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Pain relief for dogs

Figuring out a safe pain reliever for your dog can be tough and this guide will help you navigate the dos and don’ts for helping your dog.

Seeing your dog in pain can be hard to handle. Whether they have a sore paw or they've been stung by a bee, you don't want to watch them suffering in any way. Your vet can perform an examination to look for any problems and they may prescribe something to help with the pain. However, sometimes you might be waiting to see a vet, or you might already know what the problem is, and you could be searching for a medicine you can use in the meantime.

Over-the-counter pain relief for your dog

Humans can easily access a range of OTC pain relief for a variety of issues. Acetaminophen (paracetamol), ibuprofen and aspirin are just some of the medications commonly used by us for pain relief. When your dog is in pain, it might be tempting to give them one of these medications to help them. However, simply giving them something from your medicine cabinet isn't a good idea. While there are similar medications for dogs, giving them products made for humans could do more harm than good. An incorrect dose, problems with mixing medications and sensitivity to human medications can all cause problems. In fact, cats do not tolerate acetaminophen at all, but it may be used in dogs in some cases for pain control, although toxicity can occur if too much is given.

Human medications given to dogs could cause complications including:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding

  • Ulcers

  • Holes in the stomach lining

  • Liver and kidney damage

When can you give your 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 designed just for dogs, and there might be some occasions when you can give your dog a human medication. For example, your vet might recommend that you give your dog aspirin under their supervision. NSAIDs for dogs include:

  • Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)

  • Deracoxib (Deramaxx)

  • Firocoxib (Previcox)

  • Meloxicam (Metacam)

These medications can all be prescribed by your vet. They can also diagnose what's causing the pain and help to treat that too.

Side effects to look out for:

If your vet does prescribe pain relief for your dog, you need to watch out for certain side effects. All medications have potential side effects, but these are weighed against the benefits that the medication delivers to determine their effectiveness and safety.

Some of the side effects to watch out for are:

  • Changes in behavior

  • Loss of appetite

  • Skin redness

  • Digestive issues, including diarrhea and vomiting

Your vet will have a better knowledge of your dog's health, so they can give you more information about what to look for. You might find it helpful to read the leaflet that comes with the medication too, as this will give you instructions and tell you about potential side effects. If the medication did not come with a leaflet or handout you can always ask your veterinarian for one.

Other risks to consider

There are some other risks you might want to think about, both if you're considering giving a human NSAID to your dog and if your vet has prescribed medication. Most pain relief for dogs is administered either orally or by injection. An oral medication might be in liquid form, which is easy to add to food, 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 vet for other suggestions.

Allergic reactions are always a possibility too, although it's important to remember that they are rare. Medications are tested before they can be approved so they shouldn't have a high chance of causing a reaction. Still, some dogs can react badly to certain medications, so it's always good to be on your guard (especially when starting a new medication).

Are there alternatives to medication?

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. Supplementing food with omega-3 fatty acids helps to reduce inflammation in the joints and monitoring weight can also help to reduce pressure on the joints.

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.

There are several pain relief options for your dog, but it's always best to discuss with your veterinarian, even when giving them supplements. Just another benefit of having pet insurance through Trupanion.