Medications, Holistic Options, & Home Remedies for Dog Pain

Dealing with pain can be tough, but thankfully our dogs have a range of traditional and holistic treatments available to make it manageable.

Updated February 8, 2024
Pet dog taking medicine

Our dogs are like family, and when they hurt, we hurt. Pain relief is an important consideration when your dog is ill or injured. Fortunately, there are several pain relief medications made specifically for dogs, as well as holistic treatment options. Your veterinarian is your best resource to speak to if you worry that your dog's in pain. Together, you can figure out why the pain is occurring and the best path forward. Injuries, health conditions like arthritis, or recovery from surgery are all reasons that a dog might need pain management.

Related: Is Your Dog in Pain? 14 Signs to Look Out For

Need to Know

Today's veterinary medicine uses animal-grade and human-grade pharmaceuticals for pain management, depending on the patient's needs. Correct dosage and review of your dog's specific needs by a veterinarian is critical for the safe use of any medication. Never administer a pain medication without the guidance of your veterinarian.

Pain Medications for Dogs

dog taking medication

Veterinarians use pain medication cautiously to ensure a dog's safety while in treatment. Not every veterinarian agrees on the use of certain types of medications because many have potential health risks if used incorrectly. For example, some veterinarians view acetaminophen as posing more potential health risks than aspirin, while others see it as exactly the opposite. Speak to your veterinarian about any medication's potential side effects, pros, and cons before filling your dog's prescription.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are the most widely used pain medication for dogs for all types of health conditions and for pain and swelling. This type of medicine is often quite effective for pain management.

The Federal Drug Administration has approved several medications in this category, including carprofen (Rimadyl), meloxicam (Metacam), firocoxib (Previcox), and deracoxib (Deramaxx).

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen has weak anti-inflammatory properties and is not always as effective for managing moderate pain in dogs as NSAIDs. Its use has fallen out of favor as more effective pain medications specifically for dogs have come on the market.

Acetaminophen has a narrow margin of safety and can easily lead to toxicity. However, it can still be an option, and it is sometimes combined with other pain medications, particularly hydrocodone.


Veterinarians will sometimes use narcotics (opioids), such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, tramadol, fentanyl, or buprenorphine, to control severe pain when other medications are not strong enough. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, narcotics are the most effective medications for severe pain. 

Need to Know

Many of these are only available as injections for in-hospital patients, but a few can be given as pills or in a patch that attaches to the skin.


Steroids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, may be prescribed for managing pain, particularly in some cases of spinal pain. In dogs with other medical problems, steroid medications may be contraindicated or could cause a greater risk of side effects.

Gabapentin (Neurontin)

Gabapentin is an anti-seizure medication that also provides relief for chronic pain, especially neuropathic pain. According to Wedgewood Pharmacy, it seems to have the greatest effect when used in combination with other pain medications.

NMDA Antagonists

This is a class of medications that also works best when combined with other pain medications. Drugs in this class include ketamine (injectable) and amantadine (oral). Amantadine has been used in dogs with neuropathic pain and appears to be effective in at least some limited studies.


This drug is used for mild to moderate pain and is often used with senior dogs. It's similar to an opioid drug and can be combined with other pain medications. It has a sedating effect on dogs.

Need to Know

Always consult your vet before giving your dog any kind of painkiller, even if the medication you are considering is available over the counter. Only a vet can determine what kind of medication is safe and effective in a given situation, and only a vet can determine the correct dosage for a specific dog and condition.

Never Give Your Dog These Human Medications

While it may be tempting to give your dog medications bought over the counter for pain relief, many are toxic to our canine companions. Simply put, their systems and metabolisms are different than ours, so something that helps us could be fatal for them. 


Aspirin is part of the NSAID family but cannot be used on dogs. Using it can lead to damage to the kidneys and liver, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal issues, and death. 


Ibuprofen is toxic and can cause a dog's kidneys to fail.


Acetaminophen can be given to dogs, but only with your veterinarian's supervision, as overuse can cause severe damage to your dog's liver and kidneys. 

Holistic & Home-Based Pain Management

Veterinary holding acupuncture needle

Holistic veterinary medicine offers some great options for dog pain management, but only in conjuction with your dog's veterinarian. Talk to a holistic veterinarian about alternative therapy options for natural pain relief and ask whether any of the following remedies, available to be given at home, would be safe or effective for your dog.

Need to Know

Never administer anything for pain management without your veterinarian's approval first.


Acupuncture can help manage pain in dogs for some conditions. It is based on ideas found in traditional Chinese medicine and involves needling locations on the body to regulate the flow of "Chi" (energy).

Arnica Montana

This herb can be used topically or in a diluted oral form to manage pain. When applied topically, it is a natural remedy for pain relief at home. It can be used to treat muscle aches, bruises, wounds, or joint pain.

Fish Oil

Taking fish oil supplements, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, regularly can help reduce the inflammation that contributes to many painful conditions.

White Willow Bark

Some holistic veterinarians use white willow bark to treat minor pain in dogs. It is sometimes sold in combination with glucosamine in capsules to treat arthritis.

Glucosamine Sulfate

One of the most widely used natural remedies for dog arthritis pain is glucosamine sulfate. It's also often combined with chondroitin sulfate, and both work to help maintain healthy joints and cartilage in dogs.

Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna Canaliculus)

A natural anti-inflammatory for dogs that contains omega-3 fatty acids.

Neoplasene and Essiac 

These chemotherapy agents are used for natural pain relief for dogs with cancer. Although they are natural substances, you'll need to work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan.

Other Treatments

Several additional options exist for treating your dog using a homeopathic approach. Some of the alternative therapies that may be considered include curcumin (turmeric), bromelain, Boswellia, vitamin C, Devil's Claw, Corydalis, or prickly ash bark.

Quick Tip

Always consult with a veterinarian before trying a holistic pain remedy or any pain medication.

Simple Home Remedies for Dog Pain Relief

In addition to holistic supplements, there are several things you can do at home to help your dog stay more comfortable.

Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Obesity can cause dogs to put extra stress on their joints. Helping your dog lose weight can help reduce the pain.

Change Your Dog's Diet

Changing your dog's diet to include foods with more Omega-3 oils and glucosamine can help.

Grab a Supportive Dog Bed

Orthopedic dog beds can support a dog's joints and provide a more comfortable resting place.

Dog Pain Management and Safety

There's always a potential health risk associated with using any pharmaceutical or herbal remedies. It's important for you to only obtain pain medication from your dog's veterinarian as prescribed specifically for your dog's current health concern. Never buy pain medication online or anywhere without a vet's prescription. Don't use old medication for your dog without first consulting your veterinarian because medications do have expiration dates, and the vet may recommend something different this time.

Some medications require blood work before each prescribed use to ensure safe usage. Always follow your veterinarian's exact dosage instructions and consult the vet about any adverse reactions to the medication or usage concerns. Pain medication can be extremely useful in helping dogs recover or improve their quality of life when used correctly and under a veterinarian's supervision.

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Medications, Holistic Options, & Home Remedies for Dog Pain