Safe pain relief for dogs

Dogs suffer the same aches and pains as humans but because they can’t speak it’s often difficult to determine whether they’re suffering. Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, however, there are lots of options available to vets to both relieve pain in dogs and to assess the level of pain they are suffering.  Here we answer some of the most common questions owners ask about what can I give my dog for pain?

Dog lying on a bed looking sad for Vets Now article on pain relief for dogs
It's often difficult to determine if your dog is in pain

What are the signs a dog is in pain?

Is my dog in pain? It’s a question dog owners ask regularly. But before concerning yourself with obtaining pain relief or painkillers for your dog, you first need to know how to tell if your dog is in pain.

There are a number of signs, some more obvious than others, which can indicate pain in dogs, including excessive grooming, being more vocal and antisocial or aggressive behaviour.

Read our advice article for more information and if you’re worried your dog is suffering contact your vet or, out of hours, your nearest Vets Now.

Can I give my dog pain relief?

Owners often ask vets about safe pain relief for dogs. While humans can self-diagnose and, in many cases, self-medicate by buying over-the-counter drugs, it’s not quite the same for dogs.

It’s imperative dog owners do not try to administer pain relief to their pet without first consulting a vet. If a dog is in pain they should undergo a full veterinary examination. This will enable the vet to make a proper diagnosis in respect of what is causing the pain and draw up a treatment plan to treat it. Several painkilling drugs have been designed specifically for dogs and these are far safer and more effective than drugs intended for people. Giving dogs non-prescribed drugs can result in accidental poisoning and possibly lead to kidney failure.

Can I give my dog human painkillers?

As tempting as it may be to try to treat your dog’s pain using over-the-counter human painkillers, it’s something you should avoid.  Many dog owners wrongly assume it’s safe to give their pet human painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, but this is not the case.

Ibuprofen, for example, is toxic to dogs while paracetamol can also be highly dangerous if the wrong dosage is given. We can’t reiterate enough how vital it is you speak to your vet before attempting to treat your dog’s pain. Only ever give your dog painkillers that have been prescribed by your vet. Our emergency vets have treated many pets who have been poisoned by human drugs such as ibuprofen.

Dog being petted by an owner for Vets Now blog on can I give my dog paracetamol and what can I give my dog for pain?
Always consult your vet if you think your dog is in pain

Can I give my dog aspirin?

While aspirin is sometimes used by vets to treat mild to moderate pain caused by osteoarthritis or musculoskeletal inflammation, it should never be administered by dog owners.

Even small doses can cause stomach ulcers and the stomach lining to become inflamed, while aspirin overdose can result in what’s called salicylate poisoning. This can lead to haemorrhage, seizures, coma, and death.

Can dogs have paracetamol?

You should never give dogs paracetamol at home as it can be highly toxic if they are given the wrong amount. If your dog is in pain, take them to the vet and let them decide on the best treatment.

There is a form of paracetamol for dogs which your vet may prescribe in some circumstances and you should always follow their instructions and never give more than the prescribed dose.

Is there a dog pain chart?

Most vets use pain scales to assess the level of pain a dog is suffering. However, because dogs can’t speak the results are based on the vet’s interpretation of the intensity of the pain.

There are several pain scales for veterinary patients. At Vets Now, our emergency vets use the Glasgow composite measure pain scale. It features 30 descriptor options within six behavioural categories, with each option ranked according to its pain severity. It can be applied quickly and reliably in clinical settings.

Dog lying down looking sad for Vets Now article on What can I give my dog for pain?
There are some natural remedies that can help relieve pain in dogs

How to relieve dog pain naturally?

There are some natural remedies that can help to relieve pain in dogs for specific conditions, such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which are used to treat arthritis. But dog owners should only ever use natural remedies if directed to do so. Our advice is always to consider the evidence for a particular treatment.

Only treatments underpinned by recognised evidence-based veterinary medicine or sound scientific principles should be considered and your vet is the best person to provide you with this guidance.

Are there other ways dogs can suffer?

Being in pain is not the only way in which our pets can be considered to be suffering. Anything which adversely impacts on their ability to exhibit normal behaviour can lead to suffering, for example not being able to breathe easily.