A Guide to Pain Management for Dogs

A Guide to Pain Management for Dogs

As pet owners, the last thing we want is to see our furry best friend in pain. However, like humans, dogs can experience pain for various reasons, such as injury, illness, surgery, and old age. It is our responsibility as pet owners to identify signs of pain in our dogs and provide proper management to improve the quality of dogs.

Although dogs experience pain, it might be challenging to communicate how they feel or express their discomfort. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), some obvious signs of pain in dogs are anxiety, agitation, vocalization, trembling, restlessness, and increased breathing rate. You should also watch for subtle indicators of pain, such as increased heart rate, reduced appetite, depression, and reluctance to move. Once you’ve identified the signs indicating your dog is in pain, consider the following guideline to manage the pain.

A dog receiving physical therapy

Types of Pain in Dogs

Dogs can experience two: acute pain and chronic pain. It’s essential to identify the type of pain to ensure correct treatment. 

Acute Pain

Acute pain is sudden, intense, and short-term, usually caused by injuries, surgery, or trauma. The acute pain symptoms in dogs include crying, whimpering, howling, limping, biting, and growling.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is long-term and persistent, often caused by underlying medical conditions such as arthritis, cancer, or other degenerative diseases. The symptoms of chronic pain in dogs are more subtle and can include behavior, appetite, and mobility changes.

Treatments for Pain Management in Dogs

There are different pain management options available for dogs, depending on the type, severity, and underlying cause of the pain. Here are some of the most common pain management options for dogs.

Vet-Prescribed Medication

It’s important to remember that over-the-counter pain relievers humans easily consume can be toxic to dogs. Your vet will examine your dog to determine the root cause of the pain and provide medicine based on the reason for the pain, your dog’s age, and other health conditions. Some of the most common medications vets prescribe for pain management in dogs are Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), Gabapentin, and Tramadol. 

  • NSAIDs: This medication reduces inflammation and pain, making them effective for acute and chronic pain caused by arthritis, surgery, or injuries. However, NSAIDs can have side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney or liver damage.
  • Gabapentin: This medication is used to manage chronic pain in dogs, especially neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage. It works by blocking the pain signals from the damaged nerves, relieving pain. Some of its side effects include sedation and dizziness.
  • Tramadol: This painkiller works partly like other mild opioid medications and is often prescribed to aging dogs with constant discomfort. Some of its side effects include upset stomach, vomiting, and dizziness. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a non-pharmacological approach to pain management in dogs. It involves exercises, massage, and other therapeutic techniques to improve mobility, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain. Physical therapy can benefit dogs with arthritis, spinal cord injuries, and other musculoskeletal conditions.

A hand holding a bottle of CBD oil with a dog in the background

Diet & Supplements

Diet and supplements can also play a significant role in pain management for dogs. For example, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin can reduce inflammation and promote joint health in dogs with arthritis. Consult your veterinarian before starting your dog on any supplements or special diets.

If your furry friend is experiencing pain due to arthritis, the condition can improve when you change your dog’s diet. There is no single reason why your dog may develop arthritis, but improper nutrition often contributes to the pain. A diet is full of fats and sodium can increase inflammation and pain in dogs with arthritis. 

Consider the benefits of raw food for your dog and find a recipe that works for them. Not only will your dog enjoy the taste of raw food and lick the bowl clean, but the right brand will also ensure that the recipe is full of meats and fresh veggies made without added processes and unproblematic to their digestive systems. You can also add supplements to your dog’s diet to enhance pain management and offer relief, allowing your dog to thrive and live a happy and healthy life.

A veterinarian examining a dog


Pain management for dogs is an important aspect of their overall health and well-being. It’s important to recognize the signs of pain in your dog and seek veterinary advice for appropriate pain management.

In addition, taking proactive steps to prevent pain in your dog can help reduce the need for pain management in the first place. By maintaining a healthy weight, providing regular exercise, practicing good dental care, and keeping up with veterinary check-ups, you can help prevent pain and promote your dog’s overall health.

If your dog does experience pain, it’s important to work with your veterinarian to develop an appropriate pain management plan that is tailored to your dog’s individual needs. With the right care and attention, you can help ensure that your dog lives a comfortable and pain-free life.

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