Dog Pain Relief

To relieve pain in dogs, we can use pain medications (pain killers) as well as natural remedies such as herbs and nutraceuticals. This page first looks at the common causes of pain in dogs, the signs and symptoms that a dog is in pain, and then it looks at the types of conventional medications that are used to alleviate pain in dogs.

Dog Pain Relief We don't want our dogs to suffer, so when our dogs are in pain, we naturally want to use dog pain medications to relieve their pain.

Dog pain relief comes in many forms - OTC medications, prescription drugs, nutraceuticals, and alternative remedies and treatment such as herbs and acupuncture.

Recently, more and more dog owners are turning to alternative remedies to relieve their dog's pain because many such remedies are not only effective but also safer - they usually do not cause side effects to dogs.

If your dog seems to be in pain, or is suffering from a health problem that causes him pain, please read on ...

Signs and Symptoms of A Dog In Pain

Unlike us, dogs don't complain and cry about their pain - They usually hide their pain and suffer in silence. That is their natural instinct for survival.

However, there are telltale signs - both physical and behavioral - that may indicate our dog is in pain. By being observant and alert to these signs, we can get an early diagnosis of possible health problems, or give our dog pain relief sooner to minimize his discomfort and suffering.

Signs and symptoms to look out for are:


  • Whining
  • Howling
  • Whimpering
  • Yelping
  • Groaning


  • Hunched (with hindquarters raised and front end down on the ground)
  • Limps
  • Carries his head or tail off center
  • Lays on his side

Facial Expression

  • Grimaces, especially when touched
  • Vacant stare
  • Wide-eyed or looks tired and sleepy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Flattened ears
  • Pants excessively even when resting

Activity Level

  • Restless
  • Reluctant to move
  • Difficulty getting up from a laying position
  • Unable to rest comfortably - gets up and lies down repeatedly
  • Trembling, circling or lying very still

Behavioral Changes

  • Becomes grouchy and aggressive (especially a previously friendly dog)
  • Growls, hisses, bites when being touched
  • Doesn't want to be held or picked up
  • Pins ears back
  • Hides (e.g. under the bed)
  • Withdraws from social interactions
  • Relunctant to play
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Becomes more "clingy" than usual
  • Incessant scratching or licking a particular part of the body

Possible Causes of Dog Pain

As you can imagine, there are zillions of possible reasons that can cause pain to our dogs. Here are some of the most common causes:


Arthritis is one of the most common dog health problems. Arthritis can be caused by genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, or can be the result of a number of degenerative processes. Of course, it can also be secondary to an earlier injury or surgery.

Read more about arthritis in dogs here.

Back Problems

Back problems can also cause a lot of pain to the dogs. Back problems in dogs can range from something like a pulled muscle to something more serious like a herniated disk.

Click here to learn more about different back problems in dogs.


Injuries such as bone fractures, sprains, bruises, etc., as well as insect bites and stings can also cause a lot of pain to our dogs.

Ear Infections

Dog ear infections, especially when spread to the middle or inner ear, can be extremely painful. Usually the dog will shake his head violently and will scratch the affected ear incessantly. He may also rub his head against the wall or furniture.

You can find detailed information on this ear problem here.

Eye Problems

Eye problems, such as ocular infections, ulceration of the cornea, glaucoma, etc., can be another source of pain and discomfort for our dogs. Dogs with eye problems usually will consistently scratch the affected eye with their hind leg.

They may also rub their eye against the bed, carpet, furniture, etc.

Read more about different eye problems that can affect our dogs here.


Dog with a Headache Yes - dogs suffer from headaches too! They may develop nervous migrane or the headache may be as a result of a tumor.

Usually a dog suffering from headache has a fixed stare, or he may have his eyes closed. He will shake his head lightly and repeatedly from side to side, he may scratch his head, or rub his head against furniture or on the rug.

Dental and Gum Problems

Tooth decay, abscesses, and gingivitis are all culprits that cause great pain to our dogs. Dogs suffering from dental or gum diseases usually drool, sometimes cough, and have no appetite. It is therefore important to take care of our dog's teeth and gums.

Click here for more information about dog oral problems and dental care.

Problems with the Digestive System

Indigestion caused by eating something inedible; poisoning; or obstruction of the intestines can cause abdominal pain to our dogs. Dogs with abdominal pain will rub their lateral abdomen against walls or furniture. They may also lay down and unwilling to get out of bed. They will try to lick their abdominal area.

Urinary Tract Infections

Another painful dog illness is urinary tract infections. Dogs with UTIs have a curved back because they have back pain. They urinate frequently and sometimes in inappropriate places. They also experience pain while urinating.

Read more about dog UTIs here.

Anal Sac Impaction

Dogs who have anal sac problems are always licking or even biting the anal area. They will scoot on the floor leaving unsightly "skid marks". Because of the pain from the rear end, they tend to sit down extremely carefully, looking backwards all the time.

Read more about anal sac impaction here.


Dog pain can of course be also caused by cancers of various types. Cancer is rather common in dogs, especially senior canines. We have a whole section on cancer in dogs, click this link for more information.

Some Conventional Dog Pain Relief Medications

Conventional dog pain relief medications include local anesthetics, opioids, and non-opioids. Non-opioids include a large of class of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

    Relieving Pain in Dogs These non-hormonal products include non-prescription aspirin and prescription required products such as Rimadyl. Usually NSAIDs are dog pain relief medications used to alleviate low to moderate pain and discomfort.

    Aspirin is one of the older NSAIDs and is available over the counter. If you want to use aspirin as a dog pain relief, choose the buffered or enteric coated type. The uncoated type can often cause stomach upset and irritation to dogs. Prolonged use can lead to stomach ulcer development.

    Do not use even coated aspirin, however, if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

    The most common side effects of aspirin include digestive problems such as vomiting (sometimes with blood). Dosage is 4-10 mg/lb twice daily.

    Carprofen (Rimadyl) is a newer NSAID and safer for dogs than older NSAIDs like Aspirin. It is primarily prescribed to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis in dogs.

    Possible side effects include gastrointestinal, liver, and kidney problems. Labrador retrievers in particular are prone to develop serious liver problems if put on this medication. Dosage is 1 mg/lb twice daily.

  • Corticosteroids

    Corticosteroids and synthetic cortisone-like drugs (e.g. dexamethasone) are anti-inflammatory medications usually prescribed by conventional veterinarians to reduce pain caused by arthritis, or to alleviate discomfort caused by allergies.

    These dog pain relief medications have a lot of nasty side-effects and should be used with extreme caution.

    Read more about these dog pain medications here.

  • Opioids

    Opioids (or opiates), such as morphine, butorphanol, are extremely strong painkillers and because of their potency and possibility of abuse by people, they are strictly controlled by the government. Opiates are usually used in hospital to ease pain of very sick or terminally ill dogs.

    Opiates can cause serious side effects, such as changes in respiratory and heart rate and they have sedative effects. In addition, dogs can also become addicted to opiates just like people do! Because of these adverse effects, opiates should only be used for very short periods to relieve pain under the close supervision of a veterinarian.

  • Local Anesthetics

    This type of medication provides dog pain relief by blocking pain stimuli from reaching the brain and spinal cord. They differ from the opioids and NSAIDs in that they abolish pain rather than diminish it. An example of of a local anesthetic is lidocaine.


Natural Dog Pain Relief

If you would like to learn more about using natural remedies such as herbs and nutraceuticals for dog pain relief, please visit this page.