What Can You Give a Dog for Pain Relief?

Over-the-counter pain relievers can seriously harm your dog. If you can’t reach a veterinarian for help, use ice packs and confined rest to help with the pain.


Your dog is hurting, and you want to give him something for pain. What can you give a dog for pain relief? Unfortunately, for the most part, there are no over-the-counter (OTC) you can safely give your dog for pain. Ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can cause liver problems in dogs. Aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be used in dogs, BUT in very limited situations and only under veterinary guidance. If your dog needs pain medication, you are much better off getting a prescription from your veterinarian.

Dog Pain Relief Medications

Canine pain medications are scientifically proven safe and effective for dogs. They are also appropriate for certain types of pain. Gabapentin is a strong choice for nerve pain. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like carprofen (Rimadyl) and meloxicam (Metacam) are ideal for situations where inflammation is causing much of the pain. Corticosteroids can help with some types of pain as well.

Pain Relief for Your Dog at Home

What can you safely do at home to relieve your dog’s pain? If your dog has an acute injury such as a mild sprain, cold hose the affected leg for 5 minutes (time it – 5 minutes is longer than you think!). The running water and constantly refreshed coldness are best, but if that isn’t practical, you can use cold compresses or ice packs. Do this twice a day if possible.

In addition, your dog needs to rest the injured/painful body part. That might mean setting up an ex-pen (a foldable panel exercise pen) next to you or keeping him in his crate. Provide amusement in the way of food puzzles, frozen Kongs, or special chews to keep him quiet.

Managing Chronic Pain in Your Dog

Chronic pain may need to be handled differently. Your veterinarian may prescribe any of the medications mentioned above, possibly with amantadine, which is becoming increasingly popular to help manage chronic pain.

You might want to consider dietary supplements that can help arthritic joints over the long term like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid (HA), green-lipped mussel, and fish oil (interestingly, fish oil has scientific research supporting its effectiveness for helping with arthritis).

Moderate, monitored exercise may be helpful with chronic pain like arthritis as opposed to strict rest. Older injuries often respond well to warmth, so warm heat (not too hot!) can be comforting. You can purchase heating pads for your pets or use a warm, moist towel, but remember to remove it when it cools.

Ask your veterinarian about massage techniques, acupuncture, laser treatments, pulsed electro-magnetic field devices, and specific exercises that may help to reduce pain. A rehabilitation specialist can help you learn proper exercise, massage, and stretching techniques to keep your dog as pain-free as possible.