Seeing your dog in pain is never easy, and of course you want to do whatever you can to bring them relief as soon as possible.
There are many safe and effective pain relievers made specifically for dogs. However, it’s very important to avoid giving your dog anything that comes out of your own medicine cabinet. Over-the-counter pain relievers made for human consumption can be very dangerous and even fatal for dogs. Human pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin will do more harm than good, and should never be given to your dog.
If you suspect your dog is in pain, resist the temptation to guess what’s wrong and instead schedule a visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Based on your pet’s specific situation and medical history, your veterinarian will recommend the best medication and dosage to ease their discomfort safely and effectively.
Why Are Human Pain Relievers Bad for Dogs?
Some of the most common over-the-counter pain medications for humans – like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen – are called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These NSAIDs work by inhibiting an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which produces hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that promote pain, inflammation, and fever.
But since prostaglandins also have many other important functions in the body, inhibiting them can cause serious issues for your dog’s health.
Here are some common human pain relievers and how they can be harmful to your dog:
- Aspirin or baby aspirin – While it’s true veterinarians may prescribe aspirin or baby aspirin to dogs for short term-pain relief, these should never be a long-term solution. Aspirin given to dogs for long periods of time poses a serious risk of kidney damage or internal bleeding. If your veterinarian does prescribe aspirin, be sure to strictly follow all instructions and dosage recommendations. It can also be easier on your dog’s stomach to make sure the aspirin is coated, and to give it with food.
- Ibuprofen – Ibuprofen (found in Advil) should never be given to dogs, as it can cause stomach ulceration (which can lead to a fatal stomach rupture), kidney failure, seizures, and coma.
- Naproxen – Found in Aleve and Midol, Naproxen can result in severe gastrointestinal ulcers, stomach ruptures, and acute kidney failure in animals.
- Tylenol – While Tylenol is not an NSAID, it is still a big no-no for dogs. In high doses, Tylenol (also known as acetaminophen) can cause irreversible damage to the liver, kidneys, and tissues in your dog’s body.
Human pain relievers can be extremely dangerous for dogs, and they may die without proper treatment. Never give your pet any amount of these medications unless closely supervised by your veterinarian.
What Can I Give My Dog for Pain Relief?
There are many safe and effective pet pain medications your veterinarian can prescribe that have been formulated specifically for dogs.
NSAIDs made for dogs are effective at reducing pain, inflammation, and fever – without the dangerous side effects that human painkillers can have.
Some of the most common NSAIDs for dogs include:
- Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
- Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
- Firocoxib (Previcox)
- Meloxicam (Metacam)
These medications are often prescribed to reduce inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and pain for dogs who are recovering from surgery or suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis or hip dysplasia.
NSAIDs for dogs are usually safe but in some cases can result in kidney, liver, or digestive problems. If you notice any changes in your dog after giving NSAIDs – such as vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in your dog’s behavior or eating habits – contact your veterinarian immediately.
Other Prescription Medications
NSAIDs are usually quite effective at relieving pain, but if your dog needs a higher degree of pain relief, your veterinarian may prescribe tramadol or gabapentin:
- Tramadol is a synthetic opioid analgesic that is used to manage moderate to severe pain. Veterinarians commonly prescribe it after surgery and invasive medical procedures, and it’s sometimes used to treat other conditions that cause acute pain, such as injuries, or for arthritis pain. Side effects may include upset stomach, vomiting, and dizziness.
- Gabapentin is used to treat pain from damaged nerves, and can be helpful in managing chronic pain or cancer pain in dogs. While it is not FDA approved for veterinary use, it is a commonly accepted practice for veterinarians to use this medication in dogs.
Prescription medicines aren’t the only way to provide your dog with pain relief. Supplements can be a wonderful and natural way to reduce pain and inflammation, without the risk of more severe side effects that comes with prescription drugs.
Here are some of the most popular supplements that can reduce chronic inflammation, which is the main culprit behind the pain and discomfort associated with diseases like arthritis and hip dysplasia:
- Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound made of glucose (a sugar) and glutamine (an amino acid) that is essential for maintaining healthy cartilage and joint function. A building block of the cartilage matrix, it stimulates the growth of cartilage cells and has also been known to normalize the synovial fluid which lubricates joints. While glucosamine is not a cure for degenerative joint disease, it can definitely help your dog feel more comfortable and stay mobile longer.
- Chondroitin is a cartilage component that promotes water retention (hydration is key for healthy joints) and elasticity needed for mobility. It also inhibits cartilage-destroying enzymes that break down cartilage and joint fluid. Look for Chondropure® which has a low molecular weight molecule for superior uptake. That is why we formulate our GlycanAid HA with Chondropure® instead of lesser quality generic brands.
- Omega-3 supplements reduce discomfort from chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis, promote heart health, help soothe skin diseases, promote brain function, and more. While fish oil is the most well-known Omega-3 supplement, supplements made with the green-lipped mussel are proven to be more effective at reducing pain and inflammation in dogs. Flexerna Omega paired with GlycanAid HA can go a long way towards helping your dog’s joints.
Other Sources of Pain Relief
In addition to giving medication or supplements, the discomfort associated with chronic inflammatory conditions can be helped through weight management, feeding an anti-inflammatory diet, stretching, and massage.
If your dog is in pain, don’t wait to talk to your veterinarian to determine which medications, supplements, and/or treatments is best for them.