The last time my pet was in pain, I was ready to call the pet-ambulance and spend all of my savings to make them feel better.
As pet parents, we tend to act a little bit too hastily when we worry about our pets being injured, sick, or in pain.
If you notice that your dog is suffering, the crazy pet mama bear in your might want to give them all of your over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help their ailments.
After all, what else can you do?
I can assure you that you should take a step back and decide if those medications are the right choice when you realize that your pup is in pain!
Are ‘over-the-counter’ medications even safe for dogs? What can I give my dog for pain? Which medicines should I avoid? All of these questions will come pouring into your mind.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common OTC medications, and whether they might be useful to give your pup some pain relief. This article should serve as an overview of OTC medications for dogs, but it should not be a substitute for the diagnosis and advice of a veterinarian.
Contents & Quick Navigation
Can You Give a Dog Aspirin?
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Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug, known for decreasing swelling and the irritations associated with it. For humans, aspirin eases the pain of headaches, swollen joints, and fevers.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about giving your dog aspirin.
The bottom line is this:
It’s okay to give your dog aspirin for short-term pain relief, provided you’ve okayed it with a veterinarian first.
Long-term use can cause serious side-effects, including internal bleeding. Coated baby aspirin will be easier on your dog’s stomach, and you should always give aspirin to your dog with food.
Dosage: The recommended aspirin dosage for dogs is 5 mg/lb given by mouth twice daily.
Types of Aspirin
To further complicate matters, you can will find several types of aspirin available at your local pharmacy. It’s important to know the difference between them, because some types can be ineffective at best and harmful at worst.
- Uncoated – Uncoated aspirin should only be used for humans. It will irritate the lining of your dog’s stomach, causing internal bleeding.
- Enteric-coated – The coating is meant to protect the lining of the stomach in humans. Dogs do not fully digest the coating, and won’t receive the full benefit of the medication. We don’t recommend giving enteric-coated aspirin to dogs.
- Buffered – If you must use OTC aspirin to treat your dog, you should use buffered aspirin. It contains ingredients that will balance the aspirin’s acidity, which will help protect the lining of your dog’s stomach.
Caution: NEVER give aspirin to cats. It is considered highly toxic.
Can You Give a Dog Ibuprofen?
No. Ibuprofen is considered toxic for dogs and should never be used as a canine painkiller. Never give your dog Advil, Motrin, Midol or other drugs containing ibuprofen. Even small amounts can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of ibuprofen poisoning include:
- exclamation Vomiting
- exclamation Diarrhea
- exclamation Bloody feces
- exclamation Blood in vomit
- exclamation Nausea
- exclamation Lack of appetite
- exclamation Weight loss
- exclamation Increased thirst
- exclamation Increased urination
- exclamation Decreased or lack of urine
- exclamation Seizures
- exclamation Un-coordination
- exclamation Coma
- exclamation Death
If you think your dog may have ingested ibuprofen, please call your veterinarian immediately. This medicine will give them anything but pain relief.
Can You Give a Dog Tylenol?
Tylenol and other types of acetaminophen are not NSAIDs and do not reduce inflammation.
There are some cases to be aware of:
They can be used to treat pain in certain circumstances, but only under the supervision of a veterinarian, particularly because an incorrect dosage could be highly toxic, resulting in liver, kidney, and tissue damage.
For more information on Tylenol poisoning, please read this article by PetMD. (And note: Cats are even more susceptible to poisoning than dogs, so please keep acetaminophen out of reach of all your pets!)
Other OTC Medications that are Safe for Dogs
- Benadryl – Treats allergies and itching, and is especially useful for bringing down the swelling after insect bites or stings. Benadryl dosage for dogs: ½ to 1 mg per pound of body weight.
- Dramamine – Used to treat motion sickness in dogs, Dramamine can be given before long car rides to make your dog comfortable. Dosage: Please consult your veterinarian.
- Diarrhea Medications – KaoPectate, Immodium AD, and PeptoBismol can all be used to treat your dog’s diarrhea. Dosage: Please consult your veterinarian
The Best Pain Medications for Dogs
So based on all the warnings and cautions in this article, there is no easy solution for treating a dog that is in pain.
Consulting your veterinarian is really the best solution, and based on your dog’s unique situation, your vet will probably prescribe one of several NSAIDs that have been specially formulated to act as a dog pain killer.
These non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug options are FDA-approved for dogs, which means that they have been shown to be safe and effective when used according to the label. OTC pain medications for people don’t have the assurances of safety and effectiveness in pets.
But you should know…
These NSAIDs are only available with a prescription, and even these NSAIDs have known side effects, especially if they aren’t used properly. When treating your dog for pain, you can help reduce the risk of complications by ensuring that you:
- long-arrow-right Provide your veterinarian with a complete medical history, including medications or herbal supplements that your dog is taking.
- long-arrow-right Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding the need for laboratory testing before starting them on any pain medication.
- long-arrow-right Do not give your dog NSAIDS with any other OTC medication. Follow your veterinarian’s advice concerning dosage and treatment schedule.
- long-arrow-right Give your dog NSAIDs with food if possible.
- long-arrow-right Be sure your dog drinks plenty of fresh water every day. Dehydration will greatly increase the risk of side effects.
- long-arrow-right Call your veterinarian immediately if your dog is vomiting, not eating, has diarrhea, or seems more lethargic than usual.
- long-arrow-right If your dog’s discomfort is post-surgical pain, make sure to call your vet and ask them how to treat it. They will know the best answer.
A Note About Arthritis Pain
Make sure that you follow veterinarian advice to treat arthritis related joint pain. This chronic pain should be handled with long term pain management in mind, so do not use OTC products to treat it unless recommended to do so by a vet.
You have to know:
Arthritis pain is more complex than OTC pain killers can handle, especially for dogs, so you want to treat this type of pain carefully. There are even some natural remedy options that can help ease this chronic pain:
- Boost diet with glucosamine supplements
- Add healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to diet
- Feed a senior dog food with added probiotics
Final Thoughts on OTC Medications for Dogs
Your dog is a treasured member of your family, and you want to do all you can to ensure they live healthy, happy lives by your side. Easing their pain when they suffer is part of your job as a pet owner.
While some OTC medications may be relatively safe to use for dogs in certain circumstances, the dosages on the label are not intended for pet use, and OTC drugs for people have not been tested on animals.
When looking for a course of action to ease your dog’s pain, your best course of action is to:
- bring your dog to a veterinarian
- give your dog pain medications that have been either prescribed or recommended by that veterinarian.
Your dog’s health is important, and the risks of using any OTC medications without the approval of a veterinarian are just not worth it.