Evidence Based

What Can I Give My Dog For Pain?

Written by: Kristina Lalovic
Dogs tend to hide pain and discomfort quite easily for longer periods of time. But when they can't ignore it anymore and become these sad, vulnerable creatures, our hearts break at the mere sight of their suffering. The next we do is search for best pain reliefs for our pup. Discover everything there is to know in this article, as well as which medications are safe, what not to give to your dog and the natural ways of managing pain.

Dog owners often get really upset when their beloved pups are in pain. No matter what the cause might be, seeing that your dog is not quite feeling himself and seems rather sad makes us, dog owners, worry and want to do anything to make that pain stop.

However, giving him your over-the-counter pain medications should be definitely avoided, as it might worsen the situation and in some cases can lead to death. But how do you relieve your dog from feeling pain then? What is the best pain relief for dogs? We will answer all of those questions in this article.

Knowing what to do when your dog is in pain will make your life as a dog owner much easier. This can come in especially handy if your dog is older and is more prone to developing chronic conditions that might be a constant cause of pain. So, giving him the right med to make it stop will surely make him feel better and make his life much easier. The same as with us, humans, right?

However, not all pains are the same and should not be treated equally. As you probably know, certain pains can just pass within a day and are easy to handle, while others might just be too much to bear and can drain your energy. The same stands for your dog too.

So, enough talking, chances are you’re reading this because you need an immediate solution, and we’re here to help. Let’s start!

How Do I Know My Dog Is In Pain?

Dogs are known for covering their pain for a long time. They don’t want to show their weaknesses and pretend everything’s just fine. This makes the situation for dog owners a bit more complicated as you have to observe your dog in order to really know how he feels.

When your dog is showing the signs of being in distress, that you should probably act immediately.

The chances are that the causes that make your dog feel pain, progressed and that you should help your four-legged friend treat them instead of letting him heal on his own. But, what are the clear signs that indicate that a dog is suffering from pain? Well, the studies have shown that changes in behavior are more likely to indicate the feeling of pain rather than changes on the body. (2)

If he doesn’t want to play, avoids stairs, has troubles standing up, chances are your pup is really in pain. However, let’s list the most common signs found in dogs with pain.

Decreased Energy Level

As a pet owner, you know what your dog’s regular level of energy is. You know that your pup is rather an active pet and all of the sudden he is just attached to the couch or the floor, the chances are that he might be feeling pain.

A bit of lethargy is not something to worry about if your dog gets back to normal quickly. However, if you feel that your dog’s behavior is suddenly different, then there is usually a reason behind it. (3)

Be aware that this could reveal some other health issues too.

Sagging Tail

As we all know, canine tails can reveal a lot about how they feel. Just like it reveals when your dog is happy and excited, it can also tell you that your dog isn’t quite feeling great. The reasons behind a sagging tail are numerous, including a condition called Limber tail, but still, it is most likely a sign of pain or distress.


If your dog is not generally a biter but all of a sudden starts biting himself or even nipping you, it can be a crucial sign of indicating pain. (4) Try noticing if your dog nips you when you touch a specific area, as this might reveal where does the pain come from.


Apart from apparent mobility issues that might clearly indicate an injury or even arthritis, changes in your dog’s posture might reveal if your dog is feeling pain. When in pain, some dogs stand more rigidly than normal, while others tend to get into the “praying pose” for longer periods of time.

Being More Vocal

Dogs that are in pain tend to be more vocal. Your dog might start growling, barking, whining or even howling in order to let you know something is wrong.

Excessive Grooming

Excessive licking of your dog’s paws or other areas might indicate that your dog is trying to ease their pain. It’s in canine instincts to clean their wound by licking it, and if you look more closely, you might discover wounds or cuts. However, in other cases, the pain might be internal.

Pay attention that if your dog is too depressed due to feeling lethargic, he might not groom at all. So when it comes to grooming, every behavior that is very different might be an indicator of pain.

Dilated Eyes

Dog’s eyes can tell a lot about how well your dog feels. If a dog is experiencing pain, his eyes will most likely become dilated or even blood shot. Your pup might even look at you frequently in a very sad way trying to tell you that he’s not feeling his best.

Check your dog’s eyes and they will reveal a lot!


Swelling is among the most evident signs of pain that you can see in your dog. Noticing any changes on your dog’s body might help you determine if your dog is in pain or has had a bad day and maybe only needs some short rest.

Appetite Loss

The same as with humans, appetite loss frequently indicates a health problem. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something alarming, but every now and then when we’re in pain our urge for food suddenly drops. The same stands for your dog.

This can also be easy to notice. If your dog begs for food when you’re eating, or just generally seems that he can eat whenever you give him something, and you see that now he just avoids it, then you should read those signs and act.

If you see some or all of the signs mentioned above, you should act ASAP.

What Could Cause Pain In A Dog?

While with regular pain caused by injuries, gastrointestinal disorders, traumas or sore muscles it might be easier to choose the right type of medication, for others you might need different types of meds that will help ease the pain.

If your dog has just had a surgery, pain in the post-surgical recovery period is quite normal. In this case, your vet should have given you prescriptions for the right kind of medication that will make the pain disappear.

When talking about chronic pain, a combined therapy might be needed, as your dog might be lacking some important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can help in managing the recurring pain.

Of course, pain could also suggest the presence or progress of a serious disorder, which is why treating and discovering the cause of pain should be done in teamwork. You will have to monitor your dog’s behavior and body in order to provide your vet with the most adequate information.

The veterinarian will know what to do and tell you if it’s a temporary pain that can be treated easily, or if there’s a need of doing further tests.

What Can I Give My Dog For Pain Relief?

Based on what could be causing your dog’s pain you should give your dog specific medication. Not all pain medications are suggested for all types of pain, as the cause of it might be very different.

Most common pain relievers that humans use are what we call NSAID’s (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories). Ibuprofen, aspirin and baby aspirin fall into that category. However, you shouldn’t give your dog over-the-counter medication you use for yourself. Even small amounts of medication designed for humans can be fatal to dogs or cause dangerous side effects.

There are five different medications that help in alleviating pain in dogs. Let’s take a closer look.

Dog Friendly NSAIDs

NSAID medications block the production of enzymes that lead to swelling. Modern versions of these meds are much safer for dogs than the ones that were previously in use. They do not bring damaging side effects that were found in former NSAIDs.

NSAIDs can be very useful in cases of injuries that often cause swelling as well as gastrointestinal, renal or hepatic disorders. (5)

The safe NSAIDs you can give your dog are: Metacam, Zubrin, Piroxicam, Rimadyl, Novox, Deramaxx, Etodolac and Previcox.


Opiates are rarely prescribed by veterinarians, and NSAIDs are often chosen over them. They do not help in treating the cause of the pain, but rather anesthetize your dog’s feeling of pain. They are narcotics and are therefore mostly used for severe conditions in which the pain is too strong for the dog to sustain.

Opiates might be given to a dog safely after an orthopaedic surgery with no serious side effects. (6)

Common opiates that are used in blocking a dog’s ability to feel the pain are: Buprenorphine, Morphine, Pentazocine, Paregoric, and Codeine.


When inflammation causes too much pain, steroids can be very useful in controlling it. However, when used, steroids can cause a lot of damaging side effects that can even lead to developing certain diseases.

Your vet will probably prescribe NSAIDs instead of steroids, but if he still does these are the ones your dog can take: Prednisone, Dexamethasone, Corticosteroids, and more.


Nutraceuticals are supplements that help especially with chronic pain. (7) They are often used alongside another pain medication (NSAIDs) in order to enforce the curing process. Nutraceuticals rarely have side effects and are completely safe for dogs. That’s why adding important nutrients to your dog’s diet is an essential form of maintaining his good health.

However, the main nutraceuticals given to dogs that are in pain are: Omega-3 Fatty acids, “MSM”, and Glucosamine.


Studies have demonstrated that antidepressants also have analgesic effects that help in alleviating pain. (8, 9)This is true for both dogs and humans. They can be used in various situations including acute or chronic pain.

The antidepressants that are dog-friendly are: Tofranil and Elavil.

What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Pain Management Medication?

When taking medication, we should all be aware of the potential side effects and recognizing them on time. This is true for humans, dogs, cats, and other animals.

Monitoring your dog’s reaction to the medication that he’s been taking might help in improving the effectiveness of the chosen pain management therapy.

If you notice that your dog still behaves strangely, doesn’t have appetite and isn’t showing signs of improvement, it might be that the medication isn’t doing him any good. If these symptoms are combined with skin redness and diarrhea/vomiting, then the change of the medication might be needed.

Can I Give My Dog Over-The-Counter Medication?

This one is a definite no. Even the smallest amounts of human NSAIDs might cause severe damage if given to dogs. Just two aspirins might cause death for canines.

So do not give your dog human medication, as there are much better alternatives that your vet might prescribe you immediately.

How To Naturally Treat Pain In Dogs?

Some owners, however, prefer treating pain in more natural ways that eliminate potential side effects. What are the options that you can opt for if you’re one of them? Well, first of all, there are different approaches to easing the pain.

You might want to include physical therapy that would include massages. This could work well for dogs that suffer from arthritis.

If your dog has had surgery and has to recover, trying to make his environment calmer might also help in speeding up the healing process. Turn the music down, and avoid constraining your dog to stay in spaces with a lot of people.

Other people use alternative treatment methods such as acupuncture that often show positive results in reducing pain and healing its source. (10)

If your dog is not experiencing severe pain and hasn’t lost appetite you can try feeding him these two foods that are highly effective in reducing pain.


Capsicum is a vegetable rich in capsaicin, which is a powerful component that helps in relieving certain kinds of pain. (11) It has shown that capsaicin is very effective in treating pain in arthritis which is why feeding bell peppers to your dog might be a good idea.

Read more here on how to serve capsicum to your dog and preserve all of its healthy nutrients.

You might probably find out that chili peppers contain the highest concentrations of this healthy compound, but do not feed them to your dog. They are way too spicy to feed to a dog.


Turmeric is very popular for its amazing health benefits that it provides to us humans. It turns out that it is completely safe for dogs, and that they can benefit from it in almost the same way as we do.

Curcumin found in turmeric is among the most efficient compounds in managing pain and is often used as an alternative to pain medication. (12) Not only will this superspice ease your dog’s pain, but it will also provide him with plenty antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (13)