Dog Pain Relief Options:

Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Over the Counter, Herbal Remedies, Acupressure...

Dog pain relief can come in many different forms. While many people automatically assume it has to come in the form of a drug, sometimes alternative approaches can help as well. In this article we'll cover some over the counter pain relief medications for dogs. We'll also talk about some natural remedies that might help like glucosamine chondroitin sulfate, herbal pain remedies, and acupressure.

Dogs can experience pain in many different forms. Acute, chronic, hip dysplasia, elbow problems, osteoarthritis, post surgical pain, spinal problems, infections, injuries, sprains, bruises, wounds, etc. But most often, dog pain relief is sought by owners of dogs who have arthritis or joint pain. Dog joint pain is an example of chronic pain that many older dogs, and even some puppies can experience.

Signs of Pain in Dogs

Signs of pain in dogs if left untreated include anorexia, delayed wound healing, behavior changes, aggression, depression, restlessness, and self-trauma. Signs of acute pain in dogs can include vocalization, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, fever, aggression, and unnatural positions.

Aspirin Dosage for Dogs

Aspirin that is buffered or enteric coated is an over the counter pain relief medication that is generally safe to use at the recommended dosage in dogs. Aspirin is also known as acetylsalicylic acid.

Aspirin produces pain relief for dogs (analgesia), reduces fever, and inflammation. It is classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID).

Aspirin is contraindicated in dogs that have stomach ulcers, are bleeding, or are hypersensitive to it. Stop giving it if you notice vomiting or black tarry feces. Uncoated aspirin can be irritating to the stomach, so buffered aspirin is preferred.

The recommended aspirin dosage for dog pain relief from Plumb Veterinary Drug Handbook is 10-20 mg/kg orally twice a day. (approximately 5 mg/pound every 12 hours)

Some companies sell "dog aspirin" like Vetrin Aspirin or Excel Dog Aspirin. Both are buffered products that are marketed specifically at pain relief for dogs.

Baby aspirin is 81 mg/tablet. If you dose your dog at 5 mg/pound, one baby aspirin is good for a 16 pound dog. So you must be careful if you have a very small dog like a Yorkie, Chihuahua or other pocket sized dog because even one baby aspirin could be toxic to them.

Acetaminophen for Dogs

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Pamprin, Excedrin, Midol) is generally not used for dog pain relief because of its narrow safety range.

It is sometimes combined with codeine for dogs with more severe pain. According to the Plumb Veterinary Handbook, the acetaminophen dose for dogs is 10 mg/kg every 12 hours.

Again, use acetaminophen for dogs only if recommended by a veterinarian, and never ever give acetaminophen to cats.

Ibuprofen Not Recommended for Dogs

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin) is another NSAID like aspirin. But it is strongly recommended NOT to give ibuprofen for dog pain relief because it can cause internal bleeding and much safer choices are available for dog pain relief options.

Kidney and gastrointestinal problems are likely if you give your dogs ibuprofen, so simply do not give it. If your dog accidentally ingests ibuprofen, call your veterinarian immediately.

Herbal Pain Remedies for Dogs

Herbal pain remedies for dogs are available, but not recommended in most cases. First of all, most herbs are not clinically proven to be effective for dog pain relief. Because there is no hard evidence, most herbal recommendations for dog pain are just based on people's experiences which can vary greatly.

If you are interested in learning more about herbal pain remedies for dogs check out this book: Veterinary Herbal Medicine (Elsevier 2007) written by Drs. Wynn and Fougere, two veterinarians who specialize in this area.

Some companies sell herbal remedies aimed at pain relief for dogs. One of the most popular ones is Traumeel.

Traumeel tablets are an herbal product that according to some physicians are a safe alternative to NSAIDS. The main ingredients of this herbal pain remedy are arnica montana and belladonna.

Two other companies selling natural pain relief products include: Only Natural Pet Store (Lubri-Herbal Formula and Animals' Apawthecary Alfalfa/Yucca Blend Pet Herbal.) These two products contain the herbs: devil's claw, burdock, chaparral herb, and licorice, burdock, yucca root, respectively.

PetAlive sells one product called Muscle & Joint Support which contains glucosamine, devil's claw, spirulina, clac flor.

Three other popular herbs include wobenzym, ashwaganda, and feverfew. Wobenzym, is a digestive enzyme that reportedly has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Ashwaganda (ginseng of India) also has some anti-inflammatory properties. Feverfew has been used for a long time for painful conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and migraines in people.

Some other herbs you might see mentioned in regards to dog pain relief include Bryonia, Rhus toxicondendron, Du huo jisheng Wan, and boswelia.

Joint Protective Compounds

Joint protective compounds (JPCs) are most often used for chronic pain conditions in dogs like elbow and hip dysplasia. The two most commonly known JPCs are glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These products may help to slow joint damage in cases of osteoarthritis. Many companies now sell these types of products for dogs, but the most popular of these products is Cosequin.

Dasuquin is a newer product and contains avocado/soybean unsaponifiables(ASU) and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. The addition of ASU reportedly makes the other compounds in the formula more effective. Thus Dasuquin is supposedly more advanced and effective then just Cosequin.

Veterinary Prescriptions

If you can get a prescription for dog pain relief medication from your veterinarian, you have a lot more choices then just basically over the counter aspirin.

The strongest pain relievers are opioids. Opioid are often used for cases where there is moderate to severe pain. These have strong pain relieving properties. Just some examples of the medications that your vet might dispense for your dog are sustained release oral morphine, Tramadol, fentanyl patches, oral buprenorphine, and oral codeine. These are controlled substances so their use is highly regulated and controlled.

There are also many other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) that you can get by prescription as well which are effective osteoarthritis treatments.

These are primarily used for arthritis pain relief, hip dysplasia and other joint problems. Some are also used to treat minor post-operative pain. These include:

1. Rimadyl
2. Deramaxx (COX2 specific)
3. Novox (generic version of Rimadyl)
4. Previcox (COX2 specific)
5. Metacam

Acupressure, Acupuncture, and Stem Cells

Acupressure for dogs, many people believe, is underutilized. Acupressure uses the same pressure points as acupuncture. So basically instead of needles you simply use your fingers to press on these pressure points.

This is supposed to stimulate the body to heal itself, and relieve pain. If you are interested in learning more about acupressure for dogs, I recommend this book: The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure by Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis.

Stem cell therapy is also becoming a very popular way to treat chronic joint pain. You can read more about this in one of my recent blog posts: MediVet America Pet Stem Cell Kit.

Additional Pain Control Measures

When it comes to dog arthritis pain due to hip or elbow dysplasia, sometimes weight loss, daily exercise, and physical therapy can help.

Sometimes changing the diet can also help as well. Now many companies are creating products that help to keep dog joints healthy. Some of these include:

Hills Prescription Diet j/d
Iams Veterinary Formula Joint Articulation
Purina Veterinary Diets JM
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Osteo & Digest OD23


As you can see, when it comes to dog pain relief you have many over the counter options. Remember, it is always best to consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any oral medication. Most medications can have negative side effects, so it is important that you understand the risks associated with each treatment option when it comes to pain relief for dogs.

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