What Can I Give My Dog for Pain: Recognizing and Relieving Pain in Dogs

Veterinary medicine has made incredible advances. But no matter how much we learn, pets’ quality of life depends on how well we can control their pain.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, with contributions from Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. This article was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Elliott and was last updated on June 13, 2024

what can i give my dog for pain image
How your dog is standing, sitting, or resting can give you subtle hints about what can I give my dog for pain relief. By: hannah k

Veterinary medicine has evolved significantly, with advancements in anesthesia, geriatric care, cancer treatments, and more. However, a dog’s quality of life depends on how well we can control their pain, regardless of the cause.

How to Recognize Pain in Dogs

Recognizing pain in dogs can be challenging for both owners and veterinarians. Here are key points to help identify pain in your dog:

  • Body Language: Observe how your dog stands, sits, or rests. Unusual postures can indicate pain.
  • Vocalization: Changes in your dog’s sounds, such as whimpering, yelping, or silence, can signal discomfort.
  • Behavior Changes: Look for signs like reduced activity, reluctance to move, or changes in appetite.

Pain Assessment: Not an Easy Thing

  • Different dogs exhibit pain differently. For example, a dog may wag its tail and seem okay but still be in discomfort.
  • Pain tolerance varies by breed and individual dog.

Recognizing Pain Through Vocalization

When your dog cries out, you take notice. If the sound of their whimpering or yelp has changed, if it’s a frightening yelp or a dull moan, it’s time for action.

  • Intermittent Yelps: Yelps that come intermittently with normal behavior in between are frequently caused by neck or back pain, similar to an acute spasm.
  • Silent Signals: Lack of the usual happy sounds can also be a sign of pain. Your veterinarian may need to determine the meaning of the vocalization, but don’t ignore it.

Many owners bring a dog in because “he has yelped in pain.” Often, this indicates neck or back pain rather than abdominal pain. Rarely does a dog in abdominal pain scream out and then go back to what they were doing, like eating.

For more on vocalization in pets, you can visit Petful’s guide on excessive vocalization.

Identifying Pain Through Posture

How your dog is standing, sitting, or resting can give you subtle hints that they may be experiencing pain. If their stance is off, they probably are “off”!

  • Obvious Signs: A limp, licking a particular paw, or scratching an ear are clear indicators of pain.
  • Subtle Signs: Standing in one position without moving, tucking in the abdomen, hunching, holding the head down, or walking gingerly are all signs that should not be ignored.

If your dog could talk to you, they would be saying they are in pain.

To reiterate, you know your pet best of anyone. Except, perhaps, your vet. If you’re lucky enough to have a long-standing relationship with your vet, it can be a great help. An owner may bring in a pet I’ve been seeing for years and be unaware that there is a change in demeanor, particularly if the change is subtle and slowly progressive. This is especially true with geriatric pets, who may be in some form of chronic pain.

What can I give my dog for pain – sometimes an Elizabeth collar would help. By: sleep

Understanding Normal Behavior to Recognize Pain in Dogs

When dogs are brought into my hospital, it’s crucial to be familiar with their normal behavior before illness or surgery. Knowing what’s normal helps identify what’s abnormal.

Assessing a dog before any procedure is key to controlling pain afterward. While it’s easy to overlook subtle cues in a busy hospital, attention to a dog’s demeanor is essential for effective pain management.

  • Observation: A dog simply looking at her flank after a spay can mean she is in pain. Licking or bothering an incision usually indicates that the dog is not just bothered by the sutures but may be experiencing uncontrolled pain.
  • Monitoring: Continuous monitoring is key. If we only walk by a patient every hour, we may miss subtle cues indicating pain.

What Can I Give My Dog for Pain

Pain management for dogs is a rapidly evolving field with many advancements in both human and veterinary medicine. Effective pain control can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life.

  • Consult Your Veterinarian: Always consult your vet before giving any medication. They can recommend the best pain relief options for your dog’s specific condition.
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs): Medications like carprofen, meloxicam, and deracoxib are commonly prescribed for pain relief in dogs.
  • Gabapentin: Often used for chronic pain and neuropathic pain.
  • Tramadol: A prescription pain medication that can help manage moderate to severe pain.
  • Natural Supplements: Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can help with joint pain and improve mobility.
  • CBD Oil: Some pet owners find CBD oil effective for pain management, but consult your vet for guidance on dosage and safety.

Never give your own pain meds or over-the-counter (OTC) meds to your dog without checking with your vet first. Many drugs have not been properly tested in dogs, and incorrect dosing can be harmful. Learn more about the risks of giving your pet human medications.

Effective Pain Management Strategies

Proper pain control does not have to be expensive. Many newer pain drugs are already generic and can be very helpful in chronic or acute pain conditions. Combinations of drugs may be warranted, and veterinarians need to think outside the traditional pain management box.

  • Acupuncture
  • Laser Therapy
  • Local Analgesia and Anesthesia
  • Physical Therapy
  • Lifestyle and Weight Management
  • Nutrition

It’s important to stay current with cutting-edge research in pain management to ensure your dog receives the best care possible. For more detailed information, visit Dr. Pol’s controversial take on pain control.

Remember, always consult with your veterinarian to find the most appropriate pain relief options for your dog. Pharmacists may not always provide accurate advice for pets, so it’s best to rely on veterinary guidance.

Home Remedies for Dog Pain Relief

When considering what can I give my dog for pain, there are several home remedies that can be effective:

  • Turmeric: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can help relieve pain. Always consult your vet for the correct dosage.
  • Ginger: Ginger can help reduce inflammation and pain. Mix a small amount into your dog’s food.
  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate pain. Add a small amount to your dog’s diet.
  • Massage: Gentle massage can help relieve muscle pain and improve circulation.
  • Heat Therapy: Applying a warm compress to the painful area can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Emergency Pain Relief for Dogs

In an emergency, knowing what can I give my dog for pain is crucial:

  • Buffered Aspirin: Can be used for short-term pain relief in dogs. Consult your vet for the correct dosage.
  • Ice Pack: Applying an ice pack to the affected area can help reduce swelling and numb pain.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Not for pain relief, but if your dog ingests something toxic, inducing vomiting can prevent further pain. Use only under vet guidance.
  • Veterinary Hotlines: Keep contact information for veterinary hotlines for immediate advice. List
  • Veterinary Visit: When in doubt, seek immediate veterinary care.

Preventing Pain in Dogs

Preventing pain is always better than treating it. Here are some tips on how to prevent pain in dogs:

  • Regular Exercise: Keeps muscles strong and joints flexible. Prevents obesity, which can lead to pain.
  • Balanced Diet: A diet rich in essential nutrients supports overall health and can prevent conditions that cause pain.
  • Joint Supplements: Glucosamine and chondroitin can help maintain joint health and prevent arthritis pain.
  • Regular Vet Check-Ups: Early detection of potential issues can prevent pain from developing.
  • Safe Environment: Ensure your dog’s environment is free of hazards that could cause injury.

By following these guidelines, you can effectively manage and prevent pain in your dog, ensuring they lead a comfortable and healthy life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What can I give my dog for pain?

Consult your veterinarian for safe pain relief options like NSAIDs or prescribed medications.

What can I give my dog for pain in an emergency?

In an emergency, you can give your dog buffered aspirin, but consult your veterinarian immediately.

What can I give my dog for immediate pain relief?

For immediate pain relief, consult your vet who might recommend medications like tramadol or an ice pack for swelling.

What can I give my dog for joint pain at home?

For joint pain at home, you can give your dog glucosamine and chondroitin supplements.