Pain Relief For Dogs


In this article we are going to look at pain relief for dogs.

We’ll be answering your questions on using human pain meds for dogs, helping you to understanding the pain killer your vet has prescribed. And looking at options for at home and natural pain relief too.

When Can I Give My Dog Pain Relief?

Pain can develop for many different reasons, including accidental injury, diseases, and the after effects of surgery. When a dog’s pain is unexplained, your first step will always be to take him to the vet and find out what is wrong. But when your dog is in pain due to a pre-existing condition, you may be tempted to try out some home medications. Or to experiment with alternatives to the drugs prescribed by your vet.

What Can I Give My Dog For Pain?

Many dog owners are interested to know which of the pain killers we commonly keep in our homes can be given to dogs. And to find out more about the pain killers that have been prescribed for their dog, by their vet. So we’ll be looking at both over-the-counter remedies, and at some popular veterinary choices and what they mean for your dog.

A pain reliever for dogs does not have to be pain medication for dogs either. It can also include weight loss, or massage, as well as a variety of ways of suiting your Labrador’s living conditions to meet his special needs.

Human Pain Killers And Dogs

If your dog is in pain, then it is understandable that you want to help him as quickly as possible. But although some components of human pain killers are the same as those used for dogs, there are huge risks to delivering them yourself rather than consulting a veterinarian. So before you go running to the medicine cabinet, let’s take a look at common human pain killers and the potential impact that they can have on your pet.

Can I Give My Dog Ibuprofen?

Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory pain killer widely used by people. Ibuprofen is part of a group of drugs known as non steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and there are many different types of NSAID available. The NSAIDS we use to treat pain in people, are not the same as the NSAIDS used for dogs by veterinarians.

The doses are different, and when your vet prescribes dog specific drugs they will take into account a host of other factors in making their decision.

The way in which ibuprofen stops you from feeling pain, is by inhibiting an enzyme which helps to cause inflammation, fever and pain. But this enzyme is also important for keeping your kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and blood flow healthy. This is a particular problem for dogs, and as a result Ibuprofen is not a suitable painkiller for your Labrador. In short – don’t give your dog ibuprofen! Ibuprofen can make dogs very ill, and in severe cases can prove fatal.

Can I Give My Dog Aspirin?

You may have heard that aspirin or baby aspirin can be given to dogs. However, the aspirin in your medicine cabinet is not suitable for your dog. Aspirin works in much the same way as ibuprofen. Just as we have seen with ibuprofen, giving aspirin can result in your dog becoming very sick and even dying. Even at the reduced levels found in baby aspirin.

Aspirin for dogs

There are certain types of aspirin that are specifically designed for treating pain in dogs. They are usually referred to as buffered aspirin. Your vet will be able to advise you as to whether this type of aspirin is the right treatment for your dog.

Can I Give My Dog Tylenol?

Tylenol is a cheap and easily available medication in the US, and most humans can ingest it with no detrimental side effects at all. But it is not designed for use on dogs. In fact, Tylenol can make your dog very ill indeed.

What Can I Give My Dog For Pain looks at effective and safe pain relief options for dogs
Effective pain relief can bring renewed enjoyment of life to an old dog

Tylenol is the American brand name for Acetaminophen. When dogs eat this it can cause liver and kidney damage. It reduces the bodies ability to oxygenate it’s cells and can result in extensive tissue damage. Do not given Tylenol to your dog under any circumstances.

Can I Give My Dog Paracetamol?

Paracetamol is the UK’s name for Tylenol. It is also based on the drug Acetaminophen and equally unsafe for use on your pet dog. You may be wondering now, what options are left to you!  If your dog is in pain, all this ‘don’t give him that’ advice is rather frustrating!

If your dog is unwell it is understandable that you want a solution to help them straight away. It is also possible that if you are concerned about the cost of veterinary treatment you might be hoping to cut corners by using your own products. Unfortunately, by using your own pain medication you are running a risk of a much higher cost both financially and to your dog’s health.

Avoid Medications Designed For Humans

If your dog is in pain then stick to veterinary approved medications and treatments. They are the best placed person to fully understand your dog’s needs.  In addition to this by medicating an animal without having them thoroughly examined and diagnosed by a vet.  You could be masking a serious underlying condition causing the pain that needs to be treated surgically or with additional medication.

Pain Meds For Dogs

The best course of action when your dog is in pain is to follow your veterinarians advice, and use the appropriate approved pain meds for dogs. Let’s have a look at some of the pain killers for dogs that your vet could prescribe.

Tramadol For Dogs

Tramadol is a prescription only pain killer for dogs. Tramadol for dogs is used most frequently on those who have recently had surgery, or who are suffering from moderate to severe pain. It can be given as tablets to be ingested, or applied intravenously be a veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will work out the correct dose of Tramadol based upon your Labrador’s weight. If he requires it in the long term, then his weight will be regularly taken at check-ups to assure that the correct dose is given.

Tramadol for dogs is a synthetic opiod agonist. It works by inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. It binds onto the receptors and changes how the brain interprets the pain signals that it is receiving. It is possible that your dog can build up a tolerance to Tramadol over time, in which case your vet will chose to replace it or use an addition differently acting pain killer.

Potential but rare side effects include seizures, blisters, rashes, lethargy, vomiting and constipation. Contact your vet if any of these occur when you have given Tramadol to your Labrador.

Amantadine For Dogs

Amantadine is an oral drug given to dogs post surgery or who are suffering from chronic pain. It is often used in conjunction with Tramadol, Gabapentin or NSAIDS (see below). It has been shown that use of Amantadine with NSAIDS improves physical activity in dogs with osteoarthritic pain.

Amantadine for dogs is an antiviral drug, but also gives pain relief when administered as it partially blocks pain pathways in the dog’s central nervous system. Side effects for this drug tend to be mild, and include gastrointestinal upsets such as short term episodes of diarrhea.

Gabapentin for dogs

Gabapentin for dogs is an oral anti-seizure medication that can be used to treat symptoms of nerve pain. It is often used with Tramadol, Amantadine or NSAIDS. It might be given to your Labrador under the brand name Neurontin. Side effects of using Gabapentin can include vomiting, drowsiness and diarrhoea.

Gabapentin can also cause your dog to become less coordinated, so if your vet is prescribing it for a Labrador with joint problems then they may need to start with a lower dose so as not to cause problems with movement. This drug is rapidly absorbed and eliminated by dogs, so regular administrations are required to offer pain relief.

Apoquel for dogs

Apoquel for dogs is the common name for oclacitinib maleate. A synthetic Janus Kinase inhibitor, which is prescribed for use in dogs suffering from severe itching, usually as a result of allergies. It is a relatively new drug, but fully safety tested and approved to be offered by veterinarians to the owners of dogs who are suffering from painful itching.

Apoquel for dogs inhibits the enzymes that cause allergic responses, such as inflammation and itching. Reducing feelings of pain by getting straight to the cause of the symptoms and putting a stop to them.

It is only approved for use on dogs over a year old, and must only be given on prescription from a veterinarian. Potential side effects can include increased likelihood of infection, including demodicosis and neoplasia.

NSAIDS for dogs

When we looked at human painkillers’ effects, one category that we discussed were non steroidal anti-inflammatories, also known as NSAIDS. However, there are NSAIDS specially designed for dogs available through your veterinarian.

When prescribing NSAIDS your vet will be careful to give the correct dose for your dog, and to carefully weight up the benefits of them against the potential risks of the side effects. They will also take into account any other medication your dog is currently being prescribed, and the ways in which the pain killers and other drugs could interact in your dog’s system.

Carprofen for dogs

Carprofen for dogs is a prescription only NSAID, that your veterinarian may offer if your Labrador is suffering from pain and inflammation. It is commonly given postoperatively to dogs who have had orthopedic or tissue damage. This drug does have some rare but serious side effects that include

  • gastrointestinal problems
  • kidney problems
  • skin problems
  • blood disorders

Milder reactions can include vomiting, diarrhoea, appetite changes and constipation. As with any effective medicine these potential side effects will be weighed up against the pain and inflammation reducing effects, before your vet decides whether it is an appropriate choice for your dog.

Deracoxib for dogs

Deracoxib for dogs is an NSAID also marketed as Deramaxx, and is used to reduce pain and inflammation. Veterinarians will commonly prescribe this drug to Labradors with osteoarthritis or who have recently undergone surgery for orthopedic or dental procedures.

Deracoxib is given orally, and has been shown to significantly improve analgesia in dogs who have just had soft tissue surgery.  Possible side effects of Deracoxib include diarrhoea, loss of co-ordination or lethargy, jaundice, seizures, skin irritations, stomach ulcers and weight loss. The most common side effects are vomiting and loss of appetite.

As with other drugs, your vet will weigh up the potential costs and benefits of using Deracoxib and let you know any signs that you should look out for should they choose to prescribe it.

Etodolac for dogs

Etodolac for dogs is an NSAID that is used to reduce symptoms of pain and inflammation. It is a once a day oral drug, which may be prescribed by your veterinarian for chronic pain caused by arthritic conditions amongst others. It works by inhibiting your dog’s cell production of the chemicals that trigger inflammatory responses.

Potential side effects of Etodolac can include

  • diarrhea
  • vomitting
  • lethargy
  • loss of coordination
  • jaundice
  • low appetite
  • skin irritation
  • dry eye
  • increased thirst
  • very rare stomach ulcers or kidney problems.

Etodolac is well tolerated by dogs, with minimal adverse effects during an 8 day treatment period.  Your Labrador won’t be given Etodolac by your vet if he suffers from a bleeding condition such as von Willebrand’s or if he is under a year old or under 11 lbs.

Meloxicam for dogs

Meloxicam for dogs can be prescribed under the name Metacam, and is an NSAID given in a daily oral suspension using a dosing syringe. Side effects can potentially include diarrhea, lethargy, loss of coordination, jaundice, increased thirst, skin irritation, stomach ulcers and weight loss. However, Meloxicam has been shown to give minimal side effects, and is well suited as a treatment for chronic osteoarthritis in dogs. 

If you have any doubts regarding their prescribed choice or diagnosis, then remember it’s absolutely fine to seek a second opinion.

How Can I Help My Dog With Pain?

We’ve talked a lot about drugs, and their side effects, but helping your dog when she is in pain is not limited to pain medication. Depending on the cause of your dog’s discomfort, there are lots of ways that you can adapt your lifestyle to assist them in feeling more comfortable.

Weight Loss As Pain Relief

Certain causes of pain in dogs are exacerbated by excess weight. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and other conditions relating to the joints are benefited by staying slim. The less weight that is going through the effected body joint, the less strain that it is under. This in turn makes your dog more comfortable when moving around.

Orthopedic Mattresses For Dogs

Dogs suffering from joint and muscle problems are often more comfortable and therefore in less pain when they have somewhere supportive to relax. Orthopaedic mattress for dogs allow them to rest more easily. You can find a range of orthopedic mattresses for dogs here.

Raised Food Bowls For Dogs

Raised food bowls for dogs can help to relieve pain caused by bending. It is important to have a chat with your veterinarian before purchasing them however, as they can increase the chance of your Labrador suffering from bloat. You can find a range of raised food bowls here.

Natural Pain Relief For Dogs

Natural pain medications that are not veterinary approved are to be considered with serious caution. This is because unapproved medications could have potentially dangerous side effects, or unknown additional impacts on your dog’s general health and wellbeing. The other issue is that it may have no effect at all. Homeopathy is an example of such a treatment for which pain relieving effects have been falsely claimed.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

Homeopathic Pain Relief For Dogs

Homeopathic remedies have no effects beyond that of placebo. The British Science and Technology Committee have concluded “the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.”

If you give homeopathic pain relief to your dog, you will be denying them any pain relief. Dogs are not good at showing us when they are in pain, so you might well not be aware that he is suffering. This is never an acceptable option. Please do not use homeopathic remedies of any kind on your dog.

Pain Relief For Labs

The information above is for your interest. It is not a substitute for veterinary advice, and indeed most of these medicines can only be bought with a veterinary prescription. If your Labrador is in pain, then your veterinarian will let you know which drug is best suited to them. They will make this decision based upon lots of factors, including your dog’s age, weight, health problems and other medications.

As you can see, many drugs for pain relief do have side effects, but these have to be balanced against the dramatic improvements in quality of life that may accompany them.

Pain meds for dogs - find out what you can and can't give your dog for pain reliefPain relief for dogs comes in many forms, but these are best chosen by a qualified professional. If you are concerned about your vet’s decision, then remember it is always okay to ask lots of questions or seek a second opinion.

References and Resources

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. Hi I’m jennifer I have a 18 year old black lab named misty . She loves to go on walks still but they are much shorter now and has trouble comming back up the stairs when we get home . I do notice lately as it’s been getting colder her hip has been bothering her she will walk and just fall down here and there in the house. I do give her massages to help ease her hip pain. But I was trying to see what I could give her that I may have at home to help her as well. I don’t have the money just yet to take her back to the vet. I do treasure everyday I have her I know 18 is already a miracle I think the puppies and my love keep her going strong but I do need to help her stay that way so please help if anyone has any ideas I would love it.

    • Hi Jennifer, If your dog is in pain she needs to be seen by a vet. This can’t wait as she might be suffering, and you won’t be able to ascertain why at home alone. There are some charities that can help fund treatment for those who are struggling – The PDSA or Blue Cross in the UK can do this. Speak to your vet on the phone, explain the situation and see where you can go from there.

  2. Hi, our old yeller just turned 15, she has been on the miracle drug, Adequan for years, we administer every 10 days now. She also gets Metacam every morning for about a year now. We live in San Diego, so the weather is never an issue, but we had a record breaking day of rain, is there anything more I can give her to help the back hips/leg pain. It appears I can’t do more Metacam at night. We’ve tried Gabapentin, but it literally put her down and out, same as the Keppra the neurologist tried (at too high of a starting dose) she seems okay on tramadol, but the vet said it can cause seizures in dogs with seizures, although it appears her seizures turned to Syncopes and the cardiologist put her on sildenafil, which I thought was great until we had our first episode today. Yes, many issues here, other than being older than dirt she is a very happy girl who still thinks she is 2, but her body says I don’t think so.

  3. I have a 3 year old yellow Lab he is constantly battling Limp Tail and swelling. I have taken him to Vet numerous times to no avail. I have talked to different Vet and read different articles. It appears that know one knows much about treating this. If anyone out their can help me with this I would appreciate it. Thank you!!

    • Is the Limp tail you are referring to the same as cold tail? Does it happen after swimming or even a bath? If so….. No real treatment other than helping with the pain, we were told asprin, but our girls stomach can’t take it. Ah, I see they call it many things.

  4. I used Benadryl for allergies for my dog, he is a black lab and lots of heat rashes right not and cannot stop scratching his self and it is now starting to bleed especially his ears. A dog owner told me that it is safe to give the Benadryl for allergy to a dog? Please let me know. Thanks

    • Hi Mary Ann, Please take your dog to the vet. They are the best person to let you know what is causing the itch, and to provide you with an appropriate medication. Best wishes, Lucy.

  5. Any thoughts on Cartrophen injections? I lost a Lab at 10yrs to a stomach ulcer which I am convinced was caused by 18 months of using NSAI’s. They definitely helped her pain and for most of the time she was on them she was back to being herself so they gave her a good quality of life back, but I’ve since heard of Cartrophen injections and really want to look into whether these could be an alternative to NSAI’s for my adopted 8yr old Lab who is starting to look uncomfortable now and again after a walk.

  6. So to cut a long story short if your dog is on pain go to the vet do not use the cheap stuff you use for yourself oh wait a minute there is always Amazon surprise surprise.have just lost faith in you.

    • Hi Stella, I’m not sure what has upset you here? Is it the Amazon native advertising at the bottom of the page? The website is funded through this – and it raises suggestions for products based on words it finds in the content of the article. If you have any alternative suggestions for funding the website, we’d love to hear them 🙂

  7. I told by my vet, that I could give my dog, aspirin only up to a 325 milligrams and no more, is this true,till I get to the vet and then they give me the right medicine,,

  8. If you’re lucky enough, as we are, to have a qualified herbalist vet, or can get a referral, ask about herbal pain relief. Your vet can prescribe a herbal mix unique to your dog and his condition. Using herbal medicine has kept our use of conventional medicine to a minimum and I’m convinced is partly responsible for keeping my 16 (yes 16!) year old lab Maia- who has arthritis and sacral nerve damage – not only on her feet but happy and contented, for the last year or so she has had only the occasional course of meloxicam to top up her daily herbs. If it’s vet prescribed many insurance polices will cover the cost just as they would for conventional meds.