Skip to main content

Pain pills and pups: What you should know

One of the hardest parts of being a pet owner is seeing your furry baby in pain. When you do, you might wonder if you can give human pain medication to dogs. It can also be hard to know if they are in pain. Let’s dive into this topic and get your pup on the road to recovery.

How to tell if your pup is in pain

Unlike humans, dogs can’t tell us when something’s hurting. On top of that, many dogs have a high pain tolerance and won’t show signs of discomfort even if they are in terrible pain. You know your pet better than anyone, so here are some signs to watch for if you suspect your dog is hurting.

Image used with permission by copyright holder
  • Unusually anti-social: If your pup typically runs to greet you or others at the door but suddenly seems not to care, this could be a sign they are in pain. Dogs are pack animals, and when they begin to deny themselves the pleasure of being around their pack — which includes you — it’s a red flag.
  • Changes in eating or drinking: If your dog has gone many days without eating (and it’s unusual for them), you may want to take them to their vet to get checked out.
  • Not sleeping well: If you’re noticing them walking around the house at night or tossing and turning, or just standing at the foot of your bed, this could be cause for concern.
  • Unusual vocalizations: Barking, howling, growling, whining, and yelping could all be ways your dog is trying to tell you that something isn’t right. These vocalizations typically happen during walks, feeding times, or playtime. If your dog is talking to you, listen.
  • Excessive licking: Licking can be a dangerous symptom of pain if not noticed in time. Just as people might rub a bumped head, dogs can lick the parts of their bodies that hurt. Although this can be a great way for you to identify a problem, your pup could lick themselves raw and cause infection if unnoticed.
  • Breathing or panting heavily: If your pup is panting or breathing heavily when they have not been exercising, this could be a sign of pain. Panting is normal for many dogs, but excessive or nonstop panting is something to watch out for.
  • Moving around less: A typically rambunctious and energetic dog suddenly lying around or avoiding movement is another sign that your pup might be in pain. Stiffness or limping is an obvious sign that they might be injured. If your puppy is reluctant to jump into your lap, take them to see a vet.
  • Unusual aggression: This uncharacteristic behavior can present itself during mealtime, playtime, or snuggle time — a dog that suddenly begins growling while being petted could be a dog in pain.
  • Changes in posture or body: Internal pain can sometimes present itself in a change of posture. Your dog could hunch their back or hold up a paw or hang their head if something feels off.
  • Trembling or shaking: Although some smaller dogs shake and tremble from habit, many times this can also mean they are in pain. If your pup shakes or trembles as they sit on your lap or while you’re petting them, it’s a good idea to get them checked out.

What to do if your pup is in pain

You think your dog might be in pain; what do you do now?

  1. Begin by noting your pup’s symptoms on your phone or a notepad. Bringing that information to a vet visit will help you and your veterinarian identify what could be the problem.
  2. Set up an appointment for your pup to see their vet. Even though there are many sources of information on diagnosing dog pain, it is always safest to consult your pet’s veterinarian before doing anything else.
  3. After your vet has diagnosed your pet’s condition and provided medication to help, it’s critical to give the prescribed medicine exactly as your vet instructed. The best way to get your pup back to normal is to follow a veterinary professional’s instructions.

Until you get to your appointment, here are several ways you can help alleviate some of the pain your dog may be experiencing.

  • Limit their activity and movement.
  • Provide a soft, comfortable bed.
  • Eliminate stressors such as loud TVs or rowdy children.
  • Give them gentle petting and massages.
  • Keep them company; loneliness can cause stress and inhibit your dog’s ability to relax.

Following your vet’s instructions and these tips will be the best way to get your pup back to their usual self.

Should you give your pup human pain meds?

The short answer is no. Although some human over-the-counter pain medications are not likely to harm your pet, without proper dosage, giving your dog pain meds from your cabinet can be extremely dangerous. Often, giving pups human medication can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, kidney failure, and more.

If your dog is experiencing pain, the best thing you can do for them is call their doctor and get them in for an appointment as soon as possible. Until then, give them lots of love and a soft place to lie. Then follow the vet’s instructions to a T to ensure a fast recovery for your furry baby.

If you’d like to know more about your puppy, you can check our guide on when you should give your puppy a bath.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebecca Wolken
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rebecca's has written for Bob Villa and a Cincinnati based remodeling company. When she's not writing about home remodeling…
How to tell if your older dog’s health decline means the end is near
Signs your old pup is close to the end-of-life period
An old Great Dane with a white face leaning against a man's side.

If you've stumbled across this article after searching terms like "old dog behavior before death," we are so sorry for your situation. There's nothing we want more than for our fur babies to live forever. Unfortunately, death is a part of life we all must face, and the loss of a pet is a major trauma because of the tight bonds we form with our fur babies.

Knowing death's a part of life doesn't make the loss of a pet any easier — it can be as difficult as losing a human family member. Despite the many ways we can try to grieve once our beloved pet has passed, it can be helpful to know the end is near. Here's what you should look for if you suspect your dog may be nearing the end of the road.  

Read more
Looking for signs your dog has ticks? These telltale symptoms mean you have a flea or tick problem
What to lookout for if your dog has ticks or fleas
Beagle scratching body

Fleas and ticks are common issues with dogs, but they aren't harmless. These pests attach themselves to a dogs' body, feed off their blood, and make them extremely uncomfortable, if not ill. It can be a miserable experience — for both you and your pet. Left undetected, fleas and ticks can transmit a host of unsavory diseases. You need to keep a close eye out for the signs your dog has ticks.

So, where does a dog pick up these nasty critters, anyway? And if they do, how will you know? We’ve got the answers plus a few tricks on how to prevent them (and why this matters). These are the sign your dog has ticks or fleas.

Read more
My dog is shaking and acting weird – should I worry?
Here's what concerned pet parents should know about why dogs shake
why dogs shake tiny chihuahua on beige rug

Dog behavior typically runs the gamut from quirky to cute. While it's perfectly normal for your pooch to tremble with excitement at mealtime or during a romp through the park, it's concerning if your dog suddenly begins shaking and acting strangely at the same time. If you've ever frantically searched phrases like "my dog is shaking and acting weird" with the hope of finding answers, we're here to help.

We'll walk you through some of the most common reasons why your precious pup may be shaking and acting peculiar. However, even if you think the reason for your dog's unusual behavior is completely benign, we still recommend a trip to the vet to make sure everything is okay. It's always better to be safe than sorry when your pet's health is concerned. 

Read more