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What to give your dog for pain under veterinary supervision, from medications to home remedies

This article was medically reviewed by Lara Sypniewski DVM, DABVP, CVA, CCRP, an associate professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Oklahoma State University. 
dog in blanket
If your dog is reluctant to move or is trembling, it could be a sign that they are in pain.
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  • If your dog is in pain, call your vet who can tell you what to do based on your dog's medical history.
  • They may recommend medications like aspirin, tramadol, and gabapentin.
  • You can also try natural remedies like icing the pain point or helping your dog get lots of rest. 

It's common for pet owners to feel a bit helpless when they notice their pup in pain, but there are remedies to help your pet feel better.

Addressing your dog's pain will depend on several factors, including:

  • The source and timing — whether the pain is from an acute injury or a chronic condition
  • Your dog's current medical and surgical history
  • Your dog's age, breed, and size

Before you intervene, it is essential to consult a veterinarian about the best pain management plan for your pup, whether it's prescription medications, natural remedies, or both, says Dr. Antje Joslin, a veterinarian at the 99th Avenue Lower Buckeye Animal Clinic.

Here's a look at some prescribed medications and home remedies your vet might recommend. 

1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications

A vet may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication to reduce pain associated with inflammation, including arthritis or musculoskeletal inflammation.  

NSAIDs should always be given with food to reduce side effects in dogs, which include vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite; if your dog is on an NSAID, water access should be readily available. Any side effects should be reported to your veterinarian. 

2. Gabapentin

Gabapentin is a calcium channel blocker that alters pain messages between nerve cells to help relieve pain and it is commonly prescribed to treat chronic and neuropathic pain. 

Neuropathic pain occurs when there is damage to the nervous system in conditions such as intervertebral disc degeneration and spinal arthritis.

Gabapentin may cause mild sedation, especially in older dogs and your veterinarian may slowly increase the dose to accommodate their needs. 

3. CBD supplements

CBD supplements for humans and dogs are not FDA approved and are not regulated by any governing body.

Therefore, some veterinarians may be hesitant to make a recommendation as there is very little research available on the correct formula, effective dose, and safety profile for dogs. 

As such, choosing an effective and safe CBD supplement is difficult for dog owners. 

If you are choosing a CBD supplement, ask your veterinarian to suggest a reputable company which independently tests their product. They may or may not be willing to provide one.

Dogs with certain nervous system disorders, including seizures, spinal cord disease, or spinal disc deterioration, may benefit from CBD but always consult a veterinarian before administering it.

4. Rest, ice, time

If your dog has a slight limp after playing hard outside and the pain they are experiencing appears to be minor, some time to rest and relax may be all they need to improve, says Dr. Sara Ochoa a veterinarian at Whitehouse Veterinarian Hospital

Encourage your pet to find a comfortable resting position in a cool, quiet area to give them time to rest and recover. It is important to allow your dog to be in the most comfortable position for their needs; do not force them into a resting position. In addition, leaving them alone may encourage them to settle down. 

You can also use a cold compress to reduce local swelling. Consider taking a bag of frozen peas, covering with a towel, and placing on the affected area for 5-10 minutes. 

If your dog appears restless or you're having trouble getting them to relax, here are some ways you can try to encourage them to lie down:

  1. Set up a comfortable space for them with a dog bed or some blankets.
  2. If you use a crate for your dog when you leave the house or at night, you can contain them there for an hour or two to encourage rest. Add some treats or a favorite toy to make the space more inviting. 
  3. Provide a toy or chew bone that will keep your dog entertained while also lying down. Examples include a frozen kong toy or a rawhide bone. 

Signs of pain in dogs

In some cases, a dog may just need a nap to recover after a long walk or morning at the park, but there are signs to look out for that may indicate a more severe injury or pain that should be examined by a veterinarian.

Signs of pain in dogs include:

  • A reluctance to move
  • Limping that doesn't improve with rest 
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Vocalizations, like howling, whimpering, or whining
  • Excessive panting 

Insider's takeaway

It can be hard to see your pet in pain, but reaching for a human painkiller without first consulting your veterinarian is strongly discouraged. 

Discuss your dog's pain concerns with your veterinarian. After a thorough examination, your veterinarian may recommend imaging to evaluate for injuries as well as checking your dog's blood values to determine if they are a good candidate for certain pain medications. As a team, you and your veterinarian can develop a pain management plan that can help your dog feel better.

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