Pain Medications for Dogs

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Pain Medications for Dogs

If you notice your dog isn't quite himself lately, it could be because he’s in pain. He could have an injury, an infection, or a disease. Or maybe he's starting to feel the aches of aging.

When your pet hurts, you want to help him feel better. But don’t try to guess what his problem may be. Visit your veterinarian to find out what's wrong.

There are different ways to help ease his pain. Your vet will recommend medication based on what's going on and your dog's health history.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, help reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain in humans, and they can do the same for your dog. They can bring relief to a dog with arthritis, or one who’s just had surgery.

But don't give your pooch something from your medicine cabinet. There are NSAIDs just for dogs:

  • carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
  • deracoxib (Deramaxx)
  • etodolac (Etogesic)
  • firocoxib (Previcox)
  • meloxicam (Metacam )
  • tepoxalin ( Zubrin)

NSAIDs are usually safe for dogs and have few side effects. But in some cases, they can cause kidney, liver, or digestive problems.

You may be able to tell if your dog is having a bad reaction to an NSAID. An easy way to remember the signs is with the word BEST:

  • Behavior changes
  • Eating less
  • Skin redness, scabs
  • Tarry stool/diarrhea/vomiting

If you spot these symptoms, stop giving your dog the drug and call your vet.

Aspirin is an over-the-counter NSAID. Your doctor may OK giving it to your dog for a limited amount of time, but usually only if he has an injury or another short-term condition. It’s not recommended for long-term use in dogs because it has side effects, including the risk of bleeding. Coated aspirin is best on the stomach, and give the pills with food. Talk to your vet and follow her recommendations on how much and how often.

Other Medications

Because NSAIDs are usually good at relieving pain, veterinarians don't often prescribe other kinds of painkillers. But sometimes, your dog may need more options. Your vet may talk to you about amantadine, gabapentin, or tramadol.

  • Amantadine,which treats Parkinson's disease in humans,helps block pain. Dogs may get it to treat aches from arthritis, disk disease, and cancer. The side effects can include diarrhea and agitation.
  • Gabapentin treats pain from damaged nerves in humans and dogs. It may make your dog sleepy for the first few days, but that usually goes away. Sometimes your vet will prescribe it along with other drugs.
  • Tramadol is an opiate, which means it’s part of a strong class of narcotic painkillers whose main ingredient comes from the opium poppy. Vets sometimes give it to aging dogs with constant discomfort. If your pet takes it, he may get an upset stomach, decreased heart rate, panting, and constipation.

Veterinarians give stronger opiates only for a short while. They usually don’t prescribe steroids for pain, as they can have serious side effects.

Supplements

Supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, are very popular alternative treatments. It’s not clear if they help, but some research has found that they may make swelling go down and help cartilage repair itself.

Always talk to your vet before giving your dog any medications, including supplements.

Ask for a written copy of the treatment plan, as well as instructions (and a demonstration) for how to give the medicines to your pet. Be sure to give the drug only as your vet recommends. Too much or too little can cause problems. Don't share medications between dogs. What's good for one animal may not be the right thing for another.

You may not be able to relieve all of your dog’s pain, but you should be able to make him feel better. With your vet's guidance, you may need to try different things to find out what brings the most relief.

SOURCES:

FDA: "Treating Pain in Your Dog."

The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners: "Pain Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats."

PetCareRx: "Options and Types of Pain Medication for Dogs."

Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, Pharmacy Center.

University Veterinary Hospital and Diagnostic Center: Arthritis Medication Handout.

ASPCA: "Hip Dysplasia."

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Reviewed on 9/25/2014

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