There are so many reasons why a dog can be in pain. Injury, arthritis, post-surgical pain or even some types of cancer can cause severe pain in dogs. It is a very distressing experience for the pet parent to watch their pet undergoing incessant agony. One of the first reactions that most people have, is to reach out for that over the counter painkiller, hoping that it will help relieve the pain for their pets.
However, most painkillers can be extremely toxic for your pet.
Some, can even be fatal if you do not use it correctly.
That includes Tylenol, Aspirin, Advil or Ibuprofen that is sold OTC for human consumption.
So the doubt that often arises in the mind of the pet parent is, ‘what can I give my dog for pain’?
Is there any canine painkiller medication that you can use and that is safe for your dog’s health?
Here’s the answer.
Dogs have a very different physiology as compared to humans and most painkillers sold over the counter fall into the category of Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs.
These include ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.
These drugs inhibit the release of an enzyme in the body that secretes prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are cyclic fatty acids that increase inflammation and pain. By limiting the secretion of prostaglandins, these drugs are able to control pain. But prostaglandins are also responsible for several other important tasks in the body. For example, ensuring that the blood supply to the kidney is maintained and the blood clotting mechanism is not interrupted. They are also responsible for protecting the inner lining of the entire GI tract by producing a thick layer of mucous.
When NSAIDS reduce the levels of prostaglandins in the body of the dog, it subsequently affects all these critical body functions. The dog’s kidney function is reduced and it may also result in kidney failure. Liver function is reduced. The dog may suffer from sudden bleeding disorders due to the clotting mechanism gone awry. Besides this, it may cause severe diarrhea or vomiting with blood seen in stools.
If emergency medical aid is not provided, then the dog may even die. So, if you were wondering, ‘what can I give my dog for pain’, NSAIDS sold over the counter are not the answer.
And apart from the above, there are many reasons why it is dangerous for dogs.
Pet parents often mistake the dosage for pets and give them a dangerously high dose which may cause severe toxicity. NSAIDS may trigger a severe allergic reaction in some dogs and cause dangerous side effects. This is irrespective of the dose you give. Even a minute dose can trigger a reaction if your dog is allergic to the drug.
NSAIDS are known to interact with certain other medications like Prednisone, which is corticosteroid. Also, if your dog has certain preexisting conditions like liver disease, gastrointestinal problems or kidney disorder, then the use of NSAIDS can be potentially fatal.
The next most commonly sold painkiller is Tylenol or Acetaminophen. Tylenol does not work by reducing inflammation. In fact, it remains unclear how it works in the body to reduce pain.
The problem with giving your dog Tylenol is that, on most occasions, you end up giving them more than what is required, resulting in severe side effects.
There have been multiple cases of Tylenol toxicity in dogs due to the owner administering an unusually high dose.
The first effect is reduced oxygen supply throughout the pet’s body due to Tylenol affecting the hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin gets converted into methemoglobin with Tylenol use and this inhibits oxygen delivery in the pet’s body leading to tissue damage. Tylenol is also extremely hepatotoxic and also damages the kidney.
In extremely rare cases and emergency situations, your vet may recommend a painkiller for your dog. But the dosage has to be precise and monitored by the vet. Vets do recommend even NSAID drugs like aspirin or Ibuprofen. But that’s only if a canine painkiller medication is unavailable or the situation warrants an emergency treatment.
Aging dogs often struggle with joint pain caused due to NSAIDS, which makes pain management a critical part of the pet parents life. For this reason, drug manufacturers have created specific painkillers that are considered safer for pets.
If your pet is undergoing severe pain, then you may choose to give one of these drugs after consulting your vet.
All said and done, you must still exercise caution while giving your dog any type of painkiller because it can be severe on the liver. Often, while managing pain for dogs living with arthritis or other types of chronic pain, pet parents make the mistake of using these drugs continually for a prolonged time frame. This can only increase the risk of adverse side effects.
A customized diet plan and an exercise routine can help your pet reduce their weight and thereby ease the continual stress that the excess weight puts on the joints. Also, fish oil supplementation helps to reduce the inflammation in these joints and the pain that comes with it. If your pet is suffering from conditions that can cause chronic pain, like arthritis, then you must seriously consider altering their diet and supplementation routine.
There are custom dry food formulas for senior dogs which have the right macro nutrient ratio that helps in reducing weight, without compromising on their nutritional requirements.
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy for pain in dogs that is often prescribed by a lot of vets. These tiny white pills are easier for the dogs to swallow and are a lot gentler on their bodies as compared to synthetics.
Other than this, there are a few FDA approved devices like the targeted pulsed electromagnetic field device which is known to reduce the pain in dogs by up to 66%.