If you notice your dog isn't quite themselves lately, it could be because they are in pain. They could have an injury, an infection, or a disease. Or maybe they are starting to feel the aches of aging.
When your pet hurts, you want to help them feel better. But don’t try to guess what their problem may be. Visit your veterinarian to find out what's wrong.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, help reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain in humans, and they can do the same for your dog. They can bring relief to a dog with arthritis, or one who’s just had surgery.
There are some of the available NSAIDs just for dogs:
- carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
- deracoxib (Deramaxx)
- firocoxib (Previcox)
- meloxicam (Metacam )
NSAIDs are usually safe for dogs and have few side effects. But in some cases, they can cause kidney, liver, or digestive problems.
You may be able to tell if your dog is having a bad reaction to an NSAID. An easy way to remember the signs is with the word BEST:
- Behavior changes
- Eating less
- Skin redness, scabs
- Tarry stool/diarrhea/vomiting
If you spot these symptoms, stop giving your dog the drug and call your vet.
Aspirin is an over-the-counter NSAID. Your doctor may OK giving it to your dog for a limited amount of time, but usually only if they have an injury or another short-term condition. It’s not recommended for long-term use in dogs because it has a greater potential for side effects, including the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Coated aspirin is best on the stomach, and give the pills with food. Talk to your vet and follow their recommendations on how much and how often.
Because NSAIDs are usually good at relieving pain, veterinarians don't often prescribe other kinds of painkillers. But sometimes, your dog may need more options. Your vet may talk to you about gabapentin or tramadol.
- Gabapentin treats pain from damaged nerves in humans and dogs. It may make your dog sleepy for the first few days, but that usually goes away. Sometimes your vet will prescribe it along with other drugs.
- Tramadol is a painkiller that works partly like other mild opioid medications. Vets sometimes give it to aging dogs with constant discomfort. Some side effects that may occur include an upset stomach, vomiting and dizziness. Talk to your vet if you are concerned.
Veterinarians give stronger opiates only for a short while. They usually don’t prescribe steroids for pain, as they can have serious side effects. Steroids and NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) should never be used together.
Supplements, like glucosamine and chondroitin, are very popular alternative treatments. It’s not clear if they help, but some research has found that they may make swelling go down and help cartilage repair itself. Thery also may help protect and lubricate existing cartilage.
Always talk to your vet before giving your dog any medications, including supplements.
Ask for a written copy of the treatment plan, as well as instructions (and a demonstration) for how to give the medicines to your pet. Be sure to give the drug only as your vet recommends. Too much or too little can cause problems. Don't share medications between dogs. What's good for one animal may not be the right thing for another.
You may not be able to relieve all of your dog’s pain, but you should be able to make them feel better. With your vet's guidance, you may need to try different things to find out what brings the most relief.