Dog Pain Relief Options Explored

Dog pain can come in many forms: arthritis, injury or illness can cause varying levels of discomfort. Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications can relieve your dog's pain and alternative therapies such as chiropractic and acupuncture are gaining acceptance as well.

Pain causes the body to product prostaglandins, a natural body chemical that causes inflammation. The site of the injury or disease may become red, swollen and warm to the touch. All of these processes cause pain.

NSAIDs for Inflammation and Arthritis

NSAIDs relieve pain and reduce swelling by blocking the production of prostaglandins. Common Brand Name Canine NSAIDs include:

  • Etogesic (etodolac) tablet
  • Rimadyl (carprofen) caplet, chewable tablet or injection
  • Deramaxx (deracoxib) chewable tablet
  • Metacam (meloxicam) oral drop or injection
  • Zubrin (tepoxalin) disintegrating tablet
  • Previcox (firocoxib) chewable tablet
  • Novox (generic carprofen) caplet

The FDA has warned that NSAIDs "may be associated with gastrointestinal ulcers/perforations, liver and kidney toxicity." These side effects should be discussed with your veterinarian. She will help you understand the risks and benefits and make the best choice for your dog.

If your dog has liver, kidney or heart problems, use NSAIDs with caution.

Discontinue NSAIDs and contact your veterinarian if you see any of the following signs:

  • Change in appetite or thirst
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or black, tarry or bloody stools
  • Lethargy, seizure, aggression or confusion
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin, gums or eyes)
  • Change in urinary habits (frequency, color, or smell)
  • Red, itchy skin

Severe Pain Due to Injury or Cancer

In cases of severe pain due to traumatic injury or certain cancers, a hurt dog may require strong pain relief. Your veterinarian may prescribe narcotics. These are powerful medications, but studies have shown that an injured or sick dog will recover faster if the level of pain is reduced. These drugs should be used under strict veterinary supervision but when used properly, can significantly reduce dog or puppy pain and hasten recovery.

Some commonly prescribed narcotic pain relievers include:

  • Morphine
  • Pentanyl citrate
  • Buprenorphine
  • Butorphanol Tartrate
  • Naloxone Hydrochloride

An alternative to narcotic pain relievers is Tramadol (Ultram), a powerful painkiller that is similar in function to morphine but is non-addictive.

Alterative Pain Treatments

Acupuncture is gaining credibility as a method of pain relief for pets and is being used for a variety of chronic and acute pain conditions. Acupuncture is useful for a variety of conditions besides pain including neurological and gastrointestinal disorders.

Veterinary chiropractic, the process of correcting subluxations of the spine, can relieve pain associated with spinal misalignments. Often, these misalignments will manifest as stiffness, gait problems and back or neck pain. Repeated treatments can restore mobility and improve quality of life for dogs as well as other animals.

Recent pharmaceutical advances have resulted in a wide range of options for treating pain in dogs. Used with care, these drugs and treatments can improve the quality of life for dogs and puppies.