What Are The Best Pain Meds For Dogs? Avoid Your Medicine Cabinet

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Bottle of medicineOur family dog, Tiny, is a fanatic runner when he’s off-leash. He loves to bolt at full speed, but his aging body isn’t keeping up with his youthful energy (sound familiar?!). Often the next day, he’s sluggish and is so sore he won’t even jump up on the couch with me.

We all hate to see our dogs in pain and want to give them relief. Fortunately, there are some very effective pain medications for dogs available. Before you pop them a pill, however, it’s crucial to know what’s safe and what’s not — and what pain med side effects to watch for.

Article Overview

Are Human Pain Meds For Dogs Safe?

No. You might be tempted to save yourself time and money by just giving your pup one of your over-the-counter pain meds. Think again. Human medications are not safe for dogs. 

Can Dogs Have Ibuprofen Or Aspirin?

Absolutely not, say experts. Human medications and over-the-counter (OTC) pain meds for dogs can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. Learn more about OTC meds for dogs.

Many common OTC pain relievers fall into the category of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). These include ibuprofen, aspirin, baby aspirin and naproxen, among others.

NSAIDs work by inhibiting the production of fatty acid compounds in your body called prostaglandins, which are responsible for fever, inflammation and pain.

Prostaglandins, however, serve beneficial roles in the human and canine body, including sustaining sufficient blood flow to the kidneys, maintaining normal blood clotting, and producing a layer of mucus that protects the gastrointestinal tract’s inner lining from stomach acid.

When these healthy functions become reduced, dogs are particularly susceptible to health problems. They can develop:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea (often bloody).
  • Intestinal problems.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Bleeding disorders.
  • Kidney or liver dysfunction or even failure.

Not knowing the appropriate dose of these medication types for dogs (and cats) is a disaster waiting to happen. You may unknowingly give your otherwise healthy dog a dose that’s too high, and some dogs are especially sensitive to human NSAIDs.

Can Dogs Take Tylenol?

Tylenol for dogs is another huge NO. Tylenol is acetaminophen, not an NSAID, but tests have shown that it’s equally as harmful to dogs when given in human doses.

When dogs ingest even a slight overdose of acetaminophen, it can destroy their liver cells and damage their kidneys and other tissue all over their body. Cats are severely sensitive to acetaminophen — so much so that just one tablet can be fatal.

What Can I Give My Dog For Pain Relief?

Now that you know human-grade OTCs are out of the question, what can you give a dog for pain? There are specific canine pain medications available on the market that are safer than those designed for people, but we strongly advise that you get a recommendation from your veterinarian.

Your vet can assess your dog’s health history, weight and other factors to determine which medications and dosages are most beneficial. Veterinarians will also tell you how to monitor their treatment to make it as safe as possible.

What Are The Best Pain Meds For Dogs?

Editor’s Pick
Nutri-Vet K-9 AspirinNutri-Vet K-9 Aspirin

Some vets will recommend canine-formulated aspirin that you can find over the counter, but make sure you get a correct dosage and treatment plan, i.e., how many times per days for how many days.

Otherwise, most veterinarians will prescribe pain relievers. NSAIDs specifically made for dogs are quite common and include:

  • Rimadyl (generic name novox carprofen)
  • Deramaxx (generic name deracoxib)
  • Previcox (generic name firocoxib)
  • Metacam (generic name feloxicam)

Other common prescription pain relievers for dogs:

  • Amantadine to treat arthritis, disk disease and cancer in dogs
  • Gabapentin to relieve nerve pain
  • Tramadol for aging dogs with constant pain

If you choose to give your dog pain medication, be sure to ask the vet about its safety over the long term. Many vets recommend monitoring of the liver and kidney function ever six months, if your dog is taking pain meds, especially NSAIDs, regularly.

Natural Pain Relief For Dogs

Some of the most effective natural pain remedies for dogs include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can reduce joint inflammation and associated pain for chronic conditions like arthritis. We recommend Stratford Pharmaceuticals EZ Chews.
  • Joint supplements can be effective for chronic pain from arthritis and other joint ailments. Glucosamine is the most common joint supplement for dogs. Read our article on glucosamine for dogs to learn more. Cosequin is another option that many pet owners and vets swear by.
  • Acupuncture can relieve dogs of muscle and joint pain, encourage healing after trauma or surgery, and even treat symptoms of diabetes and cancer. Consult a licensed animal acupuncturist. Learn more about acupuncture for dogs.
  • Massage can relieve pain and promote healing by relaxing muscles, stimulating nerves and relieving stress. Check out the brief video below to see some easy dog massage techniques you can do at home and also check out these additional dog massage benefits.

Natural Pain Relief For Dogs Infographic

Here’s a summary of the natural remedies above in visual form to reference.

Natural Pain Relief For Dogs infographic

A Healthier Diet Can Go A Long Way

A good diet and weight loss can reduce and even eliminate the need for pain meds for dogs suffering from such chronic conditions as arthritis. Reducing your dog’s body fat and boosting lean body mass decreases inflammation and stress on their joints.

Be sure to read our reviews of the best dog food delivery services, where you can find some all-natural, healthy dog food options. You can also go the DIY route with the nutritious homemade dog food recipes we recommend.

What remedies do you suggest for safe pain relief for dogs?

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets). Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

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