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Effective Pain Relief for Dogs: Learn the Pros and Cons

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Learn the options for relieving your dog’s pain.
An owner petting their fluffy white dog that is in pain lying on the floor.

Developing aches and pains is an unfortunate part of your dog’s aging process. But dogs can’t tell us when they are hurting and may even try to hide their pain. If you suspect your dog is in pain, visit your veterinarian to see what’s ailing them, and keep reading to learn more about what to give dogs for pain.

What Pain Relief Options Are Available for Dogs?


NSAID Pain Relievers for Dogs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) pain relievers are the most common type of pain relief available for dogs. But that doesn’t mean you should reach into your own medicine cabinet — human-safe NSAIDs aren’t suitable for canines. Instead, your veterinarian can recommend an NSAID designed and tested just for dogs, such as carprofen. Carprofen is the most common active ingredient used in veterinary medicine for pain control and is available in a variety of forms, including hard pills, injections, soft chews, etc.

Pain relievers for dogs that contain NSAIDS, like carprofen, reduce inflammation and swelling within your pet’s body. They require a prescription from your veterinarian.


  • NSAIDs are especially helpful with inflammatory causes of pain like osteoarthritis, injuries and post-surgical pain.
  • These medications usually provide quick pain relief for dogs.
  • NSAIDs are available in a variety of forms, including savory soft chews that make dosing easy for the dog and owner.
  • NSAIDs are regulated by the FDA and have undergone numerous safety studies.


  • NSAIDs may cause side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea or ulcers.
  • If a dog takes NSAIDs over a long period of time, this may require periodic checkups with a veterinarian to monitor liver and kidney function.
A golden retriever sitting on a vet’s table with a pink cast on its leg.

Other Prescription Pain Relievers for Dogs

In addition to NSAIDs, veterinarians sometimes prescribe other types of pain relievers for dogs. Gabapentin and tramadol are two common ones.


  • Prescription medications relieve pain quickly.
  • You can use these pain relievers with other medications.


  • Gabapentin may make dogs sleepy. It can also cause side effects like sedation and loss of coordination.
  • Tramadol may cause drowsiness, stomach upset and vomiting in dogs.
  • If given in a larger dose than prescribed, these medications are dangerous.

Remember that you should never give your dog a human medication unless your veterinarian has prescribed it, and always follow the dosing recommendation.

What Physical Pain-relieving Remedies Are Available for Dogs?


Exercises, Acupuncture and Cold-laser Therapy

A relaxing massage can do wonders for pain in humans, and for dogs, there can be a benefit, too. Physical pain-relieving therapies are usually available for dogs through your veterinarian. They include massage, physical therapy exercises, acupuncture and cold-laser therapy.


  • Physical therapy services can be performed on dogs of any age.
  • They work safely with other types of pain relief.
  • You can do some exercises and massage techniques with your dog at home.
  • Physical therapies can improve mobility and range of motion as well as relieve muscle tension.


  • Therapy sessions can be costly for owners and require multiple treatments.
  • Pain relief isn’t always immediate from physical therapy.
  • Some dogs may not sit still for procedures like massage or acupuncture and could become stressed by the visits.
  • Pet insurance may not cover therapy sessions.

Learn more about the signs of discomfort in dogs and medication to treat pain in dogs.

quellin® (carprofen) soft chews
CAUTION: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian. WARNINGS: Keep out of reach of children. Not for human use. Consult a physician in cases of accidental ingestion by humans. For use in dogs only. Do not use in cats. All dogs should undergo a thorough history and physical examination before initiation of NSAID therapy. Appropriate laboratory tests to establish hematological and serum biochemical baseline data prior to, and periodically during, administration of any NSAID should be considered.

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