In some ways, a sick dog is even harder to deal with than a sick child. You’d sympathize even more with your child than your pet, of course. And needless to say, caring for your child will always take priority. The difference is that a child can tell you exactly what’s hurting, and where. With your dog, you’re flying nearly blind. In fact, dogs try to hide any pain they may be feeling as long as possible. Here’s what that means: by the time you can tell that your dog is hurting, he may be in nearly excruciating pain. Immediate action is called for. If Fido’s in serious distress and showing signs of an illness or disease, get him to the vet as soon as possible. If it’s more a matter of pain without signs of an underlying cause, there are ways you may be able to help ease that pain until you can bring him in to have him checked. However – and this is important – canine pain medications are not the same as human ones. You should never give your dog ibuprofen, Tylenol, or similar pain relievers you may have in your medicine cabinet. Low-dose aspirin may be okay in some cases, but only if approved by a vet. That doesn’t mean you’re without options, even though pain meds for dogs aren’t sold online or at pet stores. There are similar medications formulated specifically for dogs available by prescription, although they carry some pretty serious side effects. There are also holistic options. But the best choice of all may be using CBD to treat your pet’s pain. We’ll take a closer look at all of those possibilities, after discussing the types of pain your dog may be suffering.
Dogs and PainMany people, even some veterinarians, mistakenly believe that dogs don’t feel pain the same way that we do. Researchers and psychologists, though, assure us that they do. Dogs, as you know, are descendants of predatory animals who would be at a huge disadvantage in the wild if they were to show any weakness. Our pets may now be domesticated, but they’ve inherited that same instinct. Fido is still likely to hide any pain that he’s suffering until his natural stoicism requires too much effort to maintain. So how do you know if your dog is in pain? It often requires noticing subtle changes in his natural behavior patterns.
- He may hide at abnormal times, or in abnormal spots.
- He may be quieter than usual, or may occasionally whimper, whine or groan (in most cases, dogs aren’t inclined to bark when they’re in chronic or continual pain).
- His level of alertness and activity may either be higher or lower than normal.
- He may lie or sit down and refuse to move, or move in a stiff or otherwise abnormal way; his back may arch and his tail may drag.
- His appetite may significantly decline or disappear.
- He may start nipping at his own body or at others who approach, even his human family.
- Unusual swelling may begin to appear on his body,
- Most alarmingly, he may begin panting and/or shivering, with enlarged pupils – these signs would usually indicate a need for immediate medical attention.
Treating Dogs for PainA serious injury, naturally, will cause pain. Many diseases and illnesses will, as well. Just a partial list of the possible reasons for Fido’s chronic or long-lasting pain can seem overwhelming: serious ones include liver disease, cancer, and diabetes, and less-serious ones range from allergies and upset stomachs to infections, bone sprains, and arthritis. More serious cases usually call for more complicated interventions or medication regimens, but the ones which simply cause pain and discomfort can often be treated by “pet versions” of human medications. Before we go further, another reminder: these pet pain medications must be prescribed by a vet. Your parents or grandparents were likely to reach for the aspirin when they had a headache. Today, most of us reach for ibuprofen. Ibuprofen (often sold under the brand names Motrin or Advil) is just one of a class of drugs known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which have proven extremely effective at blocking the enzymes and chemicals which lead to inflammation and pain. Other widely-used NSAIDs are naproxen (Aleve), Celebrex, Indocin – and yes, aspirin. All of those NSAIDs have the potential to seriously hurt – or even kill – your dog. And if you’ve thought about acetaminophen (Tylenol) as a non-NSAID alternative, think again. It can cause irreparable damage to canines’ kidneys and livers. There’s somewhat good news, though. There are NSAIDs that have been formulated specifically for dogs, and a number of veterinarians prescribe them for pain despite the fact they may cause some pretty serious side effects. For that reason, your vet may be understandably reluctant to prescribe them – and you should think carefully before deciding to give them to your pet.
Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)These medications can be administered by mouth or via injection, and are NSAIDs commonly used to treat some forms of canine arthritis and after surgery. Many vets will prescribe them for other types of pain as well. They’re effective and well-tolerated by many dogs but are also known for causing gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and ulcers. What’s more concerning is that they can damage the kidneys and lungs, so regular blood tests are recommended for dogs who are given carprofen on a regular basis.
Firocoxib (Prevacox), Deracoxib (Deramaxx), Meloxicam (Metacam)Three other NSAIDs are sometimes prescribed instead of carprofen. They all work similarly to relieve pain, and only have to be given once per day instead of the twice-a-day dosing schedule for carprofen. Each carries the same risks as carprofen, but each also has additional side effects to be aware of.
- Firocoxib can cause a loss of appetite and skin irritation in addition to the side effects associated with carprofen.
- Deracoxib has been known to cause depression and lethargy as well as cardiac disease in rare cases, and can’t be given to pregnant or nursing mothers.
- Meloxicam has an even longer list of possible side effects, including headaches, nausea, swelling and weight gain, weakness, and dizziness – you can tell that this medication should probably be used as a last resort.