A French Bulldog getting examined by a veterinarianA French Bulldog getting examined by a veterinarianA French Bulldog getting examined by a veterinarian
Pain Relief for Dogs
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Pain relief for dogs: What can I give my dog?

This guide will help you determine what medications are safe for dogs—and which pain relievers aren’t.

What can you give your dog for pain relief?

When your dog is in pain—whether it’s a bee sting or a mystery illness—it can be hard to handle. You don’t want to see them suffer, and you want to make your dog better as soon as possible.

The most reliable way to diagnose and treat your dog’s injury is to have your veterinarian perform an examination to identify any problems and prescribe the appropriate pain reliever for your dog. But sometimes you may already know what the problem is, or you may be waiting to see your veterinarian. This complete guide will help you choose a safe medicine for your dog while you wait for that appointment.

Complications from incorrect use of pain medications for dogs can be serious:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Ulcers
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage

Over-the-counter pain relief for your dog

For humans, getting over the counter pain relief is easy. But those medications aren’t always safe to use as pain relief for dogs. Some pain relievers for humans are toxic to dogs, while others are safe but require a different dosage when used as pain relief for your pet. Acetaminophen, for example, can be safe when prescribed by a veterinarian but is toxic for dogs in the wrong dose.

When can I give my dog NSAIDs?

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are a group of medications—including ibuprofen and aspirin—that reduce inflammation, pain, and fever. There are special NSAIDs approved for pain relief in dogs, but there may also be some occasions when you can give your dog the human medication. Your veterinarian may recommend that you give your dog aspirin at a proper dosage under their supervision.

Some NSAIDs your veterinarian may prescribe include:

  • Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
  • Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
  • Firocoxib (Previcox)
  • Meloxicam (Metacam)

Once your veterinarian diagnoses the source of your dog’s pain they may prescribe these medications and/or other types of pain medication as needed.

Are there side effects from pain relievers for dogs?

All medications have potential side effects, but your veterinarian will weigh them against the pain relief benefits that the medication gives your dog. Be on the lookout for potential side effects—vomiting and diarrhea are the most common.

Your veterinarian will review the common side effects to watch for and how to give the medication to your dog. Read the label on the medication before leaving the veterinary hospital—if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Other risks to consider

There are some risks associated with pain medicine for dogs. Allergic reactions are always a possibility with any medication, although it's important to remember that they are rare. Still, some dogs can react badly to certain medications, so it's always good to monitor your dog carefully for any changes from normal (especially when starting a new medication).

A dog looks at a pill that’s held by a hand in the foreground

How to give your dog pills?

Most pain relief for dogs is administered either orally or by injection. An oral medication might be in liquid form, which is easier to add to food for some dogs, or it could be a pill or tablet. Giving your dog a pill can be tricky. You can try to make it easier by putting the pill in something tasty (such as inside a small “meatball” of canned dog food), but that doesn't always work. If you know your dog doesn’t take oral medication well, ask your veterinarian for other suggestions.

Are there alternatives to pain medication for my dog?

As well as getting a prescription from your vet, there are other ways to manage pain for your dog. Some conditions, such as arthritis, can improve when you change your dog's diet.

Some supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, could also help with pain relief. There is evidence that they might help to reduce swelling in joints and repair cartilage. Supplementing food with omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation in the joints and maintaining a healthy weight can also help to reduce pressure on the joints.

If your dog is recovering from injury or operation, or if your dog suffers from chronic pain or conditions like arthritis, ask your veterinarian about acupuncture or chiropractic care for to provide pain relief.

You can also ask your veterinarian about homeopathy.

There are several pain relief options for your dog, but it's always best to discuss with your veterinarian, even when giving them supplements. There are many options available, and new medications on the horizon—talk with your veterinarian if your pet still isn’t as comfortable as you’d like and work to find an option that works for you and your dog. You may find alternative therapies are covered by your pet insurance through Trupanion.

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