Seeing your dog in pain can be a distressing time. Whilst humans have the ability to self-diagnose and often self-medicate, animals cannot. It is therefore important to consult a vet to determine what is the cause of your dog’s pain as quickly as possible.
Your vet will ensure that your pet is treated effectively so they can return to their usual happy selves as soon as possible.
We all want to do the most for our pets, but as much as they seem like a family member, albeit a four-legged one, there are some things they can’t have. In this article we will be exploring whether pain relievers for dogs are safe or not, and look at some of the treatments your vet may prescribe if your pet is in pain.
What are the signs a dog is in pain?
It can be difficult to determine if your dog is in pain, as they cannot tell you. Before concerning yourself with finding pain killers for dogs, you first need to know how to tell if your dog is in pain. There are certain signs to look out for that often indicate they are experiencing a level of discomfort, and they can range from any, and all of the following:
- Excessive barking
- Excessive panting
- Reduced or lack of appetite
- Lethargy or listlessness
- A reluctance to exercise
A noticeable change in your dog’s behaviour or demeanour could indicate the onset of chronic pain. If they start to snap or act in an unfriendly, or aggressive manner, this could indicate that they are in some kind of pain or discomfort.
Acute pain can also cause your dog’s heart rate to become elevated; their blood pressure may become raised, and their breathing could also speed up.
Chances are you will be able to notice the signs of discomfort in your dog. You know what their natural behaviour and temperament is, so if you notice anything unusual, it may be a warning sign that something is not quite right. To prevent your pet suffering in silence, take them to your local vet as soon as possible.
Can I give my dog pain relief?
Although humans are able to readily buy medication over the counter, this may not always be suitable for your dog. It is important that dog owners do not try to administer pain relief to their pet without first consulting a vet. If a dog is in pain, they should undergo a full veterinary examination.
This will enable the vet to make a proper diagnosis to determine the cause of your dog’s pain and discomfort. Several pain killers for dogs have been specifically designed for them, and your vet will decide the most appropriate treatment for your pooch. Giving dogs non-prescribed drugs can result in accidental poisoning and possibly even kidney failure.
Can I give my dog human pain killers?
This may seem like a great option, if you think that what works for us humans, must work for our dogs. However, this is something you should avoid. Many dog owners wrongly assume it’s safe to give their pet human painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, without consulting a vet, but this is not the case.
Ibuprofen, is toxic to dogs, while paracetamol can also be highly dangerous if the wrong dosage is given. It is vital to speak to your vet before attempting to treat your dog’s pain with any home remedies.
What has caused pain in my dog?
There are a number of factors that may cause your dog to feel pain, from issues such as injuries, and accidents, to less obvious causes such as degenerative diseases like, canine hip dysplasia, bulging discs, and dog arthritis. Pain in our dogs can also occur in the mouth due to dental problems.
While arthritis is seen more frequently in older dogs, some breeds are also more susceptible to the condition:
There are several indicators that could determine what kind of pain your dog is suffering from. For example, if your dog is a bit of a scavenger and has stomach pain, this may be an indicator that they have eaten something they perhaps shouldn’t have, leading to dog gastroenteritis. Stomach pain may also be a symptom of more serious conditions such as peritonitis or gut obstructions.
Untreated parasites, such as worms or fleas, would not normally cause stomach pain in dogs. The exception to this might be puppies, when a heavy worm burden could cause stomach pain. However, it is a good idea to ensure you treat your dog with appropriate worm and flea treatments and that you do so on a regular basis.
In some instances, your dog may only display symptoms of pain following a particular activity, such as walking, eating or going to the toilet, whereas in others, they may show signs of being uncomfortable outside of activities. The more information you can give your vet about your pet’s signs, the easier it will be for them to get to the root of the problem!
Safe pain relievers for dogs
One of the most commonly prescribed pain relievers for dogs are a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They have many uses in veterinary medicine, but are often used to reduce swelling, stiffness and for dog joint pain relief. They’re especially helpful for dogs with arthritis, or dogs recovering from injury or surgery.
NSAID’s work by blocking the effects of pain-inducing enzymes, easing pain and inflammation, which allows your dog to move more comfortably. These should only be prescribed by a vet. Common NSAID’s for dogs are:
NSAID’s are very effective pain killers in many cases, but they may not be suitable for all dogs. Also, if a dog is in a lot of pain, NSAIDs on their own may not be sufficient. So sometimes vets will prescribe other pain relievers for dogs, which may include:
This is a medicine that blocks certain neural transmitters and is sometimes prescribed to treat a range of conditions including arthritis, disc disease, and cancer in dogs.
This medicine treats nerve pain. It may also be prescribed as a mild sedative or for seizure management, in addition to being used for pain relief for dogs.
Tramadol belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. It is used for treating mild pain, most commonly in older animals for treating aches and pains caused by joint disease.
Natural pain relief for dogs
With the potential for side effects from painkillers for dogs, some dog owners prefer to treat their pet’s pain with natural remedies like homeopathy and acupuncture as an alternative, or alongside, traditional treatments. Many vets feel that there is little or no scientific basis for many natural treatments, whilst others swear by their selective use and have had successful responses using them. The important thing is to always follow the guidance of your vet. There are some natural remedies that can help to manage pain in dogs for specific conditions. For example, glucosamine and chondroitin are what is known as nutraceuticals and they are sometimes used in the management of arthritis. But dog owners should only ever use natural remedies if directed to do so by a vet.
Keeping your dog fit and healthy will go a long way towards helping to prevent everyday pain. Regular activity and exercise such as walks and long runs will keep their joints and limbs flexible, plus it will keep them at a healthy weight, reducing pressure on their joints. Remember that, especially for older dogs, regular steady exercise is better than walking your dog very little during the week and then ‘balancing it out’ with a long day out hiking on the weekend.
That’s our guide on whether pain relievers for dogs are safe. Want more information on types of medication for dogs? Read our article about dogs and antibiotics, next.