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Dog Pain Management - More On Managing Pain In Dogs

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

Chronic pain is something they'll adapt to over time, such as a limp, subtle behavior changes, changes in appetite, and changes in the way that their body moves and looks. In comparison, acute pain is when you step on a nail and start screaming, and those sorts of things. It's not anything that you adapt to. You notice it immediately, and your dog is no different.

Dr. Ashly LaRoche
Animal Hospital of Statesville

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

Sometimes they vocalize. They can also show some unusual aggression. Swelling, for instance, in a foot and limping. Sometimes their ears will be kind of held back. They may recluse themselves and not interact with their owner or play. It could be behavior changes like that. Sometimes their pupils are dilated, and their heart rate increases, and that's hard for the average owner to know. Those are some signs that you can see.

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

They are not. Some of those medications can actually be harmful to the dog. Their metabolisms and the way they metabolize drugs are completely different than ours. Oftentimes they interact with some of the medications that we use, which makes it very difficult for us to treat pain appropriately because of the medication they already have in their body that was given at home.

What are the medications used for pain management?

We use a lot of Gabapentin. It's the equivalent of Neurontin on the human side. We use a lot of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that are made specifically for dog metabolisms and are safe and chewable. On rare occasions, we use opioids, but those are on a very short-term basis and are typically not sent home with owners. They're not made for long-term use.

Can you help me manage my dog's chronic pain?

Absolutely. We usually do a physical exam. All of the doctors at the Animal Hospital of Statesville do this with each and every patient that comes in. Whether it's for wellness or a problem, we pain score that patient. The pain score system is zero to 10. So we assign a pain score. When we palpate that animal, we're looking for reactions to our palpations. Those could be signs of pain. We're talking to the owners, getting a history on what that patient's been doing, how its appetite's been, how it gets up and down the stairs, things like that. We want to get a good picture, as best that we can, because as we know, dogs don't talk and tell us what's wrong with them. We will prescribe medications specific to that individual based on their blood work and physical exam.

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

The best place is your veterinary clinic and veterinarian. You would make an appointment, have that exam done, voice your concerns, and then we will prescribe what we feel is best for your dog.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Pain Management - FAQs

Dr. Ashly LaRoche
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What are some signs that my dog is in pain?

Pain signs vary. They can range from vocalizing or making growling or screaming when being touched to things like limping. Sometimes a limp is subtle. Typically, if a dog's limping, there's a reason it's limping, and pain is almost always involved. Sometimes they'll lick or bite at the injured area, or their pupils will dilate. Sometimes their behavior completely changes. They don't interact with their owner, don't want to eat very well, and don't want to play anymore. They may have difficulty getting up and down the stairs, things like that.

What can cause pain in my dog?

Many things can cause pain, anything from an injury, like a bee sting, to something like a knee injury, like a torn cruciate ligament, to arthritis. I would say arthritis is one of the biggest types of pain that we manage. That would probably fall under the chronic pain category. Dogs tend to adapt to it, and it's not until it's advanced that owners recognize it many times.

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

If your dog is exhibiting any abnormal behaviors that you're unsure about, you should come in. If you touch your dog and it cries, if it starts limping, if its appetite decreases, those are some signs that perhaps we need a trip to the doctor to see if your dog is in pain or maybe there's something else happening with it.

How will you, as my veterinarian, gauge whether my dog is in pain or not?

We'll do a physical exam. We'll put our hands all over the dog, move the dog's neck, and move its legs and feet. We look for a vocalization. We also look for arthritis, which can manifest as almost a crunching feel in the joints. We assess the overall body condition of the dog and how the dog moves, and things like that. That may prompt us to talk to you about x-rays and similar things to assess further.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Pain Management - FAQs 2

Dr. Ashly LaRoche
Animal Hospital of Statesville

How do I know what medication is safe for my dog?

Most over-the-counter medications are not recommended because they interact with more effective things that we can give. Typically, before you give your dog, and your cat especially, anything at home, we would recommend that you call, and we might recommend making an appointment to get an appropriate medication for your dog.

Many times we've heard that owners have given Tylenol to their dog, which limits what you can do for the pain to help the dog. Some of those medications are quite toxic to their liver and kidneys. Tylenol in excess, for instance, and even aspirin can have some side effects on the stomach. Even baby aspirin.

Can I give my dog NSAIDs?

We commonly prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, which is what NSAID is short for. They're very effective pain medications, and there are lots of them available. They all have different safety profiles, and we choose them based on the individual and what their blood work might look like. Also, regarding the delivery system, some are liquids, some are chewable, and some are capsules, and that's really important for a lot of owners because some dogs have preferences about what delivery they want.

Can I give my dog human pain medication, and if so, how do I know the dosage?

I don't recommend that you give your dog any human pain medication without at least consulting us to see if it's okay. There are very few recommended things for a dog. Regarding dosing, your veterinary professional would have to help you with that, as they're all very different. Some of them are based on the age of the patient and their kidney and liver health, and so on.

Are there any all-natural alternatives for pain management and dogs?

At this point, I would not call anything an alternative. Even some of the herbal things can get metabolized into products that may interfere with medication that would be more effective for your dog. When they talk about that, they're talking about the CBD wonder meds, and there's just not enough research out there to make those decisions.

What studies have been done on CBD oils? CBD products have not shown efficacy in a dog for pain, and they actually sometimes affect liver enzymes. So typically, those aren't even recommended, and we can't recommend them due to legal reasons.

How do I give medication to my dog?

You can give medication to your dog, usually by mouth. Sometimes you may have to hide it in something which is like a pill pocket, or, depending on the dog, a little piece of cheese or something like that. There are also liquids, which we sometimes have access to if you have a dog that does a little bit better with something on the food or squirted in the mouth. There aren't so many available for dogs, but there are also some transdermal options. We tend to use those more in cats because their skin's a little thinner.

We can also help if you have to give it by mouth, without any of those extra things. We can help teach you how to do that. In fact, I think we have a video or will have a video on how to peel your dog. We give injections in the clinic, and then there are a few kinds of medications that are considered nutraceuticals. One of them, Adequan, is injected, and it can help with chronic pain as well. There's a variety of alternative therapies that we can use to help with pain as well.

Do I need to bring my dog to the vet to get pain medication?

Initially, for every acute pain episode, absolutely. That animal should be assessed. For chronic pain, sometimes animals that we're diagnosed with arthritis chronic pain, for example, are on something daily. So we will refill based on their mandatory one to two exams a year and their blood work once to twice a year. So in the cases that we've got them on a maintenance plan, and it's a management plan, they can just have it dispensed at times, but if there are any changes in the animal's behavior or we haven't seen them for over a year, we need to see that patient.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

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