pain medication for dogs

Does your dog suffer from severe pain?

Whether it’s acute pain from an injury or chronic pain from a long-term medical condition, I’m sure you’re looking for the best medication to help them manage their symptoms.

To help you find it, I’m going to look at some of the most common pain medications for dogs and highlight the best option out there.

Understanding the Pain That Your Dog Might Be Having

To better understand the best pain medications for dogs and how they work, I think it’s key to first have a solid understanding of what pain is.

Below I’ll take a basic look at the different types of pain that might affect your dog and how they work.

For a more detailed discussion of pain and how it affects your pet, make sure to speak to your vet.

What is Pain and How Does it Work?

cbd for dogs with hip dysplasia

Pain is the body’s way of alerting us that something isn’t right.

If you bump your head or stub your toe, pain signals travel from the affected area to the brain via the nervous system.

The brain will then respond in some way that aims to protect the area against any further damage and initiates the healing process as quickly as possible.

Stick your hand on a hot surface, for example, and specialized nerves will immediately sense the damage the heat is causing to your hand.

The nerves that detect tissue damage and send pain signals to the brain are known as nociceptors.

The nerves will then send pain signals to the brain, alerting it of the damage and evoking some kind of defensive response (like a muscle contraction that causes you to pull your hand away).

The brain may also then trigger the release of chemicals like dopamine (sometimes called “the feel-good chemical”) to counteract the painful sensation of the burn.

What Types of Pain are There?

Pain can usually be divided into 2 different categories:

Acute pain is generally intense, immediate, and short-lived; think of the pain of hitting your head on a cupboard door, for example.

Acute pain serves to alert a person or animal to some kind of injury, and will usually disappear once the injury has healed.

Chronic pain, on the other hand, is prolonged over long periods of time.

cbd for dogs with digestive problemsEvery animal’s experience of chronic pain can be different:

A dog with arthritis, for example, might experience pain consistently, day in and day out.

A dog with IBD, on the other hand, might experience intermittent pain.

Your vet might refer to your dog’s pain using one of the following terms:

  • Somatic Pain: This kind of pain can be considered superficial, and is usually felt in the skin or the soft tissue just underneath it.
  • Visceral Pain: Visceral pain comes from inside the body and usually affects the organs or their lining.
  • Referred Pain: Referred pain is felt in one part of the body but is actually caused by damage to another, separate part.
  • Neuropathic Pain: This pain is caused by nerve damage, and is usually described as a “tingling” or “burning” sensation.

What Conditions Commonly Cause Pain?

There’s a whole variety of conditions that can cause your dog to experience pain.

These can include:

  • Ear Infections: Ear infections are a common problem for many dogs, especially those with big, floppy ears. They are usually caused by bacteria, yeast build up, water in the ear canal, ear mites, allergies, or even the presence of a foreign object (like dirt or dust) inside the ear.
  • Arthritis: Arthritic pain is caused by chronic inflammation of the joints. As dogs get older, the cartilage in their joints wears down, causing the bones of the joint to grind against each other. As a result, the area becomes inflamed, swollen, and sensitive.
  • Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is caused by the inflammation of the pancreas. The root cause of pancreatitis isn’t always clear, but it can be caused by certain medications or after eating something particularly fatty.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease: IVDD is caused by a rupture of the discs that separate the vertebrae in the neck and back. This is extremely painful, as the ruptured disc presses on other parts of the spine and surrounding tissue. Some dog breeds are at a higher risk of developing IVDD than others, but it can also be caused by injury or trauma to the spine.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: IBD is caused by chronic inflammation of the bowels. This causes vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The exact causes of IBD aren’t always clear.
  • Osteosarcoma (or bone cancer): Osteosarcoma is a common type of cancer that usually affects large dog breeds. The growth of the tumor in the bone can cause intense, chronic pain.
  • Periodontal Disease: Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease causes degeneration of the tissue and bone holding your dog’s teeth in place. This will cause their teeth to get loose and fall out.
  • Cystitis: Cystitis is the clinical term for a bladder infection. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, which causes the bladder to become inflamed.
  • Peritonitis: Peritonitis is caused by the inflammation of the membrane of the stomach lining. It is usually caused by bacteria or injury to the stomach.

How is Pain Treated in Dogs?

If your dog is in pain, your vet’s first priority should be to identify the root cause of their symptoms.

Once they’ve identified the root cause of your pet’s pain, they should come up with a treatment plan specific to that condition.

They will likely also look for a way to reduce your pet’s pain while they treat the underlying cause.

This will usually include treatment with some kind of pain medication, like those mentioned below:

The Most Popular Pain Medications for Dogs

Metacam Alternatives for dogs

1. NSAIDs (Metacam, Rimadyl, Novox)

Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs are among the most common pain medications used with dogs.

These drugs basically work by suppressing the body’s ability to produce enzymes that cause inflammation and swelling.

NSAIDs are particularly effective at treating inflammatory pain and are often used to manage the pain caused by arthritis or surgery.

And, thanks to the constant refinement of these drugs, NSAIDs have become much safer over the years.

This makes them much more attractive than steroidal pain medications (like Prednisone, Dexamethasone, and Corticosteroids), which can cause very severe side effects.

In fact, most vets will no longer prescribe steroid painkillers, opting for NSAIDs instead.

This doesn’t mean, however, that NSAIDs are 100% safe.

Just a quick Google search can present you with countless horror stories from pet owners whose dogs had severe (sometimes even fatal) adverse reactions to Rimadyl and other NSAIDs.

Some common side effects of these drugs include vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss and, in severe cases, stomach bleeding as well as kidney/liver damage.

2. Opiates (Hydromorphone, Codeine, Buprenorphine, Fentanyl, and Tramadol)

Opiates are by far the strongest pain medications your dog can get.

All opiates are narcotics and work by suppressing the pain signals being sent to your dog’s brain.

Opiates can produce a variety of side effects, including:

  • Sedation
  • Stomach irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision, dizziness, and disorientation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Convulsions

3. Nutraceuticals (Omega-3 and Glucosamine)

Nutraceuticals are supplements that have certain painkilling properties.

Supplements like Omega-3 and glucosamine have been shown to help reduce inflammation, as well as promote joint health.

Hence, they’re becoming increasingly popular as alternative treatments for canine arthritis.

Glucosamine, in particular, has been shown to help promote the growth of healthy cartilage, which is particularly beneficial for dogs suffering from joint problems.

Chondroitin sulfate is another popular supplement used to help manage arthritis in dogs.

Omega-3, usually taken in the form of fish oil or phytoplankton, has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Some pet owners, however, criticize these supplements as they might contain harmful toxins that fish and plankton absorb from their polluted environments.

4. Antidepressants (Tofranil and Elavil)

The principal use for antidepressants, as the name suggests, is to treat anxiety and depressive disorders.

However, doctors might sometimes prescribe antidepressants to treat specific types of pain.

That’s because antidepressants can affect how your body senses pain.

How exactly they do this isn’t clear, but doctors believe they may affect neurotransmitters in the spinal cord that are responsible for sending pain signals to the brain.

In dogs, antidepressants can have exactly the same effect.

While it’s not common, some vets may prescribe your dog antidepressants, especially if they’re dealing with chronic pain that isn’t responding well to other treatments.

There are many different types of antidepressants, so your vet will likely choose one over another based on your pet’s specific condition.

While antidepressants are relatively safe, they can still create adverse effects in dogs.

These can include:

  • Confusion or delusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Hyperthermia
  • Poor coordination and difficulty walking

What are the Limitations of These Medications?

All of the medications I mentioned above are relatively safe and well-tolerated.

However, none of them are without side effects.

Plus, the fact that these medications are processed by the liver and kidneys mean they aren’t always ideal for continued, long-term use.

Over time, NSAIDs and other popular pain medications can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and stomach.

That being the case, many pet owners whose pets suffer from chronic pain look for natural alternatives.

I am one of those pet owners.

Blake Armstrong and his dog RosieA few years ago, my Golden Retriever Rosie was diagnosed with cancer.

She also suffered from hip dysplasia all her life, which eventually left her battling with a chronically inflamed and swollen hip.

As her condition worsened, Rosie became increasingly inactive and suffered from chronic pain.

Her appetite started failing, too, and she simply wasn’t anything like her former self.

As a fellow dog lover, I’m sure you can understand the toll seeing Rosie like this had on my entire family.

Because Rosie was diagnosed with cancer quite late, my vet made it clear that there was nothing they could do to save her.

Instead, they told me to focus on making her remaining time with us as enjoyable as possible.

That’s when I first learned about CBD, an all-natural compound with a wide variety of health benefits.

The improvements I saw in Rosie once she started using CBD were nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Within just a few weeks she became more active, regained her appetite, and was in obviously less pain from her cancer and hip dysplasia.

The effects I saw with CBD trumped those of any other pain medication I had used with Rosie previously, and even my vet couldn’t believe the results I was getting.

Hence, I always recommend CBD as the best pain medication for dogs.

CBD: The Best Pain Medication for Dogs

cbd for dogs in pain

You’re probably already familiar with CBD and some of its health effects. You can review my list of benefits here.

Derived from hemp and cannabis plants, CBD is a natural, non-toxic, and non-psychoactive compound that can offer your pet fast relief from all kinds of different pain.

Best of all, it’s extremely well-tolerated and produces no serious side effects.

Even in extremely high doses, the only side effects that your pet might experience from CBD are sedation and diarrhea.

And that’s only ever been observed in rare cases.

Below I’ll take a closer look at how CBD works and how it can help reduce your dog’s pain.

CBD is One Of Nature’s Best Pain Killers

cbd for pain in dogs

CBD interacts with your dog’s naturally occurring Endocannabinoid System.

This system is made up of 2 different receptor cells (CB1 and CB2) which are made to mediate the effects of anandamide and 2-AG, 2 cannabinoids that your dog’s body produces naturally.

Research has shown that stimulating the Endocannabinoid System can help reduce pain and inflammation.

A recent paper in the European Journal of Rheumatology, for example, found that CBD acts on some of the key nervous channels involved in the transmission of pain signals.

In doing so, researchers have found that CBD can help reduce nociceptive pain (also known as tissue pain) as well as neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage.

If your pet suffers from arthritis, this is particularly good news, as the paper suggests that arthritic pain is both nociceptive and neuropathic.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve witnessed the painkilling properties of CBD with my own eyes.

And I’m not alone.

We have a Facebook Group that is growing every day with other pet owners who, like me, saw huge success in treating their pets’ pain with CBD. See below for more details.

CBD is a Powerful Anti-Inflammatory

cbd for inflammation banner

Besides its powerful painkilling properties, CBD is also one of the most powerful anti-inflammatories found in nature.

Stimulating the Endocannabinoid System has been shown to kick-start anti-inflammatory responses all around the body.

A number of studies have shown that CBD can reduce inflammation in the joints caused by arthritis or dysplasias.

A 2016 study, for example, found that transdermal CBD patches helped reduce pain and swelling in the joints of rats with arthritis.

However, studies have also shown that CBD can reduce inflammation in other parts of the body, including all throughout the GI tract and even in the brain.

This makes it an attractive treatment option for a wide variety of other conditions that cause inflammation, including IBD and many others.

I’ve covered the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD before:

For more information on this topic, make sure to check out this post on the best natural anti-inflammatories for dogs.

Find the Right CBD Product for Your Dog Today

holista pet cbdIf your dog suffers from pain and you’re looking for a natural, reliable medication to help them with their symptoms, I can’t recommend CBD enough.

This tiny supplement literally turned my dog’s life around within just a couple of weeks.

I mentioned above that I’m not the only dog owner with a CBD success story.

In fact just yesterday I received this Facebook Message:

cbd testimonial from coco the dog

This is just one of the many CBD testimonials our private Facebook Group has received recently.

The owners of Coco, a large Old English Mastiff posted this yesterday.

Because of the pain from arthritis and hip dysplasia, Coco was on 300mg of Tramadol per day.

Surgery costs were too high, and with no other options, they decided to give Coco CBD oil.

In just one month Coco saw results!

Just like my dog Rosie, Coco’s parents report that she’s a totally different dog now.

She’s in much less pain, and is no longer suffering from the side effects of the prescribed pain medication she was on.

I love hearing stories like this!

This is just one of the many success stories people have shared with me on our Facebook group about CBD for Pets. You can join here.

If you’ve already looked into CBD pet products, you’ll have noticed that there’s a vast variety of different brands and products out there.

So, how do you choose one over another?

Well, on my website I regularly review different pet CBD products and brands.

This is why I started this website, to help pet owners learn about CBD from a typical dog owner just like you.

If you want to get started using CBD for treating your dog’s pain, please see our top brand recommendations and discounts here.

Bonus: Here’s Your Next Step:

If your dog is in pain right now, I strongly recommend you download my free checklist, which will reveal if your specific dog will benefit from using CBD.

The checklist covers the 7 most popular CBD benefits for dogs, plus you will also get a full 35 page PDF report on CBD for pets which you can print out and read later.

Look below and fill out the Free Checklist Form right now:


Blake Armstrong
Blake Armstrong

Hey I'm Blake, the founder of this website. Our family was fortunately to have discovered CBD products after our dog Rosie was diagnosed with a few common ailments. I truly believe they enhanced her last few years, and it's my passion to spread the word through this website. Thanks for visiting!