How to Tell if a Dog is in Pain

How to Tell if a Dog is in Pain
This is not an easy question to answer.

Dogs are so different from one another, and so are their reactions to pain.

Ginger started scream-crying when the vet sprayed her leg with alcohol before a blood draw, which was clearly not painful.

Daisy was hesitant picking up a tennis ball, and when she finally did, she dropped it right away.

Turns out, she had quite a painful abscess in her mouth. She required surgery on her jaw!

Calvin displays a downward dog yoga position when his pancreatitis flares up. Outside of his yoga moves, there’s usually no other signs he’s in pain.

During those times that I wish my dogs could talk, so they could tell me where they’re hurting.

Some Common Signs Your Dog Is in Pain

Those last two can show up in multiple ways such as:

Activity Level

Daily Habits

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lapses in house training
  • Sleeps more
Make sure your dog isn’t suffering from acid reflux

Are Human Pain Meds and/or Anti-Inflammatories Safe for Dogs?

Now that you’ve determined your dog is in pain, what can you give them?

Obviously, you should bring them to the vet to diagnose the problem.

But what if you already know the source of the pain? For example, you know your dog has a pulled muscle or arthritis, what can you do to help ease their pain?

Over-the-Counter Medications

Aspirin & Ibuprofen

NaturVet Buffered Aspirin can dogs take aspirin pain relievers

Dog-specific aspirin may be a good choice, but talk it over with your vet first

According to Coates, DVM, “It is not safe to give your dog any amount of aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen, or other anti-inflammatory meant for humans.”

Tylenol

Giving your dog Tylenol is typically not recommended, but there are rare cases in which Tylenol with codeine will be prescribed to dogs with severe pain.

According to the ASPCA, Tylenol in large doses “is one of the top 10 causes for poisoning in dogs.”

Aleve

This medicine is extremely toxic to dogs. “As little as one 220mg tablet can cause very serious symptoms (even death), even in a large dog,” Pamela Huyck, CVT, Pet Poison Helpline.

Prescription Pain Medicines

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Rimadyl (aka Novox), Deramaxx, Previcox, & Metacam. These are all NSAIDs.

They treat similar issues and share identical side effects. They’re commonly used for osteoarthritis and as an anti-inflammatory for dogs after surgery.

They also help to reduce fevers.

You can find some of these at VetApprovedRX, though they will require a prescription.

Side Effects

The most common side effects are a change in appetite, vomiting, black tarry or bloody stool, diarrhea, jaundice, and seizures.

Long Term Use

Long term use is not recommended, but it could be necessary for chronic pain such as arthritis.

Long term use can cause damage to the liver and kidneys, so regular bloodwork is recommended to monitor the dog’s health.

Can I give dogs Tylenol acetaminophen toxic poisonous liver damage

A dog’s teeth can defeat child safety caps, so keep non-doggy meds away from curious puppers!

Tramadol

This drug is in the opioid family, and is an analgesic without any anti-inflammatory properties.

It’s commonly used because it’s a safe painkiller with few side effects, plus it can be used in conjunction with other pain medications.

We’ve used this for Calvin for his pancreatitis flare-ups and felt that it worked well unless he had a severe episode.

Side Effects

Potential side effects include stomach upset that may lead to vomiting, constipation, diarrhea and/or loss of appetite.

Long Term Use

Long term use is not an issue. Tramadol is well tolerated and often used for chronic pain.

Note

In recent studies, “both preclinical and clinical research evidence suggest it is unlikely to have meaningful benefits in dogs,” according to Brennen McKenzie, MA, MSc, VMD, cVMA.

Studies are still being conducted to determine its benefits in dogs.

Gabapentin

This medication is often used for chronic pain, pain associated with cancer and pain of neuropathic origin.

It’s usually best when used for consecutive days but can take effect in about 2-4 hours.

Dog pain medicine medication side effects drowsiness vomiting diarrhea

Drowsiness isn’t too bad as far as side effects go, but it can still disrupt your dog’s quality of life

We tried this medication for Daisy, but it didn’t work as well as other medications. Also, it caused her to become unsteady and drowsy.

Side Effects

Per Dr. Barbara Forney, DVM, “Most-common side effects are mild sedation and ataxia.”

Long Term Use

Long term use is generally not an issue.

Galliprant

Galliprant (which you can find at VetApprovedRX) was released in March 2016 and is an “NSAID that uses targeted action to treat canine osteoarthritis pain and inflammation.”

However, unlike traditional NSAIDs, it doesn’t have the side effects from long term use.

We use Galliprant, and I would recommend this to anyone with a dog suffering from osteoarthritis.

We switched Daisy from Rimadyl to Galliprant because it was much safer and managed her pain far better.

The one big drawback is the cost; traditional NSAIDs are a lot more economical.

Side Effects

Side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, soft stool with mucus and watery or bloody stool.

Long Term Use

At this time, Galliprant has shown to be safe for long term daily use without risk of damage to the liver and kidneys.

Supplements & Alternative Options for Pain Relief

I believe in using prescription medication to manage pain.NutraMax Dasuquin with MSM soft chews joint health supplemet

However, I also believe supplements and alternative medicine can greatly contribute to your dog’s comfort.

Also, many of the supplements are pretty economical and can often help heal as well as manage pain.

These won’t help if your dog is in pain for gas, but there are other solutions for that problem.

Dasuquin

Dasuquin contains both Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine, both have shown to aid in pain relief for those with arthritis.

We’ve used Dasaquin for over 5 years now, starting when Daisy was diagnosed with arthritis in her shoulders.

Chondroitin sulfate

“…promotes water retention and elasticity in the cartilage… chondroitin may also inhibit the production of inflammatory mediators that are destructive to the joint.”

Glucosamine

“is an essential building block of joint cartilage.” It aids in rebuilding cartilage and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

TurmericZesty paws turmeric curcumin bites joint immune system support qmin+ bioperine

Turmeric is proven to work as an anti-inflammatory and joint pain reliever.

High doses of turmeric can also serve as a blood thinner and can cause stomach upset, so use caution when giving your dog turmeric.

According to Morgan, DVM, the estimated dose would be 15-20 mg of turmeric per pound. But as always, it’s still good to check with your vet first, as there may be possible drug interactions, especially if your dog is on blood thinners.

CBD

It is believed that CBD has many positive benefits, like pain relief, joint therapy, improved cognitive function, anxiety, cancer, and seizures.

There are many different varieties available and picking the right one can be difficult. It’s suggested you contact your vet for recommendations.

We use Super Snouts.

It comes in many forms, such as capsule form, which works best for Daisy.

Thanks to it, we’ve seen a definite improvement in her cognitive function.

Fish OilNutraMax Welactin canine omega 3 fish oil supplement skin coat joint wellness health

Fish oil is one of the most common and proven supplements on the market.

Some of the benefits include improving cognitive function, it’s an anti-inflammatory, and improves heart disease and kidney disease.

According to Kim Colvard, CVT, CCRP, from the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center, it’s essential to purchase a vet recommended fish oil and provide a high enough dose to see the benefits

She went further to say that currently, the FDA doesn’t regulate fish oil supplements, resulting in varying levels of DHA and EPA.

Nutramax Welactin is the brand recommended by Dr. Sandra Koch, a dermatologist at the University of Minnesota.

Feverfew

This herb helps to reduce pain and acts as an anti-inflammatory caused by arthritis.

Comfrey

This herb can be used for joint inflammatory disorders but does contain alkaloids which can cause liver damage.

This is one that you would want to consult your vet about before giving it to your dog.

Acupuncture

Acupucture has been used for pain relief, relieving inflammation, anxiety, allergies, the list goes on.

“The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to heal itself” through nerve stimulation, according to Patrick Mahaney, VMD.

I’ve used acupuncture with Daisy for years, and she definitely showed improvement. It does take a few sessions to see the benefits.

Massage

Doggy massage for pain relief relaxation arthritis

The hard part is teaching your other dog how to give a massage

Massaging has been known to help with muscle atrophy, inflammation issues, pain, stress, and so much more.

There are trained professionals that specialize in massage therapy, both licensed vets and massage therapists.

However, in-home massage therapy has also proven effective.

K-Laser

K-Laser Therapy is a safe non-invasive pain relief and anti-inflammatory option.

The laser is “designed to target the body’s optimal light absorbing complexes to treat pain and accelerate the healing process.” (K-Laser)

We’ve been using this with Daisy since 2016, and it’s definitely helped. She receives laser treatment weekly at her rehab appointments.

Conclusion

If you’re reading this, you’re like me and just want to relieve our dogs’ aches and pains.

I’m a firm believer in using a combination of treatments to alleviate a dog’s discomfort.

Daisy is on Galliprant for her arthritis, but also on fish oil and Dasaquin. Plus, we do K-Laser therapy and in-home massage (when she lets us).

Keep in mind that every dog is different and it’s just a matter of finding the right combination that works for your dog.

FAQs

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Never give your dog medicine intended for human use. Always use something designed for dogs!

Can you use Ibuprofen or Tylenol for dogs?

Generally, it’s not recommended. In rare instances, a vet may prescribe Tylenol with Codeine for severe pain, but in closely monitored doses.

What can I give my dog for hip pain?

Normally, an NSAID like Rimadyl or Galliprant would be prescribed.

If additional pain management is, needed tramadol or gabapentin might also be added to provide more significant pain relief.

What can I give my dog for pain and swelling?

An NSAID like Rimadyl or Galliprant would work, but also depending on the location, using ice packs for 10-minute intervals can also assist with swelling and pain management.

What painkillers for dogs with arthritis are available?

Besides the NSAIDs and pain meds listed above. fish oil, acupuncture, CBD, turmeric, and massage therapy are all excellent in aiding with dogs with arthritis.

About the author

Jessica Mabie

Jessica and her husband share their lives with four amazing high energy Brittanys and one very awesome cat. You’ll rarely see her without her 4 pack, they go everywhere with her, including most vacations. So, if you see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).