Pain Management For Your Dog


There are as many manifestations of pain as there are conditions, injuries and individual dogs. Most experts agree that pain is an unpleasant sensation and emotional experience that links to tissue damage. It allows the body to react and prevent further tissue damage. Pain is experienced when a signal travels through nerve fibers to the brain for interpretation. Pain is very subjective and difficult to measure.

Dogs Hide Their Pain

When humans are in pain there is usually an outward demonstration such as, complaining about an aching back, yelling after an injury, limping because it hurts to put pressure on a leg.

It has been shown that animals have a nervous system very similar to humans and feel pain in very much the same way we do. However, unlike humans, dogs cannot easily tell us where or how much it hurts. Many dogs instinctively hide their pain and are not vocal; it was to an animal’s advantage from a survival point of view in the wild to withdraw and suffer quietly so as not to attract the attention of predators.

Importance of Recognizing Pain

The signs may be subtle but careful observation will allow recognition of pain in most dogs. When experiencing pain, dogs often alter their behavior in some way. These subtle signs may be the only indication that the dog is hurting. Learning to recognize signs of pain will enable you to manage your dog’s pain to provide relief and comfort.

Controlling pain enables the dog to heal in the case of injury or surgery and to gain strength and mobility. Whether chronic or acute, it is important to address pain control at the earliest possible time since continual painful experience in an animal can lead to further deterioration and is detrimental to the overall quality of life and well-being of any animal.

Conditions that May Cause Pain

Pain can be caused by infections, injuries, surgeries and diseases. With aging also comes certain degenerative changes in the body. Although external wounds are always alarming, it’s important to realize that sometimes internal pain can be much worse.

Conditions and illnesses that cause pain include:

  • Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas
  • Ear infection: inflammation or infection of outer, middle or inner ear
  • Periodontal disease: gum disease as a result of untreated gingivitis
  • Cystitis: bladder inflammation
  • Slipped disc: a common cause of paralysis
  • Osteoarthritis (OA): chronic arthritis also known as degenerative joint disease
  • Peritonitis: inflammation of the tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen
  • Cancer: common tumors in dogs include lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors and osteosarcoma (bone cancer)


Certain symptoms could be signs that your dog is experiencing pain. Ask yourself, “Is my dog…”

  • Vomiting
  • Vocalizing more
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Experiencing diarrhea
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Breathing heavily or panting
  • Not eating or eating less
  • Sluggish or unresponsive
  • Limping or moving strangely or changing posture
  • Continuously grooming or licking the same spot
  • Flattening her or his ears against their head
  • Seeking more than the usual amount of attention
  • Acting in an antisocial or aggressive manner (growling, biting or snapping)
  • Whining, whimpering or howling for no (obvious) reason
  • Behaving differently: hiding, unenthusiastic or restless


Whether you think it’s serious or not, many experts agree that you should contact a veterinarian immediately. You will most likely have to take your dog for an examination. Don’t waste time guessing or trying to find solutions on your own.


It is dangerous to give pets human medications since this could lead to toxicity or further damage.

Your veterinarian will undertake a full examination so that the underlying cause of the pain can be determined and appropriately treated and managed. In cases where the cause is not immediately diagnosed, medication could be prescribed to manage the pain in the meantime.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to reduce and manage pain in dogs. Your veterinarian will have to perform a physical examination and other tests if necessary, to determine which medication options would be most effective for the situation and your dog’s health.

Not all forms of pain can be resolved, but proper management can make a big difference in your dog’s quality of life.

NOTE: Do not use dog medications for a dog other than the canine patient it was prescribed for.

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