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Seeing a dog in pain is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences. It’s even more distressing considering that unlike humans, our canine friends are incapable of describing the nature and severity of their pain.
But the good news is that there are numerous effective remedies for dog pain. These range from conventional medications to alternative supplements and even complementary pain management techniques.
Right off the bat, it’s important to mention that dogs should only have pain medications intended for canine consumption. Avoid giving your pooch any drugs meant for human use unless with express authorization from your vet. Also, remember that at-home dog pain treatments are only temporary measures you should implement as you schedule a visit to the vet.
Join me as I present a definitive guide to pain relief remedies for dogs.
Types of Pain
There are different types of pain. Understanding the form of pain your dog is suffering from is key in adopting the right remedy.
Pain broadly falls into five main categories. But as you shall find, some forms of pain can fit into more than one category.
The five main types of pain include;
1. Acute pain
Acute pain is any pain that persists for a short duration. But the word ‘short’ is quite relative here, as it can range from a couple of minutes to six months.
Acute pain mainly results from soft-tissue injuries caused by factors like accidents, strenuous exercises, and surgical operations. However, the pain may also be caused by a temporary injury, such as tonsillitis.
2. Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is the direct opposite of acute pain. It refers to pain that persists for a relatively long duration. The pain can be continuous or intermittent.
Chronic diseases are the most common causes of chronic pain. Common medical conditions that could cause chronic pain in dogs include canine arthritis, cancer, and pancreatitis.
3. Neuropathic Pain
As the name suggests, neuropathic pain refers to pain resulting from damage to the nerves. This form of pain may emanate from direct nerve damage or damage to other areas of the nervous system.
Neuropathic pain usually presents as a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation. Your dog may feel like he’s being pricked by pins or needles.
Neuropathic pain may also impair your dog’s sensitivity to temperature fluctuations. And just like chronic pain, this form of pain may be consistent or intermittent.
4. Nociceptive Pain
All mammals have a complex cell-modulatory system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system contains a vast network of pain-signaling receptors called endocannabinoid receptors. These nociceptors occur throughout an animal’s body, from the brain to peripheral tissues.
Direct damage to tissues can trigger a form of pain known as nociceptive pain. The pain can be sharp and achy or throbbing.
Nociceptive pain and acute pain share similar causes. The causes range from physical accidents (like your dog smashing his head into a wall) to post-surgical pain. But unlike acute pain that may affect any part of the body, nociceptive pain is commonly experienced in the muscles, joints, bones, tendons, and skin.
5. Radicular Pain
Radicular pain results from the inflammation or compression of the spinal nerve.
Cats are known to land on their feet. That’s due to their flexible spinal bones. However, dogs do not possess this incredible flexibility. An attempt by your pooch to land on his feet from a high jump may result in the compression of the spinal nerves, causing radicular pain.
Radicular pain follows the spinal nerve root. It can radiate from the back and hip all the way to the legs, resulting in numbness, weakness, or a tingling sensation in the affected areas.
Causes of Pain in Dogs
Pain in dogs can result from a number of factors. We’ve already addressed some of those triggers in the above section.
But in a nutshell, below are the most common reasons your dog might be in pain;
• Physical injuries resulting from accidents, playing rough, or intensive workouts
• Damage to the nerves or spine
• Invasive surgical operations
• Chronic medical conditions, such as canine arthritis, osteoporosis, pancreatitis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and seizures
• Dental pain
• Labor and delivery
Symptoms of Pain in Dogs
The symptoms of pain in dogs vary depending on the type of pain involved as well as the underlying cause. Knowing these symptoms may also help you hone in on the appropriate pain remedy.
Here are some of the tell-tale signs that your dog is in pain;
• Limping and other mobility issues
• Distended tummy
• Increased vocalization, such as barking, yelping, growling, howling, whining, whimpering, or snarling
• Unusual sleeping habits, such as sleeping too much or too little
• Decreased appetite
• Fatigue and reduced activity levels
• Unwarranted aggression and other forms of antisocial behavior, especially when touched or approached
• Excessive licking or scratching
• Erratic breathing, such as wheezing and heavy panting
• Reduced sensitivity to temperature changes
• Reluctance to jump or climb
Remedies for Pain in Dogs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common medications for treating pain in dogs. These drugs contain both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which make them effective against both pain and inflammation.
Most NSAIDs can be obtained over the counter. They’re also relatively more affordable than other pain meds for dogs.
The following are common NSAIDs approved for use in dogs;
• Carprofen like Novox Rimadyl
• Deracoxib like Deramaxx
• Etodolac like Etogesic
• Firocoxib like Previcox
• Mavacoxib like Trocoxil
• Meloxicam like Metacam
• Robenacoxib like Onsior
But as we mentioned at the beginning, not all pain medications are safe for dogs. It’s important to tread with caution when shopping around for over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs for your pooch.
Avoid pain medications typically recommended for human use, such as aspirin, ibuprofen/naproxen, and Tylenol/acetaminophen. These drugs may trigger a host of adverse effects in dogs, including;
• Stomach ulcers
• Kidney and liver dysfunction or failure
Opioids are a class of drugs designed primarily to control pain, not inflammation. These medications combat pain by desensitizing various pain-signaling receptors in the brain. Common opioids include codeine, buprenorphine, fentanyl, and butorphanol.
Although they’re useless against inflammation, opioids are more effective on pain than NSAIDs. That’s due to their ability to act directly on pain receptors.
One notable drawback with opioid drugs for pain management is their tendency to trigger addiction and dependency. This can be a huge problem for dogs with chronic pain who may increasingly require higher opioid doses to manage their condition.
To make the most of opioids for pain relief in dogs, consider pairing these drugs up with NSAIDs. However, you may need to consult your vet before doing so to avoid subjecting your pooch to any side effects.
Steroids for dogs? Sounds unthinkable. But these substances can be surprisingly useful in mitigating pain for your canine friend.
Steroids generally do not possess analgesic properties. Instead, they produce anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, they may be effective against pain induced by inflammatory conditions like arthritis and cancer.
Note that while NSAIDs and opioids can be administered together, the combination of NSAIDs and steroids could trigger serious gastrointestinal side effects in dogs, such as ruptured gastric ulcers.
4. Alternative Supplements
The alternative medicine sector teems with supplements that are marketed for their pain-relieving benefits. The good thing about these products is that most of them can be used on humans and canines alike.
Below are common alternative pain treatments you may consider for your pooch;
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally-occurring cannabinoid in cannabis. The compound has witnessed an explosion in popularity in the recent past due to its potent analgesic properties.
CBD treats pain by affecting a group of endocannabinoid receptors called CB2 receptors. CB2 receptors are widely spread in your dog’s peripheral organs and tissues. That’s in contrast to CB1 receptors, which generally occur in the animal’s brain and central nervous system. The location of CB2 receptors further from the brain explains why CBD won’t get your dog high despite coming from a plant noted for its psychedelic abilities.
However, be sure to check your local cannabis laws before obtaining any cannabidiol products. In the United States, all CBD products are legal if they’re hemp-derived and contain a maximum of 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychotropic chemical in marijuana.
b) Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that have also been widely touted for their analgesic benefits.
It’s unclear how these compounds mitigate pain. However, some research suggests that they can act on inflammation while also accelerating the repair of cartilaginous tissues. That makes them particularly suitable for dogs with joint pain.
What’s more, both glucosamine and chondroitin can be obtained over the counter.
Other common supplements you may give your dog for pain management include omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric.
5. Complementary Treatments
Complementary treatment options are aimed at soothing pain instead of relieving it. They can be administered alongside any of the above-listed interventions.
• Massage therapy
• Ice therapy
• Heat therapy
• Laser therapy
• Positive distractions
Pain in dogs can result from many causes, including physical injury and chronic diseases. Fortunately, there are equally numerous ways you can treat the condition and help your canine friend regain control of his life.
As a parting shot, remember to strictly follow your vet’s guidelines while administering pain medications to your dog.