Human giving dog a pill

Key takeaway

Pain management helps dogs heal faster and easier, reducing discomfort and increasing quality of life. Many different pain meds are available for dogs, including NSAIDs, opioids, local anesthesia, and more. All dog pain medications have risks and benefits, so pet parents must work with their vet to find the best solution for their pet.

Pain management is a crucial tool for helping dogs heal. Managing your dog's pain means helping them stay comfortable and happy. However, there are many different types of pain meds for dogs. If you've ever wondered, "What can I give my dog for pain?" you're not alone.

Luckily, there are many options for pain relief. This article will discuss the different pain meds available and when they may be beneficial.

Note: It's never safe to manage your dog's pain on your own. Talking to a vet is the best way to determine why your dog is in pain so they can treat the underlying cause and provide the appropriate treatment for your pet.

Types of pain meds for dogs

NSAIDs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are some of the most popular pain meds available for dogs. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to treat any pain that results from inflammation, such as joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and even dog arthritis.1 They may also be used to control pain in dogs after surgery.1

Of course, you should never give your dog an NSAID without consulting your vet. It's also not a good idea to administer human drugs to pets. Fortunately, veterinary NSAIDs for dogs exist, including:

  • Carprofen
  • Deracoxib
  • Firocoxib
  • Grapiprant
  • Meloxicam
  • Robenacoxib2

However, what your vet chooses to use to treat your dog's pain depends on their symptoms. For example, carprofen for dogs can help treat inflammation and joint pain.

Additionally, while NSAIDs for humans are typically available without a prescription, you'll need a prescription to purchase NSAIDs for your dog. Your vet must determine if the medication is appropriate for your dog's pain. Without your vet's instructions, using these NSAIDs could be dangerous to your dog's health, especially if you're only treating their pain and not the underlying cause.

Opioids

Opioids are used to treat severe pain in dogs. There are currently three opioids approved for use in animals: butorphanol, buprenorphine, and droperidol fentanyl. However, only the first two are marketed for pets.3 Vets may also use opioids approved for humans to treat your pet, as long as they're considered relatively safe.4

Opioids are best used for acute pain and not long-term pain management because they may have severe side effects. They effectively relieve pain, but adverse effects may include sedation, changes in mood, and excitement.4 Of course, every dog will respond differently to opioids, so your vet may adjust their medication if negative effects arise.

Ultimately, your vet will decide whether an opioid is suitable for your dog based on their pain level, overall health, and any other medication they're currently taking.4 Additionally, your vet will consider how your dog responded to opioids in the past. For example, if your dog becomes aggressive on opioids, the vet may try a lower dose or avoid them altogether.

Local anesthetics

Local anesthetics can help numb a localized area.4 Local anesthetics are typically given to dogs with wounds or those undergoing surgery or minor procedures.4 These are typically safer than general anesthetics because they don’t require the dog to be asleep during minor procedures. It can also be helpful during complex procedures because it may help vets reduce the amount of general anesthesia they need.4 Additionally, local anesthetics can reduce postoperative pain making the dog more comfortable immediately after surgery.4

Woman vet prescribing medication to dog

Other types of pain relief for dogs

Depending on the cause of your dog's pain, there are many more options for pain relief. However, the medicine your vet chooses to treat your pet will ultimately depend on the cause of their pain, their overall health, and how they react to the medications. A few other options vets may choose for pain management include:

Gabapentin

Gabapentin for dogs is an anticonvulsant, anti-anxiety, and sedative that can help treat chronic, long-term pain in dogs.5 Gabapentin is usually given to help complement another type of pain medication to improve your dog's health and reduce pain.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation, which may relieve pain. They’re typically given to dogs with inflammatory conditions.6 Corticosteroids like Prednisone may suppress immune responses that lead to inflammation and related pain. Prednisone is typically used in the short term because long-term use may lead to additional health complications, such as kidney disease and diabetes.6

Are Pain Meds for Dogs Necessary?

Pain meds are part of compassionate care for dogs since they can help them recover faster and reduce discomfort while healing.7 Pain meds are a necessary part of the healing process for dogs because pain can impact their ability to function and their quality of life.8 Dogs with pain may not have the ability to go outside for potty breaks, stand, or eat.

Pain meds for dogs are necessary because they provide comfort and encourage healing

Additionally, the earlier you treat your dog's pain, the better it is for your dog’s health and overall wellness.8 No pet parent wants to see their dog in pain, no matter the cause, so pain meds can help provide you with peace of mind.

Risks of Dog Pain Meds

Unfortunately, there are risks with every type of medication. Some medications are considered safer than others, but you must follow your vet's instructions to reduce the chances of your dog having a negative reaction. We’ll cover a few of the most common side effects of pain meds for dogs below.

Risks of dog pain meds

NSAIDs

Common side effects of NSAIDs in pets include:

  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased activity level
  • Diarrhea2

NSAIDs can also lead to liver failure, kidney failure, and death, especially if you give your dog too much.2 Because NSAIDs may affect the liver and kidney, your vet may choose not to use them if your dog suffers from liver or kidney disease. Additionally, if your dog is using NSAIDs for long-term treatment, your vet may need to perform blood tests before administering the medication.2

It's important to understand that NSAIDs for humans are not safe for pets.

Opioids

Opioids like Tramadol may also have significant side effects if the instructions aren't followed. While following the instructions will prevent overdosing in dogs, a few side effects of opioids include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety9

Dogs can also overdose on opioids, especially if they get into their medication without the pet parent's knowledge or if pet parents give their dog a higher dose than prescribed by the vet. Severe adverse reactions include:

  • Sedation
  • Agitation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma9

If your dog experiences any of these symptoms, it's best to stop their medication and take them to the vet immediately.

Of course, some dogs shouldn't take opioids due to safety restrictions. For example, vets may not prescribe opioids to dogs taking anti-anxiety meds.

Local anesthesia

Local anesthesia is considered relatively safe when administered properly. However, administering more than needed can cause toxicity in small dogs.10 Dogs may also experience minor bruising at the injection site.

Pain Meds for Dogs: FAQs

What pain medications can I give my dog?

You should never give your dog any type of human pain medication, especially without first consulting your vet. Depending on the cause of your dog's pain, your vet will be able to help your dog manage their pain by providing you with a prescription.

Treating your dog's pain at home by yourself can be dangerous to their health. Instead, always talk to a vet about your dog's pain to determine the best course of treatment. Pain management options for dogs range from the use of NSAIDs to opioids that can allow your dog to feel more comfortable.

Can I give my dog pain relievers for humans?

No, never give your dog pain relievers for humans. Over-the-counter pain meds for humans can be fatal to dogs. Dogs should never take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, or any other human pain reliever. Many human medications are toxic to dogs and can result in coma or death, so it's always best to be safe and take your dog to the vet for diagnosis and pain treatment.

What's the best pain med for dogs?

The best pain medication for your dog will depend on what's causing their pain. There are many drugs available for long-term use that are relatively safe for dogs. However, only your vet can tell you the best pain med for your dog based on their needs.

Final Notes

Pain medication for dogs can help make the recovery process smoother and prevent discomfort. Pain can indicate a serious medical problem or be a sign that your dog is healing. However, you should never try to treat your dog's pain at home without consulting a vet because it can be dangerous for their health. If your dog is in pain, it's always best to have them examined by a vet who can treat the cause of the pain while helping manage it.

There are many options for pain management, and all medications have risks and benefits, which is why you should always consult a vet you can trust. Dutch can put you in touch with a remote veterinarian to provide your dog relief. Talk to a Dutch online vet today to learn about your dog's pain management options and order your prescriptions online.

References

  1. “Veterinary Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (Nsaids).” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Veterinary Medicine, https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/product-safety-information/veterinary-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drugs-nsaids.

  2. Medicine, Center for Veterinary. “Get the Facts about Pain Relievers for Pets.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-pain-relievers-pets.

  3. Medicine, Center for Veterinary. “The Opioid Epidemic: What Veterinarians Need to Know.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/resources-you/opioid-epidemic-what-veterinarians-need-know.

  4. Allweiler, Sandra. “Drugs Used to Relieve Pain - Special Pet Topics.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 21 June 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-pet-topics/pain-management/drugs-used-to-relieve-pain.

  5. Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM. “How to Tell When Your Dog Is in Pain & How to Help.” American Kennel Club, 22 June 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-tell-when-dog-is-in-pain/.

  6. Donovan, Liz. “Prednisone for Dogs.” American Kennel Club, 7 Mar. 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/prednisone-for-dogs/.

  7. “2022 AAHA Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.” AAHA, https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/2022-aaha-pain-management-guidelines-for-dogs-and-cats/home/.

  8. “Dogs and Pain Medications.” Poison Control, https://www.poison.org/articles/dogs-and-pain-medications-203.

  9. Burke, Anna. “Tramadol for Dogs: Find out Why and How It's Used.” American Kennel Club, 18 Apr. 2018, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/tramadol-for-dogs/.

  10. SD;, Lemke KA;Dawson. “Local and Regional Anesthesia.” The Veterinary Clinics of North America. Small Animal Practice, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10932828/.