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dog in pain

What Can I Give My Dog for Pain? (Including Non-Prescription)

Nobody likes to see their dog in pain, but what is the best way to relieve it? We look at the many options available.

Dogs are tough creatures and can withstand a lot of discomfort, and they will also often do their best to hide their pain from you.  This makes it all the more worrying when you see a dog show signs of obvious pain, as you realize it must be significant. So what can you give your dog for pain?

Serious dog pain issues should be taken care of by a veterinarian with prescription painkillers, including NSAIDs and steroids. To minimize less serious pain symptoms, you can give ginger, cayenne, yucca root, turmeric, green lipped mussels, and boswellia. Physical therapies and diet changes may also help.

We’ll go through the best ways to treat your dog’s pain issues, as well as consider alternative strategies via food regulation, diet changes, obedience training, as well as a list of common natural remedies for pain. We’ll also look at preventative steps you can take right now.

Your Vet Is the Best Option When Your Dog Is in Pain

If your dog is exhibiting serious signs of pain (see below), it is best to have your vet treat them. There are many medications that your vet can prescribe to help with your dog’s pain issues. 

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

NSAIDs are the most common prescription pain medications for dogs. They affect substances called prostaglandins that the body releases in response to injury or irritation. When a cell is damaged, an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX) is activated. NSAIDs either block COX or block some activity of certain prostaglandins. This reduces ongoing pain and inflammation in the animal.

The most common NSAIDs are deraxoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), meloxicam (Metacam, Loxicom, OroCAM, Rheumocam) and carprofen (Rimadyl or Novox). Of course, you should always follow your vet’s professional advice when choosing to administer prescription medications.

Galliprant, a relatively new NSAID on the market, is different from classic non-steroidal medications like Carprofen, in that it does not have to be processed through the kidneys or liver. This helps limit the stress the drugs place on your dog’s body, especially if they have existing issues like kidney disfunction. It’s a tablet given once a day and has proven to be a very successful long-term management option for dogs with arthritis.


Steroids are an extremely effective at controlling inflammation, but they come with serious potential side effects. That’s why they are usually prescribed on a very limited basis and for short periods of time.

The most common steroids prescribed for dogs are Glucocorticoids. Prednisone and Prednisolone are widely used, and other names are flumethasone, fludrocortisone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, triamcinolone, and dexamethasone.

Antidepressants and Supplements

Antidepressants may seem a surprise addition to this list, but antidepressants affect mood and seem to alleviate pain symptoms in dogs. The reasons why this is are not particularly clear, but it is a possible treatment plan offered by a vet.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are not going to do wonders for your dog’s pain. Blood tests or a diagnosis can lead to the suggestion of supplements from your vet. They may include omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and other immune-boosting substances.

dog showing pain


Certain diagnosed pain conditions can also benefit from physical therapy. Other known pain relief practices include acupuncture and cold laser treatments.

Hydrotherapy, also known as aquatic therapy, is physical therapy performed using the buoyancy of water. Usually performed in a shallow tank, dogs are able to exercise without minimal stress to the joints. It can be particularly helpful for dogs suffering from chronic arthritis pain.

Acupuncture, although never scientifically proven to be effective for humans despite loads of anecdotal evidence, is known to be helpful for many dogs who suffer discomfort. Unlike humans, there is no placebo effect in play, so if you try it with your dog, it will be easy to know if it has worked based on their response. If it helps their pain symptoms, keep doing it. If not, save your money.

Over the Counter Pain Medicines for Dogs?

Common over-the-counter pain relief medications are toxic to dogs, even at below the human recommended doses. DO NOT GIVE THEM TO YOUR DOG!

The main issue with these medications is that dogs have very sensitive digestive systems and considerably thinner stomach lining. There is a high risk of internal issues, specifically bleeding and ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract.

Many medications will also put a toll on the kidneys, meaning possible kidney failure in dogs.

Human Prescription Medicines for Dogs

Also to be avoided are prescription drugs left over from prior human administrations. Just because your arthritis med has the same name as one that might help a dog, it does not mean it is safe for your dog to take.

Old Prescription Medications for Dogs and Other Pets

Veterinarian prescribed meds aren’t cheap, and it can be tempting to use old, expired, leftover prescription meds for your dog, or ones that were prescribed previously for a different animal. It’s best to avoid this. Meds can lose their effectiveness as they exceed their shelf life, and giving partial or incorrect dosages can put your dog at risk. 

Call your vet and follow their advice. You don’t want to make a mistake with serious or even fatal consequences.

dog in pain needing medication

Signs That Your Dog Is in Pain

Identifying that your dog has a pain condition is not particularly easy, especially for mild or moderate pain.

Pain causes a dog to feel attacked, threatened and vulnerable. Their perceived desperation situation may result in your dog attempting to bite you. You can also likely expect increased barking, yelping, and snarling.

Red and dilated eyes as well as swelling around the lymph nodes are symptoms of many conditions including chronic pain.

Look also at the posture, tail and overall energy levels of your pooch. If they are limping, have their tail between their legs and avoid eye contact, they’re probably suffering from something serious.

Tips To Help Relieve Your Dog’s Pain

You should have a space in your house that is dark, cool and low traffic. This acts as a sort of safe space that your dog can go to when they feel like being alone. Consider that dogs are still very social, and so it should not completely isolate them but allow them to be close to the rest of the inhabitants of the house.

Dogs will react adversely to touch, particularly on any sensitive areas. Try to keep them away from other animals or young children who may touch them accidentally. Many a child has been bit by otherwise friendly dogs after innocently touching them when the dog has, for example, an ear infection.

One of the best ways to manage pain is to manage inflammation. The phrase “you are what you eat” applies equally to dogs as to humans. What happens in the gut influences the creation of helpful microbiomes and promotes healthy digestion; all needed to reduce inflammation.

Excessive weight leads to a variety of complications, and you have to be the one who controls your dog’s weight. A dog is not going to stop eating; it has often been burned into their DNA to eat basically whatever is available.

A high-fat diet is likely to lead to increases in both inflammation along with body weight. As a result of studies that look at the effect of high fat diets on pets like dogs, pet owners are often told to keep a diet for your dog rich in omega-3s and lower in omega-6.

So a big part of managing a dog’s chronic pain is prevention. Observe your dog often and try to recognize any symptoms of discomfort so you can address them.

Food and Diet

Dogs can of course get natural relief from a variety of plants. They will even seek these out and eat grasses when feeling a bit ill.


There are certain behavioral trainings that can help your dog deal with their pain issues or conditions. First is that you should try and avoid allowing free eating, where you leave their food bowl on the floor all day.

Instead, pick up the bowl after a set amount of time and throw away whatever is left, but take notes on what they will and won’t eat. Dogs will quickly learn to eat when their meal is available.

Dogs that have pain issues likely won’t have huge appetites anyway, but free feeding will lead to a tendency to overfeed. On top of this, it may bring with it unwanted insect and rodent visits.

dog in pain


Food allergies are one of the leading causes of inflammation, and you should try to manage all sources of inflammation to reduce the possibility of impact on your dog. When you find a food that agrees with your dog, don’t change it! Stick with what works and don’t tempt allergy issues with new foods. Unlike us, dogs are generally perfectly content with a lack of variety in their meals.

Maintaining a Good Appetite

Encouraging your dog’s interest in food is a key path to getting them back to eating healthy amounts, without which their recovery is guaranteed to be slow or even negative.

For example, stuffing a Kong with kibble and wet dog food, peanut butter, or cottage cheese can whet their appetite and get them eating. By giving them a “puzzle” like this, it can help activate their hunting instincts which in turn may allow their bodies to return to homeostasis.

Do your best to consider the range of your dog’s diet. A balanced diet will help maintain good health, reduce inflammation and allow the immune system to function optimally. Look for a good source of protein as well as carbs. Stay away from foods with corn in the ingredients.

Vitamins and minerals for your dog support their internal systems to fight infections, a key cause of pain.

Natural Remedies

There are a number of natural remedies for pain. There are no guarantees that these will be effective, but all of them have had some success either scientifically or anecdotally.

These remedies should not be used for dogs with significant pain issues. These are better suited for mild discomfort or chronic issues like early arthritis or soreness from excessive exercise.

As always, consult with your vet first before relying on any of these natural remedies.


Leukotrienes cause inflammation which can lead to complications with pain. Ginger eases pain by reducing the amounts of leukotrienes in the body. This is particularly the case when you suspect it is caused by arthritis. 

A little bit of raw ginger root in your dog’s bowl each meal will be enough.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has been long known to have positive impacts on reducing inflammation, as well as promoting healthy connective tissues and joints. It can be mixed into food relatively simply, but be aware its strong smell often causes your dog to avoid it.

Yucca Root

This miracle plant has what are referred to as steroidal saponins. Their name should hint to you of its steroid-like properties, helping reduce inflammation.


Long known for its ability to reduce symptoms of pain, turmeric is a great anti-pain nutrient. Like the pepper above, some dogs have a real aversion to its spicy profile and so you may have some difficulty feeding it to your dog.

Green Lipped Mussels 

Green Lipped Mussels are seafood, and if there’s one thing you should know about seafood is that it is one of the best foods on a per weight level than many other protein sources. mussels will be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, great for joint inflammation issues.


In certain areas better known as Indian frankincense, this is an extract taken from its namesake tree.

It has been established that the long known properties of this herbal substance are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant in nature.

Boswellia can help with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.

dog in discomfort

Bedding for Pain Relief

Treating a dog’s pain doesn’t only have to be through oral or injectable means. A dog suffering from arthritis or other muscular or joint issues can gain a lot of relief through improved bedding.

There are a number of different bedding approaches for pain, including orthopedic foam and memory foam, both of which can help cushion common pressure points that may be exacerbating your dog’s pain condition.

Orthopedic Foam Pet Beds can helps take pressure off of the joints. The egg crate orthopedic foam base will support the neck, back, hips, and joints, a key aspect of good pain management.

One of our favorite beds is a memory foam bed, which we use for just about all of our dogs, including those without joint pain. Memory foam is firm enough to provide adequate support, but soft enough to alleviate pressure on painful joints.

Final Thoughts

As a dog owner, you are responsible for your dog’s health and wellbeing, and that includes keeping them as pain-free as possible. While it is tempting to try to treat your dog’s serious pain without the expense of a trip to the vet, it is strongly suggested that you seek your vet’s advice in these matters. We are lucky to live in an era where strong, effective pain relief medicines exist, and should not hesitate to take advantage of these remedies in order to provide comfort for our dogs.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor