As a pet parent, there are few things worse than watching your dog suffer in pain. Whether acute pain from a medical procedure or injury or the kind of pain that comes from a disability or chronic condition like cancer. Chances are, you will do everything in your power to keep your pup feeling comfortable and to take away their pain.
According to Dr. Ernst Ward, “Many dogs will instinctively hide their pain as a survival mechanism, which, in the past, led well-meaning experts to presume that dogs don’t feel pain the same way humans do. We now know that dogs have a nervous system very similar to humans, and we know better how to recognize and manage their pain.”
What are the signs my dog is in pain?
Since your pup may be trying to hide their pain Dr. Ward says pet parents can look out for the following signs of discomfort:
- Whimpering or vocalizing
- Becoming quiet, withdrawn, and inactive
- Showing uncharacteristic aggressiveness when approached
- Holding the ears flat against the head
- Increased licking of a painful/sensitive area
- Decreased appetite
- Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump, or play
- Stiffness or limping
- Lagging behind on walks
- Unexpected reactions when touched
- Changes in personality
What are the most common pain medications for dogs?
Carprofen, which belongs to the same class of drugs as ibeprofen is commonly used to treat pain in dogs. You may get a prescription under the brand name Rimadyl.
If your pup doesn’t tolerate carprofen, your vet may try another non steroidal anti inflammatory (NSAID) medication like Previcox, Galliprant, or Dermaxx.
If your dog is experiencing nerve pain or even muscle spasms, you may get a prescription for Gabapentin. This is a medication also used to treat similar conditions in humans.
For arthritis or allergies, your vet may prescribe a corticosteroid for pain relief. These medications including prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone reduce inflammation and can have your pup feeling better fast. These corticosteroids often do have side effects so if your vet is recommending long term use, ask about ways to minimize any unwanted side effects.
For more serious pain like that from surgery, serious injury, or chronic diseases like cancer your vet may need to use opioids to control your pup’s pain in the short term or help them maintain a quality of life. Opioids like morphine, codeine, fentanyl, buprenorphine, and hydromorphone may be used to control your pet’s pain.
Natural pain relievers for dogs
Although you probably know it as a culinary spice, Turmeric has been proven a powerful anti inflammatory. If your pup has kidney or liver issues or is dealing with unpleasant side effects from other pain medication, talk to your vet or a holistic practitioner about using turmeric to treat your pup’s pain. As with any dietary supplement, do your research to find a reputable brand that produces a high quality product for your pup.
Over the past few years, CBD has grown tremendously in popularity as a natural treatment for both humans and animals. You’ll find every kind of pet treat under the sun is infused with CBD now. You can even purchase honey sticks and peanut butter that has been infused with this popular ingredient.
According to The AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer,Dr. Jerry Klein, there’s no definitive scientific data on using CBD to treat dogs, there’s anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.
Dr. Klein goes on to say “CBD is also used because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.
Whole Animal Gym (WAG), in Philadelphia, PA uses acupuncture to treat pet’s pain. They say that “Acupuncture is an extremely safe and effective means of treating or relieving pain associated with joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, inflammatory bowel disease, renal failure, allergies, asthma, chronic pain, respiratory problems, nervous system disorders, muscle spasms and other illnesses your pet may be experiencing.”
The acupuncturist will place very small needles in very specific points in your pup’s body. They will relax for about 20-30 minutes with the needles in. For most pets, the treatments will initially be once or twice a week and taper off as they improve. Many pet owners report seeing improvements in 1-4 visits. Duration and results will vary depending on the reason for treatment and severity.
Therapeutic massage can be a great pain reliever for your pet too. Both older dogs who are suffering from arthritis or joint pain and younger, athletic dogs who run, hike or compete in dog sports can benefit from this modality.
As with any new treatment be sure to communicate with the provider about your pup’s medical history, any medications they’re on or changes you see after treatment. Before using massage as a pain management tool, it is a good idea to check with your vet to make sure it will adequately help control your dog’s pain. Your vet may recommend pairing massage with other treatments.
Are there medications that I need to avoid giving my dog for pain?
You should not give your dog products containing ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) for any type of pain. These can be toxic to dogs.
You also want to avoid acetaminophen (tylenol) unless it is being given under the supervision of a vet.
While aspirin can be safe for short-term use, you do not want to use it as part of your longer-term pain management strategy. If your vet has advised you to give your pup aspirin, discuss when you should discontinue and other options for if your pup is still experiencing pain.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.