds for dogs
Tylenol for dogs
Ibuprofen for dogs
Aleve for dogs
Aspirin for dogs
Other Prescription Medications for Dogs in Pain:
Tramadol for dogs
Gabapentin for dogs
Prednisone for dogs
Natural Pain Relief for Dogs:
Boswellia for dogs
Turmeric for dogs
What can I give my dog for pain?
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) are a class of medications frequently given to dogs and people.
NSAIDs can control pain and inflammation, including joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation associated with arthritis. They do this by moderating the production of inflammation-causing enzymes.
NSAIDs designed for people can be dangerous for dogs; they can even cause death in some situations. Do not give them to your dog unless advised to do so by your veterinarian.
There are some NSAIDs for dogs; a veterinarian must always prescribe these drugs; they include:
- Carprofen (Rimadyl / Novox / Vetprofen / Carprieve / Quellin)
- Deracoxib (Deramaxx / Doxidyl)
- Firocoxib (Previcox)
- Meloxicam (Metacam / Orocam / Loxicom / Meloxidyl)
Side Effects of NSAIDs for Dogs
The side effects of NSAIDs for dogs are usually mild, but they can sometimes be severe, and in rare cases, lead to death.
If you see any of the following signs, you should stop using the medication and consult a veterinarian immediately:
- Dog behavior changes
- Eating less
- Skin redness, scabs
- Yellow gums or sclera (whites of the eyes)
- Tarry stool/diarrhea/vomiting
The most important thing to know about OTC human medications is that you should never give them to your dog without consulting a veterinarian.
In 2008, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and Aspirin were responsible for approximately 10,000 calls to the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). These readily available drugs can cause serious health problems and even death in dogs.
There are two commonly used types of OTC medicines for people: NSAIDs and Acetaminophen (Tylenol). When used correctly, these drugs have many benefits for people. Unfortunately, they can do more harm than good when taken by our pets.
Unlike the other OTC drugs in this section, Tylenol (Acetaminophen) is not an NSAID. It is used by people to ease pain and fever, but not inflammation. If your dog ingests Tylenol, there could be some severe side effects.
Can you give a dog Tylenol?
Only with permission and dosing information from your veterinarian. Dogs are more sensitive to Tylenol than people, and it can cause liver damage and destroy red blood cells. In some extreme cases, it can even lead to death.
Ibuprofen (Advil / Motrin), when appropriately dosed, is relatively safe for humans. People use it to relieve arthritis, pain, fever, and inflammation; this is, unfortunately, not the case with Ibuprofen for dogs.
Can I give my dog Ibuprofen?
No, according to the APCC, most of the calls they receive about poisoned pets are due to Ibuprofen. If your dog does eat Ibuprofen, the consequences can include kidney failure, stomach ulcers, and even death.
WARNING: This pill often has a sweet sugary coating which dogs find very tasty, so be sure to store the bottle in a secure location, out of your dog's reach.
Aleve (Naproxen) is used by people to temporarily relieve pains due to arthritis, backache, menstrual cramps, cold, toothache, and headaches. Though this drug works well for us, it can have devastating consequences when eaten by your dog.
Can I give my dog Aleve?
You should never give Aleve to your dogs. Even small amounts of this OTC drug can cause life-threatening health problems for dogs.
Can I give my dog Aspirin?
Like other NSAIDs, giving aspirin to your dog is not recommended. Dogs are very sensitive to these medications, and there are safer ones made specifically for pets available.
Even at the right dose, Aspirin can have side effects like loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. More severe side effects like GI bleeding (black/tarry stools) can also occur, especially if the dose is too high.
If you’d like to give your dog aspirin due to cost or other reasons, finding the correct dosage of Aspirin for dogs is critical. You should always consult a veterinarian. They will more than likely recommend coated Aspirin as this will cause less stomach irritation.
All varieties of Aspirin, even baby Aspirin, can cause serious health problems if taken long term by dogs.
A vet will often prescribe Tramadol for dogs in acute pain or constant discomfort.
Tramadol changes the way the brain feels and reacts to pain.
Vets often prescribe it for dogs with:
- Post-operative pain
- General pain from a variety of other conditions
Tramadol is a synthetic opiate narcotic. This narcotic was developed for use in humans but has been used widely by veterinarians to treat pain in dogs.
Dosage and Side Effects of Tramadol for Dogs
You should always follow your veterinarian's guidelines on Tramadol dosage for dogs. Its potential side effects include:
- Loss of appetite
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is often prescribed along with an NSAID or opioid to treat chronic pain in dogs.
Vets usually prescribe it for dogs with:
- Chronic arthritis
- Idiopathic epilepsy
- Neuropathic disorders
Gabapentin works by influencing calcium channels in the nervous system to inhibit the glutamate neurotransmitter, which decreases your dog's capacity to feel pain.
When used for dogs with seizures, Gabapentin emulates the GABA neurotransmitter and, in turn, calms nerve activity in the brain.
Dosage of Gabapentin for Dogs
The dosage of Gabapentin for dogs will depend on whether your vet is prescribing it to treat pain or seizures. The dosage for seizures will be a lot higher than the dosage for pain.
Side Effects of Gabapentin for Dogs
The typical side effects of Gabapentin for dogs include tiredness and instability. If you notice any of the following you should contact your veterinarian immediately:
- Bulging eyes
- Loss of coordination
WARNING: It generally best to taper dogs off of Gabapentin rather than stopping it abruptly, especially when used for seizures. Talk to your veterinarian about gradually reducing your dog’s dose of Gabapentin.
Prednisone is a human-made steroid that is often given to dogs as an immune system suppressant, to treat inflammation, or for dogs with allergies.
Prednisone works by weakening your dog's immune system; it reduces the production of inflammation-causing chemicals.
Prednisone Dosage for Dogs
Prednisone is a prescription drug. Your veterinarian will decide the dosage based on your dog's weight and condition.
Side Effects of Prednisone for Dogs
When used short term the side effects of Prednisone are usually relatively minor, they include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite
- Slower wound healing
Prednisone can have serious side effects for dogs when used long term, including:
- Cushing's disease
- Digestive tract ulcers
- Loss of hair
- Stomach distension
- Heart problems (including heart failure)
WARNING: It is critical to taper your dog off of Prednisone. If stopped abruptly, it may cause serious health complications.
With the slew of side effects associated with human-made drugs, it's not surprising that people are increasingly turning to natural pain relief for dogs.
Now, we will explore some of the most popular home remedies for pain relief in dogs.
NOTE: There is often a lot of misinformation surrounding natural pain relief for dogs; we will only include substances supported by research.
Boswellia (Frankincense) is a natural resin that farmers tap from the Boswellia Serrata tree. People have used this resin for centuries due to its anti-inflammatory effects, effects which are said to resemble NSAIDs. Boswellia is considered a natural remedy for arthritis in dogs.
Research shows that Boswellia may be beneficial for dogs with:
- Cancer (including skin cancer)
- Parkinson's disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
In a Swiss study, dogs with chronic joint and spinal disease were given 40mg of Boswellia resin per kg of body weight once a day for six weeks. After two weeks, 71% of the dogs showed reduced signs of pain.
Is Boswellia safe for dogs?
The safety and effectiveness of Boswellia for pain in dogs has not been thoroughly evaluated yet. Use this supplement at your own risk.
Turmeric is a bright yellow root. You most likely know of it in either its raw or powdered form. This spice, which people use in kitchens across the world, is from the same family of plants as Ginger.
It is one of the most well-known home remedies for pain relief in dogs, and for a good reason, it has thousands of studies to back it up.
Is Turmeric good for dogs?
Curcumin is Turmeric's most active compound; it has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties; this gives Turmeric the ability to help in the battle against, among other things:
- Liver disease
- Gastrointestinal problems
One study has found Curcumin to be more effective than Ibuprofen in the treatment of arthritis in people.
Other research has found that Curcumin may help fight against cancer or serve as an add-on treatment for inflammation and joint pain.
Turmeric Dosage for Dogs
It is important to note that Turmeric has a low absorption rate when taken on its own and that it leaves the body very quickly once absorbed. Because of this, you will want to do a couple of things:
- Make a paste consisting of turmeric powder, water, black pepper, and coconut oil.
- Make sure to give small amounts of this paste multiple times a day.
- Small dogs should have about ¼ teaspoon of turmeric paste a day. Medium dogs can have about 1/2 teaspoon a day. Large dogs may have approximately one teaspoon a day.
WARNING: The safety and effectiveness of Turmeric for dogs has not been systematically evaluated, so use it at your own risk. Giving too much Turmeric may cause serious side effects, such as anemia.
Watching the family dog suffer in pain is one of the worst things an animal lover can experience. Still, you should never give them human medications without the recommendation of a veterinarian.
Natural pain relief for dogs can often replace human-made drugs, without the severe side effects. Though this is not always the case, and the safest solution is still to consult your veterinarian, we think this should always be the first choice for your fur-family.
Always consult your veterinarian before giving any new medication to your dog, natural or human-made.
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