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What Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

11/01/2017 by Healthy Paws
November 1st, 2017 by Healthy Paws

It can be difficult to detect when animals are feeling pain: after all, they can’t show us where it hurts or explain the type of pain, however signs like whimpering and panting can tell you something’s up. The last thing you want is your beloved pup suffering, but this desire to soothe your pet’s pain can lead to accidental poisoning. Human medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are not designed for dogs and should never be given without a veterinarian’s approval.

  • Over-the-counter medications called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen are the most commonly known painkillers for humans, and it’s extremely easy to give your dog the wrong dosage, which can be fatal. Even when given the correct amount some pets may experience an adverse reaction; NSAIDs can also interact with other drugs, making their use risky.
  • Pet parent DeeDee experienced the horrors of ibuprofen poisoning when her two-year-old Goldendoodle Bentley ingested an unknown amount of the drug. “It was a horrible time in our family’s life,” she said on Dr. Doug Kenney’s “Pet Insurance Guide” podcast. Thankfully, after going into kidney failure and spending two days in the ER, Bentley made a full recovery and is now a therapy dog.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning in dogs is also common, and the drug is so deadly to cats that even one regular-strength tablet can lead to death. Serious liver and kidney damage can result from an overdose of acetaminophen, so it’s important to follow your vet’s instructions exactly.

Never give your pet any medication or supplement without first consulting a licensed veterinary professional. Although many websites and pet homeopaths allege that certain “herbal pain remedies” are safer or more reliable, there is no scientific data to back up these claims. A 2006 study found glucosamine/chondroitin supplements can relieve pain related to osteoarthritis in dogs, but some vets are still skeptical, saying it has “some value, little risk.”

How do I know my dog is in pain?

Signs of pain are mostly vocal, such as constant whining or barking upon touch. A dog experiencing chronic pain may have a reduced appetite or symptoms of depression, becoming unfriendly and snapping at the lightest touch. Acute or sudden pain can cause an elevated heart rate and raise blood pressure and cause a pup to breathe quickly or loudly.

You know your dog better than anyone else; sudden changes in activity level or interest are warning signs something is going on. Avoidance of favorite activities like walking or playing fetch can indicate an unwillingness or inability to exercise due to pain. If a normally friendly dog becomes snappish or constantly grumpy, that’s another red flag. It can be difficult to determine when to take your dog to the vet – it isn’t cheap, we know – but catching a potential health issue early gives pets the best possible outcome.

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What causes pain in dogs?

The root of a pet’s pain is not always immediately apparent. While in some cases the cause may be obvious – a broken limb or after surgery – most of the time the animal is suffering in silence. Pay attention to any changes in your dog’s behavior, especially in senior pets and after medical procedures. Some pain in dogs appears only after certain kinds of activity, like hiking or high intensity exercise, or as a result of actions like eating or going potty.

Degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis and degenerative myelopathy, which affects the spinal cord, are more likely to arise in senior dogs and can be very painful if left untreated. Dog hip pain is the most common type, frequently caused by canine hip dysplasia or arthritis. Intervertebral disc disease (IDD) occurs more often in certain dog breeds, like Dachshunds and Shih Tzus, commonly known as a “bulging” or herniated disc.

Dog stomach pain usually indicates a serious medical condition like peritonitis, an infection of the stomach or intestines caused by a puncture; bone splinters and swallowed objects are the most common culprits. A stomach virus, or enteritis, may also be to blame. Parasites and worms in dogs can also cause pain in dogs if left untreated. More seriously, tumors and some types of cancer in dogs lead to stomach pain as the disease progresses; side effects of treatment can also cause pain and nausea.


Can I treat my dog’s pain without medication?

Your veterinarian is the only person qualified to answer that question, but there are plenty of non-medical treatments, also known as alternative care, for a dog in pain. Create a treatment plan with your vet that incorporates options you and your pet are comfortable with; while some pets refuse to take medication, others can be terrified of acupuncture, and so forth.

Daily exercise can prevent dog joint pain by keeping limbs flexible and limiting pet obesity (extra pounds put pressure on weakened joints), however sometimes an animal isn’t physically able to partake in the daily run around the park. Hydrotherapy has been extremely beneficial for these pets as warm water helps to soothe swollen joints and enhance circulation. Acupuncture has also been noted to treat pain and inflammation in dogs, promoting circulation and muscle relaxation by inserting needles at areas of the body where nerves and blood vessels meet. Pups can also find relief in massage and chiropractic services, as well as laser therapy – a relatively new treatment that speeds healing of surgical incisions and wounds, as well as helps assuage pain from arthritis and any traumatic injury like fractures or damaged nerves.

Many pet insurance companies do not offer coverage for alternative treatments, whether because they doubt their efficacy or due to the high cost. However, Healthy Paws does covers alternative care such as acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, and hydrotherapy, as long as the procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian. Enrolling your dog in pet insurance early on, before any problems occur, is the best way to be prepared for an unexpected accident or illness, and allows you to pursue the best treatment available without having to worry about the cost.

Your best bet for a dog in pain? Take them to the vet. Healthy Paws processes hundreds of claims for pain – it was the fifth most common claim for dogs in 2017. Diagnostics can range anywhere from $150 to $4,500 while treatment varies just as widely, making pet insurance a sound investment for those unexpected accidents and illnesses. For more on common pet ailments and their corresponding treatments and expense, please see our Cost of Care Report.