Pain Relief for Dogs & What Medications Are Okay to Use

Seeing our fur babies in pain is the worst. We love our pets with our whole hearts, and it’s easy to feel helpless when they can’t tell us exactly what’s wrong.

Pawz understands how you feel. We love dogs here, and we’re passionate about helping them and keeping them pain-free. Of course, we know that isn’t always possible.

Instead of just hoping that our pups never feel pain, let’s be ready in case it ever does. We’re here today to bring you all the information you need on pain relief for dogs, from vet-prescribed medicines to holistic approaches.

We’re even going to throw in a few recommendations for keeping pain away from your pup, so you can help your furry BFF feel their best.

What Does Pain Look Like for Our Dogs?

Being able to spot pain in our dogs is the first step to getting them the help they need. If we don’t know they’re in pain, we can’t know they need relief. Here are a few tell-tale signs to look out for that will clue you in:

  • Shaking
  • Whimpering or crying
  • Heavy Panting or drooling
  • Licking a spot uncontrollably
  • Limping or refusing to walk/stand
  • Walking slowly and hesitant to stand/jump
  • Swelling or bloating anywhere on their body
  • Growling or aggression when you get close to them

You might notice a few of these at a time. But even if you only notice one, that’s enough to merit a trip to the vet. Even a little pain can grow if left untreated, so make sure to start treatment ASAP to help your pup get better fast.

Medicines Prescribed by Vets

The first types of pain medications that are important to know are vet-prescribed medicines. These are only given out at a vet’s office after an examination has been completed.

Prescribed medications can come at a slightly higher cost, but they can be worth it to get your fur baby the help they need.

The biggest advantage to a trip to the vet is that a professional will be able to pinpoint the pain and diagnose the problem. Your vet will be able to determine the best course of action and put a treatment plan in place.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are medicines that can only be prescribed by a vet. These are drugs that relieve symptoms of pain and help reduce swelling. NSAIDs are often prescribed for dogs coming out of surgery and dogs with arthritis, in addition to other causes of pain. They can even help alleviate fevers for dogs!

The downside to NSAIDs? There are side effects that dogs can have to these drugs. Look out for warning signs that your dog is being affected:

  • Behavior changes
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Red skin or scabbing
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In addition to these physical effects, others can happen internally. Long-term NSAID use can affect your dog’s liver, kidney, or digestion.

Side effects like liver toxicity, ulcers, or kidney failure are why you shouldn’t use human medications like ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve) for your pup. While it may be tempting for dog owners to reach into their medicine cabinets at the first signs of pain, these medications are tailored to human pain.

Thankfully, there are FDA-approved NSAIDs for pets that are safe for use by pups under the supervision of a vet. These include carprofen (Rimadyl), etodolac, and meloxicam (Metacam). This can help your fur baby manage severe pain with reduced risks.

What Else Can I Give My Dog for Pain?

Two other pain relievers may be prescribed for dogs if there are issues with NSAIDs. These are:

  • Gabapentitreats. Based on gabapentin, this is a drug used to relieve pain from damaged nerves. It will generally be part of a pain relief regimen for your pup. However, this drug can make them sleep in the first few days of use so plan ahead for that.
  • Tramadol. This drug works similarly to other opioid-based prescriptions on the market. Usually only prescribed to aging dogs that need indefinite pain relief.

Your vet can help you choose a course of treatment for your pup — NSAIDs, other pain relievers, or even something else entirely! Rest assured that when you reach out to a professional, your precious pup will get the care they need.

Holistic Options

Over-the-counter pain relief is great, but there’s even more you can do to help your fur baby feel pawfect in no time. Here are a few supplements or all-natural pain relievers that can help alleviate symptoms for your dog.

(We strongly recommend that anything added to your dog’s diet should be done so under the supervision of a vet!)


Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory herb that’s safe for both dogs and humans. Thanks to curcumin — turmeric’s active ingredient — this herb can help reduce inflammation in joints, making it a pawsome supplement for a pup with arthritis.

There are dog and human forms of this supplement available, so talk to your vet about the right dosage before starting your pup on a turmeric regimen. There are also curcumin supplements that could possibly be more effective or stronger than turmeric.


Cinnamon can also help fight inflammation while providing pain relief. Studies on cinnamon and dogs are sparse, but the few that exist show it might help with digestional issues like cramping, vomiting, and irritable bowel syndrome.

A fraction of a teaspoon can be added to a dog’s food daily to help with pain relief. However, if your dog is getting ready for surgery, you should stop cinnamon at least two weeks prior to avoid blood thinning. As always, consult your vet for the proper dosage for the size of your fur baby.

CBD Supplements

CBD is an anti-inflammatory that comes in many pet-safe forms. It can also help treat other symptoms associated with pain like anxiety and aggression. If you’re comfortable with puppy CBD, consult your vet for the proper type and dosage.

It is important that you know, most CBD does NOT contain THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes a “high.” So, you don’t have to be afraid of your pup getting intoxicated in exchange for pain relief.


Hawthorn is an herb with plenty of pain-relieving qualities. First, it can provide stabilizing qualities to collagen, the protein found in between joints. By strengthening collagen, you can help a doggo with arthritis find relief from joint pain.

Second, hawthorn may increase circulation in the joints. When circulation is poor, toxins can settle into joints and cause pain. By creating better circulation for your dog, you can help stop pain at the source.

Even though it’s not an OTC pain med, hawthorn can have adverse side effects. It can cause issues or interference with other over-the-counter drugs or joint supplements your dog might be taking.

Treatments for heart conditions, liver damage, or kidney disease can be impeded by the use of hawthorn. So, again, speak with your vet before adding Hawthorn to your dog’s diet — hawthorn is a great option for plenty of pet parents, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Acupuncture and Massages

As a dog mom, we are willing to try anything to help our dogs feel relief from pain. This includes pampering our pups with a little TLC from time to time.

Acupuncture works in triggering responses in your body’s reflexes and stimulating blood flow. By tapping into certain nerves and pressure points on the body, your dog can find relief from pain. If you’re having trouble finding an acupuncturist that specializes in dogs only, consult one for humans. They might be trained to also work with animals and just not advertise it.

In addition to acupuncture, massages aren’t just for a day at the human spa. Especially deep tissue massages or those utilizing pressure points, this Self-Care Sunday activity can help your pup manage chronic pain from things like osteoarthritis, short-term joint pain from injuries, and more.

Massages are a great way to relax and reach a calming state. Your dog will be able to calm their nerves that are generally on edge when pain is involved, and massage involves an element of natural pain relief — no pain medicine required.

Massage therapists that specialize in dog massages are they’re a great supplement to veterinary medicine if they’re available to you. There should also be tutorials online to watch that will show you how to give your dog a massage. This way, your dog will be able to get relief and you can do it to show how much you care, any time.

Helping Your Dog Feel Pawfect

None of us want to see our pups in pain, and we’ll do anything we can to get them better faster. Speak to your vet if you’re worried about pain management for your dog. The right treatment for them might be a combination of some of the items you’ve seen here.

We also want to stress how important it is to help shelters get these medicines available to rescue pups as well. No dog should have to live with pain regardless of their home status. We thank you so much for helping be a part of our mission to create a better life for dogs everywhere!


NSAID Pain Medications for Dogs | 1800PetMeds®

Dog Pain Medications: Aspirin (and Other NSAIDs), Ibuprofen, and More | Pets WebMD

4 Botanicals That Are Natural Anti-Inflammatories for Dogs | PetMD

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