Pain Management for Your Dog

Pain Medication and Pets: Management of Pain was not always the Norm

Most people who take their pets in for a surgical procedure are sent home with pain medication of some sort to assure their pet’s comfort. This, surprisingly, was not always the norm. For years, veterinarians believed that pets did not experience pain the same way people do, because dogs (and cats, sometimes even more so) hide their pain. This is a left over protective mechanism from wild dogs, as weak, injured animals are much more of a target for predators. While the assumption previously was that dogs don’t feel pain like we do, the assumption now is that if it would hurt you, it will hurt your dog (


It is important to control pain that your pet may be experiencing, not only for humane reasons, but also to help your pet heal faster, as pain slows healing.

Pain slows healing:

It is important to control our pet’s pain because no one should have to needlessly suffer. Still, some people believe that a little pain is good, because if an animal is feeling sore, she may be less likely to over-exert herself and reinjure a sprained leg or tear out stitches from surgery. The thought process here seems to be logical and would lead one to believe that some pain will help the pet heal faster. This isn’t the case (

Other than being uncomfortable by definition, pain also slows healing. It can also cause the animal to experience unnecessary anxiety and depression. Not only is pain after surgery detrimental, but pain caused from other sources can also severely hurt your pet’s health. For example, a disease such as arthritis makes movement hurt for your pet. This in turn causes your pet to move less, which causes deterioration of the muscles, which in turn puts more stress on the already diseased joints (

If a dog needs to rest because of surgery or injury but she wants to move around too much, crates and leashes can help keep the dog from hurting herself. If absolutely necessary, a vet can always prescribe a mild sedative to calm a dog the needs to rest.

Signs of pain in dogs:

While your dog may try to hide his pain, he may also make his pain obvious, whether obviously or subtly. Always be aware of signs of pain, as they can be evidence of an underlying disease. Some signs, such as whimpering and limping are very obvious. Others that are not as evident are holding the ears back, odd reactions to being touched, and loss of appetite. Any change in personality can also indicate something is wrong with your pet, making it important to be aware of what is normal and what is abnormal for your dog (

What pain medications are suitable for dogs:

There are a wide range of pain medications available for dogs that provide relief from acute or chronic pain. These include opioids, corticosteroids, and NSAIDs. Some drugs, such as opioids, may be used after a major medical procedure or in end of life pain relief. Medications such as NSAIDs are many times used for conditions such as arthritis.

As can be seen from the previous paragraphs, it is important to recognize and treat pain in dogs, but this does not mean that it is safe to give your dog the same pain medications that you take yourself. Only use pain medications that your vet prescribes. Also, never give medications intended for a cat to a dog, and vise versa. Many things that are safe for dogs are deadly to cats, and many medicines for cats were never meant to be given to dogs.

Even when giving your pet over-the-counter medications, veterinary consultation is needed. Doses for pets are very different from doses for humans. Drugs that seem as safe and common as Tylenol (acetaminophen) need to be carefully administered. While this drug may be a good choice of pain relief for a dog with kidney disease, it can be deadly for a dog with liver problems. Only blood work done be your veterinarian can show what medications are appropriate for your pet, and your vet is the best person to give information on the correct amount to give and how frequently to give it.

Another note:

If you are confused at all about how to administer your pet’s medication, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. Once, our one dog was sent home with a prescription that we picked up from the pharmacy. The instructions on the bottle were different from the instructions that our veterinarian had given us. We found out after a phone call to the vet that the pharmacy had printed the wrong information on the label. Such a mishap could be fatal with certain medications. It never hurts to be extra cautious when caring for your pet.

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