Dogs and Pain Medication: Is It Safe?

When your dog is in pain, you want to do something to make your pet more comfortable and alleviate the pain. A dog could be experiencing pain due to an injury, an infection, or the onset of a disease. The first step should be a visit to your veterinarian before giving your dog any pain medication.

The veterinarian will examine your dog to determine the problem. The vet or vet tech will ask about how your dog has been behaving or if there have been any recent injuries. If the dog appears to be injured, the veterinarian may order x-rays to be taken.

One question a lot of dog owners have is whether they can give their dog over-the-counter pain medications.

What Medications Are Safe For Dogs?

Your veterinarian is the most knowledgeable person to determine which medications are safe for your dog. A lot of pet parents are hesitant to use pharmaceutical drugs for their dogs, especially if their dog is experiencing pain from a chronic condition like arthritis.

However, you should always discuss alternative options with your veterinarian.

In some cases, chronic health issues that afflict dogs are treated most effectively by administering prescription medications like Rimadyl. When the pain isn’t as severe or is more sporadic, a naturopathic remedy may be more gentle on a dog’s digestive system.

Homeopathic remedies with various types of exercise and therapy can be most beneficial for some dogs with occasional pain when the owner doesn’t want to use pharmaceutical drugs to treat pain.

Supplements and vitamins are often an excellent alternative to prescription pain medications for dogs. Glucosamine and Chondroitin have been found to be effective in pain management for humans and animals.

A supplement that contains Chondroitin and Glucosamine can make mobility easier for an arthritic dog. Since there are so many supplements on the market, it’s best to do some research to determine which one would benefit your dog most. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association can recommend a holistic veterinarian in your area.

What Medications Are Not Safe?

Over-the-counter pain medications are categorized as NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAID brand names include Aleve or Advil.

These medications are aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen. NSAIDs inhibit the production of cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that reduces inflammation that causes pain.

However, prostaglandins are needed for certain bodily functions to work correctly. Blood flow to the kidneys and clotting of blood are two of these functions. If too much of the enzyme is inhibited, your dog could suffer life-threatening problems. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) could cause kidney or liver damage in dogs if it’s ingested in toxic amounts.

The Risks Of OTC Drugs

When people take NSAID medications, the dosage is clearly marked for adults or children. However, since there are so many breeds and sizes of dogs it’s challenging to determine the correct dosage of the drug, and it isn’t worth the risk. The risk of giving your dog any of these drugs is even higher if your dog is taking prescription medication for kidney or liver disease, or gastrointestinal issues.

Some dog owners think it’s acceptable to give their dog low-dose aspirin, also called baby aspirin. The risk of your dog developing serious health problems is too high. Occasionally, a veterinarian may prescribe low-dose aspirin for a short period. Always follow the instructions of your veterinarian and never give your dog more than the prescribed dosage.

What Can You Give Your Dog For Pain?

Your veterinarian can prescribe a pain medication for your dog based on its medical history and the diagnosis. NSAIDs offer relief from the pain of inflammation and swelling. NSAIDs are also useful for pain following surgical procedures. That said, you should always follow the rule about not giving your dog NSAIDs formulated for humans.

The medications that are formulated to alleviate canine pain include:


Carprofen is sold under the brand names of Novox, Rimadyl, or Quellin. Carprofen is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication that is commonly used to treat minor inflammation and pain in dogs. The drug isn’t usually prescribed for cats. Carprofen is related to the same NSAIDs as aspirin and ibuprofen. The medication can relieve pain by suppressing prostaglandins.


Deracoxib, also known as Deramaxx, is a prescription pain medication that should only be given to your dog according to the instructions of your veterinarian. The medication is administered as one daily dose. Deracoxib is prescribed most often for the relief of pain from dental procedures and to relieve inflammation and post-operative pain from orthopedic surgery. Deracoxib is indicated frequently for the relief of inflammation and pain from osteoarthritis.


Firocoxib or Previcox is most commonly prescribed for the symptoms of osteoarthritis. The medication is prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain that’s associated with orthopedic or soft-tissue surgery. Firocoxib is a once-daily medication in a chewable tablet form. The drug may be mixed with your dog’s food or given orally. One of the most important considerations with this medication is that if you miss a dose, it should be given to your dog as soon as possible. However, if it’s close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed, then continue with the regular medication schedule. Never give your dog two doses of Firocoxib at the same time.


Meloxicam or Metacam is used to control pain in dogs that suffer from osteoarthritis. The medication should only be given according to your veterinarian’s instructions.

Meloxicam should only be given in the lowest dosage possible for the shortest period. On the first day of treatment, the first dose of medication should be only 0.09 mg/lb body weight. The drug should never be given to small dogs orally but mixed with food to prevent overdosing.

Veterinarians prescribe NSAIDs that are designed to alleviate pain in dogs. When your dog is in pain, your first instinct is to do something to alleviate the pain. The best thing you can do for your dog is to go to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital and have the veterinarian prescribe medication.

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