Dog Pain Management - Treating Acute & Chronic Pain in Dogs


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

The term acute goes to anything that's happened recently—anything that's maybe happened in the last two weeks. Then chronic is what we refer to for more long-term issues, so it's been going on for perhaps weeks, months, or years. Perhaps the best way to put that into an example is your dog was running around in the yard and maybe stepped funny. Now they're limping, that would be acute pain, versus maybe you have an older dog at home, and they have some arthritis or degenerative joint disease and have some discomfort from that, and that would be considered chronic pain.


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

How quickly should I bring my dog in if I suspect they're in pain?

Here at Advanced Animal Care Berea, we are huge proponents of pain management. We don't want any pet being uncomfortable, so my recommendation for whether it's acute or chronic, if you feel like your pet's uncomfortable, bring them to the vet. We would love to get the dog on some pain management regimen to get them as comfortable as possible.

What are some signs and symptoms of pain in dogs?

Some of the obvious ones might be limping or favoring a leg. If they're uncomfortable due to a cut or something, sometimes they'll lick it, nurse it, chew it, or guard it. Sometimes it's more subtle like they're just not feeling themselves, so their personality is kind of diminished. Sometimes they can be lethargic, they're not eating, or even things like they're panting a lot more than you feel like they used to, which can be a sign of discomfort. Maybe they're getting up and shifting and turning around and just can't seem to lay down and get comfortable.

Are human pain pills, like Tylenol or Advil, okay to give my dog?

We don't recommend giving any human pain medication. The reason for that is that these guys have a tough time metabolizing human pain medications, like Advil or Tylenol, Motrin, things like that. What happens is, is because they really can't metabolize it, it builds up to toxic levels in their system, and it can cause organ failure in some cases. It's an unfortunate, sad case when we see a patient that's gotten into some human pain meds, and they have side effects from that. We don't recommend giving any of those to your pet.

What are the medications you use for pain management?

We have multiple options out there for dogs. We think of some pain medications being in the non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory class, so kind of like Advil or Tylenol, but these are designed to be safe for dogs and easy to metabolize. In that class, we have things like meloxicam or Metacam, we have galliprant, and we have things like carprofen. We use those quite commonly in pets. Then we also have some pain modalities or management like gabapentin, or if they're here for surgery, sometimes we use hydromorphone or Tramadol to manage their pain. There are options out there that are safe for dogs, and sometimes we use a combination to get them as comfortable as possible.

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

I honestly feel like I see probably 50% acute pain and 50% chronic pain. The biggest proponent of chronic pain in dogs tends to be arthritis or degenerative joint disease, and we tend to see that in our older guys. My first pain management option for those dogs is getting them on a joint supplement. I like Phycox Max for that. But the great thing about a joint supplement is it's going to do things for that joint that just a pain medication alone can't do. It helps with the joint cartilage, helps with the joint fluid, and reduces some of the inflammation in that joint. It helps those joints that are having trouble. Then a lot of times, I will combine those with maybe something like the galliprant, or if it's a small dog, something like Metacam. Then we can always add in something like gabapentin if needed, but there are a ton of options out there to make sure that we can keep your pet comfortable.

Where's the best place for me to get pain medication for my dog?

I'm always going to recommend that you either get it directly from your veterinarian or use one of their approved online pharmacies. Prescription pain medications for dogs are going to be the best. Of course, you can buy many joint supplements over the counter. Still, we don't recommend the over-the-counter doggy aspirin that's labeled because it can have some unwanted secondary side effects to it. We recommend anything that's only recommended by your vet.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Pain Management FAQs


Dr. Cara Hill
Advanced Animal Care

What are some signs my dog is in pain?

Everybody thinks of the obvious ones; maybe your pet is limping, or they're favoring a leg. Perhaps they've got a minor cut on their side or something like that; perhaps they're licking it, nursing it, chewing on it. But some things can even be more subtle like maybe they're not eating as much as they used to, or they’re not eating at all. Maybe they're panting a lot, they're shifting a lot, or they can't seem to get comfortable. They're constantly getting up, turning around, laying down, but can't find that comfortable spot. Maybe they're just not acting themselves. Maybe their personality has changed a little bit, or they even seem a little lethargic. Those can all be signs your pet may be experiencing pain.

What can cause pain in my dog?

There's a whole slew of things. Maybe they stepped funny in the yard, and their paw hurts, or perhaps they got a little cut by a brush or a fence. Perhaps you have another dog at home, and they got in a tussle, and that could cause some pain. Maybe they ate something they shouldn't have, and their stomach hurts, and they have general abdominal pain. There's a whole lot under the sun that can sometimes make dogs uncomfortable.

How do I know if I need to bring my dog to the veterinarian?

If you felt like you notice any of those symptoms or if your pet seems off, we would recommend having them checked out. We're big proponents of pain management here at Advanced Animal Care, and we want to make sure everybody stays comfortable. If you feel like there's anything that's not right, I would make a call and have them seen.

How will you as a veterinarian gauge whether my dog is in pain?

There's some standardized scoring we can use. Colorado State Vet School came up with a pretty standard pain scale we tend to use for our surgical patients or our patients that come into the hospital. Sometimes it's as obvious as your pet comes in limping, and we know exactly what the pain source is, and we can gauge from there. But for those more subtle injuries, we want to go back to the dog’s original normal and make sure we're managing their pain well.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (859) 625-5678, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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