Whether a pup's pain is persistent and ongoing or the pain is sudden and temporary, help is available in the forms of vet-prescribed painkillers and alternative treatments including various forms of therapy and herbal supplements. Let your vet advise you on lifestyle changes that will help mitigate your dog's pain.
When your dog's pain is noticeable to you, it's time to see the vet. Veterinarians have access to a variety of dog-approved drugs for pain management. For chronic pain such as arthritis, vets often prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Rimadyl or Zubrin, which can present side effects but are safe for dogs. In cases of acute pain, like discomfort seen after surgery or in end-stage situations, a vet may prescribe narcotic opiates -- though narcotics aren't as common as NSAIDs, as they are controlled substances and can present serious side effects.
Over the Counter Drugs
As a rule, most drugs aren't safe for dogs, and pet owners should never offer acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to an animal. A few over-the-counter medicines intended for people are OK for pets. For pain relief, a vet might prescribe a specific dose of buffered aspirin. For allergy-related pain, a vet might prescribe Benadryl.
Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation Therapy
Some dogs benefit from chiropractic appointments. Spinal problems can cause nerve problems and can cause discomfort secondary to nerve pain as well, with resulting unnatural movements that lead to joint wear. Canine chiropractors identify problem areas and administer spinal adjustments that realign compromised vertebrae, restoring normal nerve function -- in short, stopping the pain at its source.
Holistic Pain Management
Some pet owners prefer alternative pain management techniques to prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and a variety of holistic approaches are available. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical technique involving needles, electrical impulses or cold laser (concentrated light energy) to stimulate acupuncture points and provide relief. Massage therapy, in which either an experienced canine masseuse or attentive owner manually warms and compresses sore joints and muscles, is another pain relief technique. Holistic therapies often call for supplements such as fish oil, glucosamine and willow bark.
Lifestyle and Environment Changes
Sometimes, you can relieve canine pain by making lifestyle or environmental changes. Overweight and inactive dogs are at increased risk for arthritis and joint pain, so a weight loss program of diet and exercise can drastically improve an obese dog's quality of life. Suffering senior dogs benefit from increased comfort levels, so pamper an older pup with thick, warm bedding that will absorb pressure and keep cold air, and its joint-stiffening effects, at bay.