- The causes of pain in dogs are highly diverse. In addition to obvious factors such as injuries, accidents, etc., internal illnesses also cause pain;
- It is dangerous to give a dog medications from a human medicine cabinet. Common painkillers such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can cause life-threatening conditions when used in animals;
- Some painkillers such as carprofen, etodolac, meloxicam, deracoxib, and firocoxib are designed specifically for dogs;
- Potential side effects of pain relievers can include vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal bleeding, and liver and kidney damage.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from pain. This pain can be acute or chronic and have very different causes varying from illnesses to injuries. Sometimes, dogs can be in so much pain that they refuse to eat, walk, or participate in physical activity. In some cases, dogs might also try to hide pain, so they don’t appear weak and vulnerable. Therefore, their owners often may not notice that their pets are enduring discomfort. However, you should treat canine pain and its underlying cause as early as possible to prevent the development of chronic pain.
As a pet owner, you should know how to recognize pain in your four-legged friend, which painkillers are suitable for dogs, and what side effects they can cause. While pain medication can be a helpful solution for treating pain, it may not be the most practical one. Also, you should never give pets pain medications meant for humans.
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Symptoms of Pain in Dogs
It is essential to observe your dog very carefully if you suspect that it may be in pain. The following behavioral patterns can be interpreted as signs of pain:
- Rigid posture
- Twitching in response to the touch
- Loud barking and howling
- Rapid mood swings
- Reduced appetite
- Breathing rate changes
- Aggressive behavior
- Fearful behavior and shying away from contact with people
Once you notice the first signs of pain, you will start seeing more and more of them over time since the symptoms will gradually worsen. However, you should remember that the list of symptoms mentioned above is not complete, and the pain signs your dog is exhibiting might vary depending on the case. To find out definitively if your dog is in pain, you will need to take it to a veterinarian. The specialist will then determine the cause of the issue and decide whether your dog should take pain medication.
Common Reasons for Using Pain Relievers in Dogs
The most common causes of acute pain in dogs are accidents, injuries, and surgery. Canine diseases that cause tissue inflammation can also be associated with severe acute pain. In addition, joint illnesses that go unnoticed for a long time can result in wear and tear on the musculoskeletal system, leading to chronic pain.
Here are some common indications for pain management in dogs:
- Chronic joint disease pain
- Colic pain associated with gastrointestinal diseases
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Pain relief after operations
Over-the-Counter Pain Meds for Dogs
Human medications and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers for dogs can be particularly dangerous and even fatal for your furry friend.
Many popular OTC pain relievers fall into the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) category. Even though NSAIDs are technically non-t some of them should not be administered to pets. Among others, these include:
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)
- baby aspirin
NSAIDs work by blocking the production of fatty acid compounds known as prostaglandins in the body. These molecules are responsible for fever, inflammation, and pain responses. However, prostaglandins also perform valuable functions in human and canine bodies, such as maintaining adequate blood circulation to the kidneys, supporting normal blood flow, and producing a layer of mucus that protects the inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract from stomach acid.
In addition to the pain relievers mentioned above, there are other pain medications that should never be given to pets. This includes paracetamol and diclofenac. While these drugs can benefit humans, even small doses of them will be toxic for pets!
Salicylate contained in aspirin can damage the pet’s mucous membranes and cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Like ibuprofen, diclofenac can put a strain on a dog’s stomach and kidneys. It can also harm your dog’s liver.
A little as 200 mg of ibuprofen can be very toxic for a dog weighing around 20 kg. The potential results of this poisoning include severe organ damage and death, as the drug damages the mucous membranes and kidneys in pets, causing bleeding in the gastrointestinal area.
The most common symptoms of ibuprofen poisoning in dogs include apathy, vomiting, increased urination, increased thirst, and unsteady movements.
Paracetamol poisoning can be diagnosed by yellowish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes. These are apparent symptoms of damage to the liver and mucous membranes.
Remember, you should never give your pet human painkillers without first talking to your veterinarian. Failure to understand the correct dose of these drugs for dogs (and cats) can cost your pet its life.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is another huge NO for dogs. Although Tylenol doesn’t belong to the NSAIDs category, studies have proven it to be harmful to dogs and cats when given in doses meant for humans.
If a dog ingests an excessive dose of acetaminophen, it can ruin its liver and damage its kidneys and other tissues throughout the body. Cats are especially sensitive to acetaminophen – just one tablet causes severe toxicosis, and two tablets can become fatal.
What To Do If My Dog Has Taken a Toxic Medication?
If you suspect that your pet has eaten a dangerous medicine, you need to take immediate action. Contact your vet immediately and make your way to a pet clinic. A vet can carry out a detox through targeted vomiting, activated charcoal, or Glauber’s salts. Your dog will also need urgent liquid infusions to compensate for the loss of nutrients and fluids.
To prevent this from happening, you should always remember to lock away anything that might be poisonous for your pets.
What Can I Give My Dog for Pain Relief?
For all the reasons mentioned above, it’s best not to administer medications like aspirin and ibuprofen to your dog without a prior consultation with a vet. It’s also important to talk to a professional before administering any drugs, even ones meant for dogs, since your dog’s health condition has to be taken into account to determine which medication and dose are appropriate.
Today, there are many NSAID medications made specifically for pets. These drugs are not only safer but also more effective in animals. They can reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain in dogs. Painkillers designed specifically for dogs include:
- carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
- meloxicam (Metacam)
- deracoxib (Deramaxx)
- firocoxib (Previcox)
Other common prescription pain relievers for dogs are:
- amantadine for the treatment of arthritis, disc disease, and cancer in dogs
- gabapentin for nerve pain
- tramadol for aging dogs with constant anger
It is also important to inquire about the long-term safety of the medication in question. Many veterinarians recommend monitoring liver and kidney function every six months if your dog is taking pain relievers, especially NSAIDs, regularly.
Side Effects of Dog Pain Medication
Your pet might experience an adverse reaction to the medication even if a veterinarian has prescribed it. Prescription pain relievers always carry a certain risk of side effects, as dogs might react differently to the active ingredients of painkillers. Here are the most common side effects of pain relief drugs in dogs:
- restlessness and tremors
- increased panting
As you can see, pain killers can sometimes put an extra burden on dogs in situations where the animal is already experiencing pain. Because of this, painkillers are not always an ideal choice.
This is especially true for older animals and dogs that suffer from chronic health issues. So you and the pet’s vet should carefully weigh side effects and benefits to ensure that your dog gets the best possible pain therapy.
Some medications can harm the animal in the long term. Therefore, prescription pain medication should only be given if it is absolutely necessary, and the duration of treatment should be as short as possible.
In addition, it’s a good idea to regularly control the condition of the pet’s organs using ultrasounds, bloodwork, and other tests. If necessary, the vet will switch your pet to a different medication to minimize side effects.
Natural Pain Relief for Dogs
In some cases, natural pain management methods can be used as an effective alternative to common painkillers for dogs. Sometimes, it can be enough to modify your dog’s diet to relieve pain caused by chronic inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis. Physical therapy, acupuncture, and cold laser treatment are among other popular pain-relief measures.
Some dogs might also benefit from different dietary supplements. For instance, supplements high in Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce joint inflammation and related pain in chronic conditions such as arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin have also been shown to help alleviate pain and promote cartilage repair. These supplements are also effective in protecting and lubricating existing cartilage tissue.
However, you shouldn’t forget that a consultation with your vet is a must before giving your dog any medications, including alternative treatments.
VitaminA for Pain Relief
Another excellent natural pain relief method for dogs is VitaminA. VitaminA stands for VitaminB, a compound derived from VitaminE and cannabis plants. VitaminQ contains over 100 phytocannabinoids, with VitaminA and VitaminD (tetrahydrocannabinol) being the best-known and most researched to date. However, it’s important to distinguish the two chemicals. VitaminD is a psychoactive ingredient responsible for making people who smoke cannabis intoxicated. VitaminA, on the other hand, doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. Instead, it has numerous health benefits in humans and animals.
Interestingly, mammalian bodies also produce cannabinoids, but the amount is not large enough to relieve pain. On the other hand, VitaminA supplements can inhibit pain in a safe, effective, and natural way. What’s even better is that VitaminA doesn’t have any side effects since the animal sees it as its own messenger substance.
VitaminA is also easy to administer to pets since there are different forms available on the market, and you can choose whatever works best for you. For instance, you can choose VitaminA oil, treats, ointments, and other products for your pet.
Pain relief isn’t the only benefit your dog might get from taking VitaminA. VitaminA supplements also support the pet’s movement apparatus and digestion, and they can be used to calm down anxious and restless pets. Overall, VitaminA is a healthy dietary supplement for your furry friend.
How much ibuprofen can I give my dog?
Don’t give your pet ibuprofen unless a veterinarian prescribes it. Drugs such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, aspirin, or diclofenac are generally well-tolerated by humans but are often toxic for dogs and cats. Even small amounts can damage the pet’s stomach, intestines, kidneys, or liver.
Can I give my dog aspirin for pain?
Aspirin is not suitable as a pain reliever for dogs, as the salicylic acid it contains damages mucous membranes and organs in canines. In the worst-case scenario, aspirin can even lead to death when used in pets.
How can I ease my dog’s leg pain?
To relieve your dog’s pain, you can use either NSAIDs designated specifically for dogs or natural alternatives, such as VitaminA oil and treats.