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Doctor taking paw of labrador dog to check pain

Dog Pain Management

Much like seeing your children in pain, it’s difficult to see your dog struggling, and sometimes it’s challenging to even notice since they don’t vocalize it. If your dog is acting out of character and you suspect they might be in pain, you’ve probably already turned to the internet for answers. At Trident Veterinary Hospital, we work extremely hard to get you the accurate information you need. Unfortunately, many well-meaning pet parents or bloggers share material that isn’t factually accurate or what your veterinarian would want you to know or do. That’s why we’ve taken the most frequently asked questions about dog pain management and answered them thoroughly and accurately, as a dog in pain is not something you want to overlook.

If you’re seeking a highly trained veterinarian in Poway, CA, we’d love to help with your dog’s pain management. First and foremost, we need to get to the root cause of the pain, determine whether it’s acute or chronic pain, and then determine a plan of action, so please call us right away at [practice: phone].

What is the difference between acute and chronic pain in dogs?

Acute pain means sudden onset pain, such as a fractured bone, torn nail, or laceration. Chronic pain is long-term and something that your dog has lived with for weeks, months, or years. An example of chronic pain would be something like osteoarthritis. We treat acute and chronic pain in dogs quite differently.

Hand offering a pill to a dog

How quickly should I bring my dog in if I suspect they’re in pain?

You should bring your dog in to see your veterinarian as soon as possible to help with pain management because we don’t want any dog to be uncomfortable. The vital thing about pain is we want to treat it as soon as we know it's present to more adequately treat it. Otherwise, dogs experience something called windup pain—when they’ve been in pain for a more extended period, and the pain is much harder to control.

What are some signs and symptoms of pain in my dog?

There are numerous signs of pain in your dog, with some being easily overlooked.

Signs of pain you might notice include:

  • Limping – A dog will limp or stop using a limb due to a broken nail, broken bone, strain, sprain, or ACL tear.
  • Hiding – A dog in pain might hide in corners or under beds to avoid being social.
  • Not eating or drinking – Depending on the location of the pain, the dog might stop eating.
  • Swelling – This would most likely be at the pain site.
  • Licking or chewing a specific spot – A dog will lick or chew a cut to make it feel better.

It’s important to note that just because your dog isn't vocalizing pain by whining doesn't mean they're not in pain. Much like humans, if we sprain our ankle, others can tell we’re in pain because they’ll notice we’re limping along. The same goes for dogs. You know your dog best, so pain might be the reason if he’s acting out of the ordinary. The American Animal Hospital Association offers a great cheat sheet to help determine if your dog is in pain.

welsh corgi pembroke dog during a dog magnetic therapy session

Are human pain meds like Tylenol and Advil okay to give my dog?

At Trident Veterinary Hospital, we do not recommend giving your dog over-the-counter pain medications intended for humans. Many of those will interfere with what we prescribe for your dog once we see them, and dosages depend primarily on your dog’s size, breed, and health. The dose range for Aspirin is quite tight, and Ibuprofen is toxic to dogs. Dogs also have a hard time metabolizing those medications and can build up toxic levels in their system. If you think your dog is in pain, you need to call your veterinarian for an exam, and they will prescribe the appropriate medications.

What are some of the medications you would prescribe to manage the pain?

The most common pain medications we use are non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory, like Advil or Tylenol but designed to be safe for dogs and easy to metabolize. We won't want to use those in some cases, such as if an animal has organ dysfunction. Another medication we commonly reach for at Trident Veterinary Hospital is Gabapentin, a pain management medication that works well for nerve pain. Joint supplements and Omega-3s aren't necessarily for pain, but they can help arthritic dogs. We can also use adjunctive pain management, such as laser therapy and acupuncture. We treat every pet and every condition differently, so we’ll work with you and your situation at home to figure out the best way to treat your dog.

Can a veterinarian help me manage my dog’s chronic pain?

A veterinarian is your best resource for managing your dog’s chronic pain. If you have an arthritic, sore, painful dog, we can use an NSAID to start, depending on their blood work and history. If that's not enough, we’ll add medications and adjust doses. How we manage chronic pain is very dependent on the animal.

If your dog is aging, aging is not a disease in and of itself. If you're noticing your dog used to jump up into your car or onto your bed, and they're no longer doing that, they need a physical exam to figure out what's going on. Sometimes we take x-rays because dogs won’t tell you that their hip has arthritis and they’re having a lot of discomfort.

Where is the best place for me to get pain meds for my dog?

We recommend getting pain medications directly from your veterinary clinic or one of their approved online pharmacies, as those meds are guaranteed. Your veterinarian can ensure you’re giving your dog the proper dosages. Some pain medications are available at human pharmacies, and joint supplements are available over the counter.

If you have further questions about managing your dog’s pain, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near Poway, CA, we’d love to assess any pain your dog may be experiencing and get them on the path to comfort, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (858) 668-5393 or email us at [email protected].

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