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Dog Pain Management - How to Recognize and Treat Pain in Dogs

What is the difference between acute and chronic pain in dogs?

Acute pain means sudden onset pain, such as something like a fractured limb or a fractured bone. Chronic pain means long-standing over days to weeks, to months, to years. An example of chronic pain would be something like osteoarthritis.

How quickly should I bring my dog in if I suspect he's in pain?

Bring your dog in as soon as possible so that we can get on top of pain management. The vital thing about pain is we want to treat it as soon as we know it's present so that we can more adequately treat it. Otherwise, they have something called windup pain, where if we let them be in pain for a more extended period, the pain is much harder to control for us.

What are some signs and symptoms of pain in my dog?

There are numerous signs of pain in dogs, and they can vary. One that is easily overlooked is limping. Many times, dogs will come in either limping or just not using the limb due to whatever it may be—a broken nail, a broken bone, a strain, sprain, or ACL tear. And just because the dog isn't vocalizing doesn't mean they're not in pain. It's like us—if we were to sprain our ankle, the way that others can see that someone is in pain without them telling you is they're limping along. The same goes for dogs. Limping is a sign of pain or discomfort. Sometimes dogs can vocalize, but that's not always the case. Other times, they may hide in corners or under beds, avoid being social, not eat or drink, depending on where the pain is. They may also not go to the bathroom normally or as well or hold a posture. Sometimes there's swelling at the pain site, depending on where that might be.

Are human pain meds, like Tylenol and Advil okay to give my dog?

I would not recommend that. Many of the over-the-counter medications are going to interfere with what we end up prescribing for your animals. The dose range for Aspirin is quite tight. And it's not a very good anti-inflammatory and pain medication in general, and again, it will affect what we end up giving your pet for pain. That's because we're going to have to have what's called a wash-out period, meaning that Aspirin doesn't play well with a lot of anti-inflammatories that we like to use.

Something like Ibuprofen is toxic to dogs, so we certainly don't want to be giving that. If you think your dog is in pain, you need to call us, the animal needs to be seen, and then we need to prescribe medications. Don't give your dog any medication unless you contact us.

What are some of the medications you would prescribe to take care of the pain?

Yeah, good question. One of the most common ones that we will use is an NSAID, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. Probably one of the more common ones that we will use is called Carprofen. There are many names to that—brand names, generics—but it will be some version of an anti-inflammatory if indicated. There are some cases where we don't want to use that, like if an animal has organ dysfunction or something like that.

Another medication that we commonly reach for here at Hallett would be Gabapentin, a pain management medication. We don't use Tramadol as much anymore; some of the more recent research suggests that it isn't as effective as we would like it to be. Amantadine is something that we've used. Joint supplements and Omega threes aren't necessarily for pain, but they can help some of our arthritic patients. So those are kind of the biggies that we end up utilizing to help manage discomfort.

Can a veterinarian help me manage my dog's chronic pain?

Yes, absolutely. It kind of depends on the patient, just like for people, as different medications work better. It's very similar in dogs. So if we have an arthritic, sore, painful dog, depending on their blood work and history, we can use an NSAID to start. If that's not enough, we can add medications, adjust doses, and those are things we can help you with through the physical exam, rechecks, emails, and phone calls on how the pet is doing. So it's very dependent on the animal, but yes, we can typically help manage a dog's chronic pain.

Where is the best place for me to get pain meds for my dog?

We'd generally recommend getting them from your veterinary clinic, although some pain medications are available at human pharmacies. We have quite a few of them, and our online store has pain medications as well. Checking cost based on all of those options is something that a client can do to see where it will be most affordable. Those are the most common places that clients get pain meds.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (262) 569-0801, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

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