As advancements in canine healthcare continue, dogs are experiencing extended life expectancies. With increased longevity, however, comes a higher likelihood of encountering painful conditions and ailments.
Fortunately, current research enables us to identify indications of pain in dogs more effectively and provides us with a range of solutions to alleviate their discomfort.
The following information offers a comprehensive understanding of the symptoms that may indicate your dog is experiencing pain, as well as the various medications that are safe for canine use, the formats in which they are available, their specific applications for different types of pain, and whether they require a prescription or can be purchased over the counter.
Common Causes For Pain In Dogs
Recognizing discomfort in your canine companion may not always be apparent, as some dogs instinctively conceal their pain as a survival mechanism. However, there are several subtle indicators that your dog may be experiencing discomfort, and understanding these signs is essential to ensure their well-being.
- Social withdrawal: A dog in pain might become less interactive with family members, displaying a decreased interest in social activities and interactions.
- Altered behavior: A dog experiencing discomfort may exhibit behavioral changes towards both humans and other animals, such as increased irritability, aggression, or anxiety.
- Increased sleep: Excessive sleep or difficulty getting comfortable during rest may indicate that your dog is in pain.
- Tremors: Shaking or trembling could be a sign of discomfort, particularly if it is uncharacteristic for your pet.
- Abnormal posture: A hunched or guarded posture may indicate that your dog is attempting to protect a painful area.
- Decreased energy: Lethargy or an unexplained reduction in activity levels can be indicative of pain or discomfort.
It is crucial to remember consulting a veterinarian is the most reliable way to determine the cause of these symptoms and ensure the appropriate care for your pet.
Painkillers for dogs
Although numerous over-the-counter pain relievers are available for humans, limited options exist for dogs. It is crucial to avoid administering OTC pain medications to your dog unless specifically advised by a veterinarian. The following drugs should be used with caution or avoided altogether:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) might be safe with the appropriate dosage and short-term use. The risk of toxicity is usually high; however, most veterinarians prefer safer and more effective alternatives.
- Aspirin, particularly buffered baby aspirin, may be safe when administered carefully but is not as secure or effective as prescription medications.
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is toxic to dogs and should never be given.
- Naproxen (Aleve) must be avoided due to its narrow safety margin and high likelihood of side effects.
- NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) alleviate pain by reducing inflammation. These prescription medications effectively relieve pain caused by arthritis, injuries, and surgeries. However, they carry risks such as vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, gastrointestinal irritation and bleeding, and liver or kidney damage. Consequently, veterinarians recommend monitoring before and during NSAID treatment.
Common NSAIDs used in dogs include Carprofen (Rimadyl, Novox, Vetprofen), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), Firocoxib (Previcox), Grapiprant (Galliprant), and Meloxicam (Metacam).
Veterinarians often employ injectable opioids alongside anesthesia for pain management during and after surgeries. Oral forms can be prescribed for short-term recovery from surgery or injury, but long-term use is discouraged. Research indicates that oral opioids are less effective than other pain medications, and there are growing concerns about potential human opioid abuse.
Opioids used in veterinary medicine include Buprenorphine, Butorphanol, Codeine (for mild to moderate pain or cough suppression), Fentanyl (injectable or transdermal patch), Morphine, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, and Tramadol (often prescribed alongside other pain medications).
Other prescription drugs, such as Gabapentin (an anticonvulsant effective for managing pain, particularly nerve pain), can be administered orally at home. Veterinarians often combine Gabapentin with other pain medications like NSAIDs or Tramadol. Maropitant (Cerenia), an anti-vomiting medication with mild pain-relieving properties, is rarely used as a standalone pain treatment but can be a valuable addition to other pain medications.
Various natural pain remedies are available for pets, but these products are not regulated like prescription drugs. Therefore, it is essential to consult your veterinarian for guidance on selecting a safe and effective product.
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