When your dog is in pain, your first impulse may be to help relieve it. That impulse is a beneficial one if it results in a trip to the vet and a recommendation for the right pain medication for dogs. But that impulse can be disastrous if you decide to treat the pain yourself with a painkiller designed for humans.
Pain meds for dogs need to be given under the guidance of a trusted vet, as you want to be sure the medication is safe for dogs in general as well as safe for your specific pet. Here you’ll find a rundown on what you need to know about different types of dog pain medications.
6 Tips for Reducing Risk with Dog Pain Meds
- Always consult with your vet before giving your dog any type of medication, even natural supplements.
- Never give your dog over-the-counter medications designed for people. Only a few safe exceptions exist, and they must be given under veterinarian orders.
- Human pain medications can be harmful to dogs for several reasons. It can be tough to determine the correct dosage. Your dog may be sensitive to certain substances, have pre-existing conditions that increase the risk, or be taking other medications that would cause a negative reaction.
- Never give your dog any medication prescribed for a different dog. Each dog has a unique health profile, and certain medications that are safe for one dog may not be safe for another.
- If your dog experiences side effects from any medication, stop giving him the medication and contact your vet.
Pro Tip: Get a written copy of your dog’s treatment plan, along with detailed instructions on how to administer the medication to your pet. You can download our FREE printable medications list and weekly schedule HERE.
Pharmaceutical Pain Medications for Dogs
The most common prescription pain meds for dogs are NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If using an NSAID is too risky for your pet, vets can instead prescribe another type of dog pain reliever.
How NSAIDs Work
NSAIDs work by impacting the production of prostaglandins, which are substances the body releases in response to injury or irritation. When a cell is injured or damaged, an enzyme is known as cyclooxygenase, or COX, becomes activated. COX, in turn, prompts cells to produce a range of substances. One set of those substances is prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are responsible for several functions, one of which is contributing to the levels of pain, fever, and pain.
Some NSAIDs work by blocking COX, resulting in the production of fewer prostaglandins. Others block certain activities of the prostaglandins themselves. Either way, the end result is a reduction in pain and inflammation.
NSAID Pros and Cons
One of the major benefits of NSAIDs for dogs is their effectiveness, provided you use an FDA-approved NSAID specifically meant for dogs and follow instructions precisely. When you use a pain medication designed specifically for dogs, the risk is reduced, although side effects are always a possibility with any medication.
Side effects of NSAIDs can include:
- Decreased appetite or no appetite
- Decreased activity
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Stomach and intestinal ulcers or other issues
- Kidney or liver failure
Make sure you tell your vet if your dog has any digestive, kidney, or liver issues if NSAIDs are being considered for treatment.
How Other Pharmaceuticals for Dogs Work
In some cases, NSAIDs may not be the most effective or safe option for your dog. Alternative pain relievers for dogs include:
- Tramadol: Like other opioids, tramadol works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and other areas, telling the brain that pain does not exist.
- Gabapentin: This pain reliever treats pain from damaged nerves, and it can double as a mild sedative.
- Amantadine: This dog pain reliever blocks neural transmitters.
Other Pharmaceutical Pros and Cons
Other pain medications for dogs are a beneficial alternative for pets that cannot use NSAIDs. When prescribed by a trusted and knowledgeable vet, your dog is going to receive the right dosage of the right medication that is least likely to cause severe side effects.
All medications come with some risk of side effects.
- Tramadol’s side effects can include dizziness, vomiting, or upset stomach.
- Gabapentin can cause extreme sleepiness for the first several days.
- Amantadine can bring on nausea, dizziness, or sleeplessness.
OTC Pain Meds for Dogs
Over-the-counter pain medications designed for humans should never be given to your dog unless specifically recommended by your vet. Most medications for humans, especially NSAIDs, can be extremely dangerous to pets, although a few exceptions exist. These exceptions, however, need to be administered carefully and under the strict guidance of your veterinarian.
OTC Medications Toxic to Dogs
- Ibuprofen: This is toxic to dogs and can damage their kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. Many OTC medications contain ibuprofen, such as Motrin and Advil.
- Naproxen: Another substance that can be toxic to dogs, naproxen can likewise lead to kidney and gastrointestinal damage in dogs. In rare circumstances where dogs cannot tolerate other NSAIDs, vets may recommend very low dosages of Aleve, which contains naproxen.
OTC Exceptions Under Doctor’s Orders
In addition to extremely low doses of Aleve, veterinarians have suggested the use of acetaminophen and aspirin in certain cases.
- Acetaminophen: The main ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen has the potential to pose a serious risk if not administered in the proper dosage. Although it is not an NSAID, it can still result in kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal damage.
- Aspirin: Aspirin is an over-the-counter NSAID, and vets may recommend it as a solution for a short-term condition or injury. Long-term use of aspirin increases the risk of bleeding disorders and stomach ulcers.
How OTC Meds for Dogs Work
Acetaminophen works to relieve pain by increasing the pain threshold, or the amount of pain that needs to develop before the pain is felt. Its fever-reducing abilities come from its action on the brain area that regulates heat.
As an NSAID, aspirin works to reduce inflammation, fever, or pain by affecting the production and performance of prostaglandins.
OTC Medications Pros and Cons
A major benefit of OTC remedies may be the price and the convenience.
The big drawback of OTC medications is typically only an issue if you’re attempting to give your dog medications designed for humans without consulting a vet.
Natural Pain Medicines for Dogs
Natural pain relief for dogs typically comes in the form of supplements. High-quality joint supplements that contain key ingredients can be especially helpful for reducing pain and increasing mobility
How Natural Pain Meds for Dogs Work
Natural supplements for dogs tend to help reduce inflammation which, in turn, decreases pain. Two key pain-relieving ingredients are glucosamine and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). Others include chondroitin and green-lipped mussel oil (GLM).
- Glucosamine: One of the most common joint supplements, glucosamine reduces inflammation by helping to repair cartilage in the joints. Our GlycanAid HA has 500 mg per tablet.
- MSM: MSM provides a soothing effect on connective tissue by reducing stress and swelling.
- Chondroitin: This cartilage component promotes elasticity and water retention while inhibiting destructive enzymes. Our GlycanAid HA has 125 mg per tablet.
- GLM: With three types of omega-3 fatty acids, GLM is even more powerful than traditional fish oil for reducing inflammation and pain. Our Flexerna Omega has 50 mg per capsule.
Natural Medication Pros and Cons
Supplements that provide natural pain relief for dogs tend to be readily available and largely cost-effective. Another bonus is their ability to reduce pain by addressing and helping to repair the root cause of the pain, not just masking it. In addition to helping to alleviate pain, dog supplements can also benefit overall health and well-being.
With so many dog supplements on the market, the selection could be confusing or even overwhelming. Make the right choice by looking for a trusted source and the purest, most effective ingredients.
Thanks to the variety of medications for dogs on the market, there is likely to be one or more that provides the relief your dog needs. Whether your vet provides a prescription, recommends over-the-counter or natural remedies, or suggests a combination of any of the above, following the vet’s instructions, is a must. With the right remedy, care, and attention, your dog’s pain can be alleviated and your peace of mind restored.
If natural dog meds are part of your pain management program, feel free to review the selection of high-quality supplements TopDog Health & Rehabilitation.
You May Also Be Interested In:
- Insider Tips: Pain Management for Your Dog
- The Top 5 Signs Your Dog Is in Pain
- The Pain Trial Concept for Dogs. What Is It and Why Is It Important?
- Is My Dog in Pain? What To Look For and How To Listen
- Pain Meds For Dogs and Managing Your Dog’s Comfort For A Lifetime
- How to Recognize Canine Joint Pain Early and Preserve Quality of Life