My dog’s name is Dana. She is a golden retriever/husky mix with a voracious appetite for belly rubs and table scraps. When I come home, she is always the first person to greet me, jumping on her hind legs with her paws on my chest. She is also 13 years old.
I have spent half of my life with Dana, but it feels longer. The trips. The walks. The countless games of fetch in the backyard—but all that time has taken its toll. Dana hardly seems like the fresh-faced puppy that arrived at my house more than a decade ago.
Today, Dana has myriad health issues. Her arthritis makes standing arduous. She has two benign tumors that bulge from her stomach. She has multiple hemorrhoids that prevent her from going to the bathroom without making a mess. It hurts me to see her in so much pain.
My instinct as a dog owner is to soothe her pain. Unfortunately, dogs can’t use many human medications for a range of biological and health reasons. It wasn’t until I came across CBD oil that I found a form of natural pain relief for her. It has restored some of the vitality that made me fall in love with Dana in the first place.
CBD oil isn’t the only pain reliever for dogs. There are different treats, oils, and natural pain killers that can calm canine aches, whether they are approaching old age, recovering from surgery, or dealing with a medical condition.
Today, I want to share safe options to relieve pain in dogs so that your four-legged family member can get the relief my Dana did.
How to Tell If a Dog Is in Pain
While impressively expressive at times, dogs don’t have the ability to articulate themselves like humans. That can make it challenging to know how a dog is feeling at any specific time. Many times, a canine's pain is only evident through physical symptoms or behavior changes. According to Dr. Aja Senestraro, DVM, here are a few signs to look for:
- Arched back
- Holding their head below their shoulders
- Muscle spasms
- Reluctance to move or use stairs
- Slow or shaky walking
- Tight muscles
- Adverse reaction to touching
- Excessive licking or vocalization
Remember, each dog is unique, and so are their reactions. The way one dog reacts to arthritis might vary from the way another does, even in dogs of the same breed. If you notice these general signs, though, it is essential to act swiftly and treat the root cause instead of the visible symptoms.
For instance, if you or I were experience fatigue, one solution may be to eat sugary snacks or drink caffeinated beverages. This rush of instant energy can provide us with the short-term stamina we need. However, drinking coffee is only addressing the surface level issues. The fatigue is likely a result of poor sleep, an improper diet, or stress—those underlying issues are what require attention.
Pain medicine for dogs deserves the same consideration. You aren’t doing yourself or your pooch any favors if you are covering up symptoms when there is a more significant health problem at play. If you are wondering what to give dogs for pain or suspect a medicinal issue, make sure to contact your dog's primary healthcare provider.
NSAIDs for Dogs
NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, help relieve the aches and pains associated with swelling, stiffness, and joint problems. These anti-inflammatory drugs for dogs block a specific enzyme that causes the body to become swollen and hot. While humans can also use NSAIDs, the types that work for us don’t necessarily work for canines.
Amy Flowers, DVM recommends carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl), deracoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), and meloxicam (Metacam). Some other options include grapiprant (Galliprant) and robenacoxib (Onsior). Each dog anti-inflammatory works in conjunction with canine anatomy. This precision ensures safe and effective ingestion with minimal side effects.
What Not to Give Your Dog for Pain
While you and your pooch may enjoy many of the same activities, biologically, there is a lot of distinction. The most pertinent realm is the physiological one. For instance, dogs can’t enjoy many of the same foods as humans, such as chocolate, almonds, avocados, and artificial sugar, to name a few.
These variances result in different needs when it comes to medical attention. While some medications, such as aspirin, work for humans and dogs, they come with distinct dosages and stipulations. Here are a few of the most common household medications considered for use as pain killers for dogs and why you shouldn’t use them.
Can Dogs Take Ibuprofen?
Ibuprofen is a type of NSAID that is harmless to humans but is unadvisable for canines. Ibuprofen for dogs can cause serious health problems and even death. That includes, but is not limited to:
- Internal bleeding
- Kidney and liver problems
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach ulcers
According to VCA Hospitals, while ibuprofen can be anti-inflammatory for dogs, it blocks vital functions. The same process that inhibits inflammation also hinders normal gastrointestinal and kidney operations. As a result, even a single pill can be toxic.
Because ibuprofen can enter the bloodstream within 10 minutes, the results are fast. Your dog's body can’t remove the ibuprofen and instead recycles it over and over in the liver. The inability to process the pain killer creates repeated exposure that mirrors poisoning.
Get immediate medical attention if you inadvertently give your dog ibuprofen. A healthcare professional will perform bloodwork to evaluate the extent of the problem and determine a treatment. Many times that means forcing your dog to vomit while administering activated charcoal continually.
Can Dogs Take Tylenol?
When it comes to over the counter pain meds for dogs, Tylenol is also a no go. Like ibuprofen, the drug can have harmful and potentially fatal consequences. The primary culprit, in this case, is acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol, enters the bloodstream within 30 minutes and has toxic effects. A dog's liver has a hard time breaking down the compound, though, which can lead to liver damage. As a side note, cats are seven to ten times more sensative to acetaminophen than dogs.
Can Dogs Take Aspirin?
One of the most common NSAIDs is aspirin. A doctor may recommend giving your dog a limited dose of dog aspirin for a short-term injury or condition. Over-the-counter aspirin for human use should not be used. Medical professionals also don’t recommend long-term use because it can increase the chances of adverse side effects.
Aspirin for dogs should be given with food to make it easier to eat. Veterinarians will usually recommend it when dogs have a form of arthritis or musculoskeletal inflammation. Because of the potentially severe side effects, remember to consult with a vet before administering any pain meds for dogs.
Side Effects of NSAIDs and Other Medications
We’ve already touched on some of the side effects that come with NSAIDs. The symptoms can range from short-term and mild to life-threatening. Some additional issues for dog pain meds can include:
- Altered drinking or eating habits
- Black and sludgy stools
- Gastrointestinal ulcers and perforation
- Liver toxicity
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), NSAIDs work by preventing the production or distribution of prostaglandin. As a result, the anti-inflammatories can reduce blood flow to vital organs, such as the liver and kidneys. When these organs don’t receive enough blood, they enter a state of shock, which can lead to failure.
The FDA oversees the approval of OTC pain meds for dogs. As of 2020, they only allow veterinarians to prescribe FDA-approved NSAIDs. This regulation ensures dogs receive the safe and effective medication they need.
What Can You Give a Dog for Pain?
When your dog is not acting like him—or herself, your first instinct as an owner is to give them something to treat their ailments, isn’t it? Unless you are a healthcare professional, it is challenging to know where to begin. Generally speaking, pain medications for dogs fall into three categories:
Anti-Inflammatory for Dogs
NSAIDs are a safe and effective option regardless of a dog’s breed or health. They have few side effects and treat ailments at their source, and, when used correctly, are so good at relieving pain that most
veterinarians don’t offer an alternative medication. If you are interested in other options, talk with your vet about gabapentin or tramadol.
CBD Oil for Dogs
CBD oil is experiencing a moment. The natural remedy is a fixture in the health and wellness world because it eases symptoms related to chronic pain, illness, anxiety. CBD oil provides a warm, tingling sensation that erases pain.
It is important to note that CBD doesn’t have THC (THC is an ingredient in marijuana responsible for the psychoactive effects). Dogs taking CBD will not experience a “high” or any sense of impairment. The side effects of CBD are minimal and may include dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and sleepiness.
Natural Pain Relief for Dogs
Natural pain relievers are an outstanding supplement to anti-inflammatories and CBD oils. These remedies can come in the form of food, over-the-counter prescriptions, or pills. Some of the most popular options include glucosamine, chondroitin, and gabapentin.
What Natural Herb Is Like Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication that can also relieve chronic pain. It is ideal for pets dealing with severe conditions, such as cancer or arthritis. While it doesn’t have FDA-approval, it is widely accepted within the veterinary community.
Gabapentin works to stabilize electrical activity in the brain. The mitigation of excess electrical activity is the key to mitigating seizures. It effectively mimics the GABA neurotransmitter to calm the brain’s function.
The most critical part of gabapentin is that it provides relief to your pup. However, it is not the only thing you can give to your dog for pain and swelling. One relatively new option is CBD hemp oil.
CBD oil comes from the hemp plant and doesn’t contain psychoactive properties. Instead, it offers a wide range of soothing benefits, such as pain relief, anxiety relief, and neuroprotection. While the science in the field is nascent, the American Kennel Club's Canine Health Foundation issponsoring a study with Colorado State University to gain more insight into the mechanisms behind CBD for dogs.
There are plenty of options for home remedies, too. For example, willow bark is a commonly used natural supplement for arthritis. Some other options include:
- Arnica (Arnic montana)
- Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)
- Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
- Devil’s Claw Root (Harpagophytum procumbens)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
- Yucca (Yucca schidigera
You can also reduce inflammation for your dog through their diet. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids are an ideal source of anti-inflammatories. Your dog would benefit from meals with fatty fish, like tuna, sardines, salmon, and mackerel.
Additionally, it helps to minimize foods that may make swelling and pain worse. That means staying away from processed foods or those with refined carbohydrates. That also includes a limit on lard, table scraps, high fructose corn syrup, processed meats, and trans fats.
The Bottom Line on Pain Relief for Dogs
There is no right answer to natural pain relief for dogs. You’ll need to consider the size, age, and health of your furry friend while consulting with a veterinarian to find the proper medication. In some cases, a home remedy for pain relief may be the right call, while an over-the-counter prescription may be ideal in other scenarios.
At K9 Kare, we offer several natural products that induce temporary pain relief for dogs. We rely on high-quality sourcing and precise protocols to deliver the results you want for your dog within a few days. We even have a 90-day money-back guarantee. Discover the difference that natural remedies can make for your dog’s well-being today.