Safe Pain Relievers for Dogs

By Kate Daniels

Dogs suffer from pain just like humans, though may not let us know directly. Sometimes a dog will walk hunched over, limp or whimper. They may also not be enjoying their food as much as usual or seem lethargic and reluctant to run and play. As always, a trip to the veterinarian will help to determine the problem. If you need a quicker fix, there are some good pain-killing choices available.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

The class of drugs commonly known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, is probably the most prescribed medication for dogs. They are relatively safe when used as directed and monitored carefully. These drugs are particularly effective in controlling the pain, stiffness and swelling of arthritis in dogs. NSAIDS work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals produced by the body that can cause inflammation, a major cause of pain in dogs. As tissues become inflamed, swelling occurs. NSAIDS reduce the inflammation, thus decreasing the pain. Common NSAIDS include aspirin and prescription pain relievers such as Deramaxx, Metacam, Rimadyl, Zubrin, Novox, Previcox and Etogesic. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog an NSAID so she can check your dog's medical history and be aware of drugs he is taking. Although NSAIDS are considered to be a relatively safe class of drugs for dogs, there are possible side effects. Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice a change in your dog's eating or drinking habits, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, yellowing of the eyes or gums, redness of the skin or changes in behavior.

Steroids

Cortisone and prednisone are the two of the most common medications known as steroids. They are similar to NSAIDS in how they work, though they are more potent, which is why they are often prescribed when NSAIDS have not been effective. These drugs are commonly recommended for treatment of canine arthritis and allergies. Just as they are more effective than NSAIDS, they also carry a greater risk of adverse reactions. Veterinarians usually only prescribe this class of drugs for short periods of time to jump-start the anti-inflammatory process. Side effects can include weight gain and behavioral changes.

Natural and Alternative Pain Relievers

Many veterinarians today are incorporating natural and alternative therapies in their practices. Glucosamine is the most used supplement in the treatment of arthritis, and chondroitin is the second most used supplement. The two together create a powerful combination. They work by slowing destructive enzymes that destroy cartilage. In many cases they are as effective as NSAIDS without the side effects, though they take longer to be effective, often between four and eight weeks. Acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and massage are therapies that often fall outside the normal realm of medical care. They all share the theory of releasing tension or relaxing areas of the body to allow it to return to a normal state. They often work well as a pain reliever, either alone or in conjunction with medication, and have the added benefit of few or no side effects. According to the ASPCA, pain from hip dysplasia is a common reason to use acupuncture as a pain reliever. Acupuncture involves the insertions of very thin needles into the skin at points where the flow of energy is thought to be blocked. Releasing this flow is thought to allow healing. Chiropractic treatment seeks to fight diseases caused by the misalignment of bones that obstruct proper nerve function. The bones are manipulated back into their proper position, freeing trapped nerves and allowing the body to heal. Massage involves kneading or rubbing muscles, increasing the body's ability to relax. A relaxed state helps to ease pain.