Sick Dog

Pain Relief for Dogs: What Can I Give Them

Dog owners would love for their four-legged family members to be able to talk for all kinds of reasons, and one of those reasons is so that their dog could tell them when something was wrong. Even if it’s clear a dog is in pain, it still difficult to pinpoint where that pain is coming from, which makes deciding whether to try some at-home treatments or head to the vet a bit of a challenge. 

If you decide to try and treat your dogs’ pain at home, it’s important to know that giving over-the-counter medicine can be dangerous. Some of the ways you treat your own pain could be deadly for your pet, so take some time to get to know what is safe—and what is not—for your pet. 

Signs Your Dog is in Pain

The signs your dog is in pain will not always be as obvious as him yelping or limping. Pet owners need to be aware of the more subtle signs that their pet is hurting. These include:

  • Out-of-the-Normal Agitation
  • Sensitive to Touch
  • Unusually Snappy
  • Hiding
  • Less Active 
  • Refuses to Eat or Drink
  • Refuses to Walk
  • Seems Depressed
  • Increased Heart Rate and Shallow Breathing

Ideally, any unusual behavior would result in a trip to the vet or at least a call to get the vet’s advice about whether the dog should be seen. If that’s not possible, there are some home remedies you can try to help and alleviate your dog’s pain. 

Can You Give Dogs Ibuprofen?

No. You should never give your dog Ibuprofen or any other NSAID drugs, which also include aspirin. 

Here’s why:

These drugs work by blocking an enzyme that produces lipids, prostaglandins, that can cause inflammation and pain. The problem is that prostaglandins do many other things in the body, such as protecting the gastrointestinal lining, allowing blood to clot, and ensuring proper blood flow to the kidneys. 

When the prostaglandins are blocked, it can negatively impact those functions, and that can be extremely dangerous for your dog.  Some of the potential problems include:

  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody Diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Kidney Failure
  • Liver Damage

Sadly, dogs die every year when they are given Ibuprofen, develop one of the above issues, and don’t get proper treatment in time. Well-meaning pet owners are left with the grief of knowing they contributed to the death of their pet. It is not safe to give your dog any amount of aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen, or other anti-inflammatory meant for humans without first talking to your veterinarian.

Can You Give Dogs Tylenol?

Tylenol is not an NSAID, but it is also dangerous for your dog. While some dogs take small doses with no ill effects, other dogs have gone into organ failure, and some have died, from a small dose of Tylenol. While your vet may, in rare cases, recommend Tylenol, it should never be given unless under the supervision of your vet. 

Some of the problems that can result from Tylenol include:

  • Liver Failure
  • Red Blood Cell Damage
  • Kidney Failure
  • Heart Failure
  • Nervous System Issues
  • Gastrointestinal Problems 

Here’s the deal:

You might know a friend who has given their dog Tylenol and had no problem, but the risk is simply too high. Many dogs cannot tolerate even small doses, so even if you know someone who says differently, you should never give your dog this drug. 

What Medicine Can You Give to Dogs?

Examples of the commonly prescribed medications your vet may suggest are Rimadyl and Meloxicam. For severe pain, some vets may offer Tramadol or Gabapentin. If your dog has the need for ongoing pain management and takes pain-relieving drugs over a long period, it leaves them open to liver problems. That’s why many vets will want to try solutions that don’t include drugs. 

For example, if your dog has arthritis, the vet may try hydrotherapy, massage, weight loss, or acupuncture. 

If your dog does need to take pain medicine long-term, he will likely be required to have regular liver function tests.

Medicines You Should Never Give Your Dog

The short answer is that you shouldn’t give your dog any medicine without talking to your vet. Even some of the medicines mentioned in the section above cannot be given to all dogs. Your vet knows your pet and knows his history, so he will be able to match him with drugs that offer the best results with the lowest risk. 

It’s not that all OTC drugs are bad for dogs. It’s fairly common for vets to prescribe OTC allergy medicine—but that’s a decision your vet should make. It’s not one you should make on your own based on an internet search. 

Is your dog going to become seriously ill because you give him half a Tylenol or a baby aspirin? Maybe. Maybe not, but is that a chance you’re willing to take?

How to Comfort Your Dog

If your dog is in pain and you can’t get to the vet for a few hours, there are some ways you can try to comfort your dog until you can see the doctor. Make sure he has a comfortable, quiet place to rest and stay with him, if possible. If you know where the pain is coming from, see if applying a hot towel seems to help. 

The good news is that, in most areas, vet care is available around the clock. The Vet on Fourth offers extended hours to 11 p.m., 7 days a week. If your pet is in so much pain during the overnight hours that waiting for us to open isn’t an option, there are nearby emergency vet hospitals that are open 24/7. 

There are many ways you can unintentionally make your pet sick, and giving them OTC medicine is one of them. Ignoring your dog’s pain, allergy symptoms, or other issues isn’t an option, either. Talking with your vet is the only way to properly manage your dog’s pain and your dog’s health.

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