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Health & Wellness

What can I give my dog for pain?

Spoiler alert: the answer isn’t aspirin.

As loving pet parents, our top priority is making sure our loved ones are as happy, comfortable and as healthy as possible — and that means protecting them from pain. Seeing your pup in pain can be downright scary and heartbreaking. But before you go reaching for pain relievers, just know that not all pain medications for humans are safe for dogs. As we’ve seen, Tramadol can be iffy, and aspirin is a big no-no. But what can you give your dog when they’re in pain? According to Dr. Lauren Phillips, a veterinarian at Burnham Park Animal Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, there are plenty of solutions, including one convenient pharmacy staple.

How to know when your dog is in pain

First things first, when identifying pain in your pup, there are signs to look for — and some are more obvious than others. “If there is an acute injury like a fractured bone, signs can be obvious and include not putting any weight on a limb, swelling of a joint or bone (especially when compared to the normal side) and yelping,” Dr. Phillips explains. “With an acute back or neck injury, dogs may stay in one place, have a hunched posture and not respond to food or toys like they normally do.” 

Chronic pain, like arthritis, can have more subtle signs. “These can include limping, difficulty getting up from sitting or lying down, resistance when going up or down stairs or going for a walk and even aggression when they’re pet around the area that is painful.” 

Safe medications and treatments for dogs in pain

While you’ll want to avoid things like aspirin, there are other safe, healthy solutions that can help alleviate your pup’s pain — including preventative measures. “Fish oil is a great supplement that you can give your dog to support their joint health, and I always recommend it for dogs with arthritis,” Dr. Phillips notes. Just make sure you ask your vet about the proper dosage for your pet. “You can use human-grade fish oil from your local pharmacy or purchase a veterinary product,” she adds — just as long as your vet approves.  

“Another thing you can do at home to help dogs with arthritis is weight loss,” she says. “Exercise is important, but cutting your dog’s food and treat intake by 15-20% will really help them shed weight.” But how do you know what an ideal weight looks like? “You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs under their skin easily and see their waist easily from both the side and when looking from above.” Your vet is the best resource when deciding if your pet is a healthy weight, too. 

In terms of medication, Dr. Phillips encourages contacting your veterinarian before giving your dog anything, especially any human medications. “Human pain medications are not safe to give pets, as they can cause stomach ulcers and kidney or liver damage,” she explains. “Even if you find something online that says a medication is safe to give, please always contact your veterinarian to ask about medications prior to giving them. There are pet-safe pain medications that are relatively cheap and much safer for your dog.” 

RELATED: Dog neck and back pain: symptoms and treatments

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When to visit the vet for your dog’s pain

Depending on the type of injury or ailment, certain pain problems merit a trip to your veterinarian, while others can usually be resolved at home. "Rest is one of the hallmarks of medical management," Dr. Phillips says. "If your dog seems to be in pain and you think it may be something minor, like a sprain or soft tissue injury, you can rest your dog for two weeks, only taking them for short walks to go to the bathroom. Running, jumping and playing with other dogs should not be allowed during this time." If your pup's pain isn't improving or is worsening, then it's time to make an appointment with a veterinarian — something more serious could be happening. 

According to the doctor, more serious injuries that warrant an immediate vet visit include back and neck injuries, broken bones and animal bite wounds. "If your dog is hunched, standing in one place, does not want to eat or drink or has difficulty using their legs properly, these can be signs of a back or neck injury," she says. Broken bones can be evidenced by holding up the affected leg and yelping whenever touched. 

Animal-bite wounds are also serious because they become infected easily and are often larger under the skin than they appear on the surface. "Big dog/little dog injuries are another type of animal bite injury that warrants immediate attention," she adds. "Especially if your small dog was picked up in the mouth of the large dog during the fight."

Photo by Stefanus Aprilianto on Unsplash

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