Easing pain in dogs is something that almost every dog owner will look up more than once.
“How can I comfort my dog in pain at home,” is a question vets often hear.
The good news-it’s actually easier than you might think.
Let’s look at how pain works in dogs, then we’ll check out tips for easing it.
How Can I Comfort My Dog in Pain?
Maybe your dog blew a ligament and has to have surgery.
Perhaps he just took a tumble while playing too hard and mildly injured himself.
Whether you need to know how to help a dog in pain after surgery or just after a minor injury, it’s important to know the ins and outs.
There is quite a bit of conflicting information out there on the subject, though.
So today, we’re going to discuss how to help safely ease your dog’s pain, as well as what not to do.
How Pain Works with Dogs
Before we talk about easing pain, it’s important to understand how that pain works in animals.
That way, we can look for signs of pain in our dogs and, along with the vet, determine the best course of action for pain relief.
Animals feel pain differently than humans. With humans, pain is an “up front” stimuli.
That means that no matter what we do, our pain is always at the forefront of our minds.
It almost always takes precedence over anything else going on in our lives.
However, animals are different. Unless they are severely injured, pain doesn’t seem to affect them much at all.
Think about how a dog suddenly goes from limping to a full-tilt run if he sees a squirrel.
When nothing is around to distract your dog he recognizes his pain and does his best to stay off the affected limb to allow it to heal.
Even while limping, that changed gait may be the only actual sign that he’s in pain. Suddenly, he sees a squirrel, and he’s off at a full-on run.
That’s because his mind “pushed” the pain away. The squirrel suddenly becomes paramount.
It’s a product of evolution. If the dog’s ancestors, which is the same as a wolves’, didn’t catch that squirrel, they didn’t eat.
The wiring that allows the dog to push the pain back is what kept his ancestors alive.
That same wiring can also determine the level of aggressiveness we take for our dog’s pain management.
Easing Pain in Dogs
So now that we know how pain works in a dog’s mind, it’s time to start explaining how to ease that pain when it’s required.
I say “when” because sometimes, it’s better for your dog to feel a bit of pain for his own good.
You have to balance comfort with long-term health in the case of dogs, especially those dogs who are very energetic.
When to Manage Pain
When your dog has undergone any type of surgery or has injured himself badly, pain management is required.
Even dental procedures can be very painful for a dog if any teeth have had to be extracted.
Your vet will help you determine what kind of pain management is required and how aggressive that management should be.
In general, your dog will be sent home with pain medications for the following reasons.
- Deep tissue bruising
- Broken bones
- Sprained joints
- Chronic joint pain
- Chronic, debilitating, or painful sickness or diseases like cancer or joint deterioration
When NOT to Manage Pain
Not only is pain management sometimes not needed, believe it or not, it’s sometimes contraindicated.
For example, if Fido is a chronic jumper, bouncing up and down on and off the furniture like a pogo stick, you might not want to keep him pain-free if he has a back injury.
That’s because, without the pain, he will freely engage in activity that can slow his recuperation, or worse, worsen the problem.
It sounds horrible, but in an instance like this, it’s better for him to feel at least some of the pain in his back so he doesn’t try jumping on and off the couch or the bed and risking further injury.
Different Ways for Easing Pain in Dogs
There are a variety of ways to help manage your dog’s pain, from how to relieve dog pain naturally to temporary pain relief for dogs from medicines.
We’ll be discussing each of them, but the thing to remember before doing anything is to consult your vet.
It cannot be stressed enough that you should always work in concert with your vet.
They know your dog’s medical history, canine anatomy, and which medications can be safely given to dogs.
Never give a dog anything without first consulting your vet.
1. Easing Pain Through Heat and Cold
Both heat and cold can be used to alleviate pain for your dog.
Cold helps ease pain by numbing the area and reducing inflammation, while heat helps by increasing circulation.
Heat and cold therapy can be used for the following:
- Muscle aches, spasms, and pain
- Tender, swollen or stiff joints
When to Use Heat or Cold
Heat works by increasing circulation which can help with overall healing speed.
Cold works by decreasing circulation which helps decrease inflammation.
Because these work in different ways, alternating the therapies is often the best bet.
For example, a painful joint is already swollen, so applying heat on its own may cause increased swelling.
However, by first applying cold and then alternating with heat, you can both relieve swelling and promote healing.
How to Use Heat or Cold
Just as with humans, you can apply heat or cold packs to the affected area of your dog.
Simply find a comfortable spot with him and apply the hot or cold compress to the painful area, leaving it on for about 15 minutes at a time.
Remember, always wrap your packs in a thin cloth to help protect the skin from the higher or lower temperature of your packs.
2. Easing Pain with Massage
Many people don’t think of massage when they think of pain relief for their dogs, but it is a legitimate method to help ease stiffness and promote healing.
Similar to hot and cold therapy, massage helps increase blood flow.
It also helps ease tension related to a soft tissue injury or brought out by chronic pain.
When to Use Massage
It should be noted that massage should only be used for minor soft tissue or joint issues and should never be used for serious injury, as that could exacerbate the problem.
Massage for pain relief is incredibly easy. Simply press and rub in a circular motion on and around the affected area.
Be gentle and use a light touch, you’re trying to alleviate stiffness and promote blood flow, you’re not giving your dog shiatsu.
This rubbing and pressing will increase blood flow, relieve stiffness, and make your dog more relaxed. Bonus.
3. Easing Pain with Range of Motion Exercises
Closely related to massage, range of motion (ROM) exercises can help improve your dog’s range of motion and reduce pain in arthritic and stiff joints.
Speak with your vet before attempting this, as it requires a more deft touch than massage.
Essentially, though, these exercises are simple and aimed and loosening stiff, achy joints.
Your vet will be able to show you how to effectively administer these movements. The video below may also help.
When to Use ROM Exercises
ROM exercises are almost exclusively used for dogs with arthritic joints or to help a dog recover after joint surgery.
Again, your vet will be able to explain and demonstrate the appropriate approach and level of ROM movements to give your dog.
4. Easing Pain with Medication
A friend asked me, “hat can you give a dog for pain relief over the counter?”
The answer- nothing, at least not without talking to your vet.
It is so very important to remember that you should never, ever give your dog any medication without your vet’s approval.
No matter how many posts you may see on over-the-counter safety for any drug, always consult your vet first.
Even if the drug is benign on its own, it has the potential to interact with other drugs that your dog may be on in a negative way.
When to Use Medication
Only use medication with your vet’s approval.
Your vet is the best person to decide if your dog needs pain management through medication.
Most of the time, your dog will be sent home with pain medications after any sort of surgery or injury.
Only give your dog what your vet prescribed in exactly the prescribed amount.
Never, never give OTC NSAIDs to your dog. They are potentially dangerous and life-threatening.
A dog’s body does not process certain drugs in the same way that a human body does, and some NSAIDs can lead to dangerous or deadly side effects. Side effects include:
- GI tract bleeding
- Holes in the stomach lining
- Liver and kidney damage
5. Easing Pain with Your Presence
There are a lot of methods we can use to ease our dog’s pain, but one of the most tried and true methods of all is just being with him.
When it comes to dogs, never underestimate the power of snuggles.
Although there is no medical proof that snuggling helps with easing pain, any dog owner will tell you that it does. I am one of those owners.
Also, don’t forget the ability for a dog to “push back” the pain he’s experiencing.
If he’s being snuggled and petted, his mind will focus less on any pain that he’s experiencing.
Easing Pain at Home is Simpler Than You Think
With the above information, you should have no problem easing pain at home for your pooch.
Whether you use a hot or cold pack, massage, or just watch some Netflix on the couch with your pooch, all of these methods are viable.
Remember to consult your vet on which pain relief method is appropriate for your dog’s situation. Good luck!