Seeing your dog in pain is one of the hardest experiences a pet parent can go through. There’s nothing you’d rather do than fix it as fast as possible, but do you know what medications are safe to give your dog? Of course, medicine isn’t the only way to relieve your pup’s discomfort — we’ll also go over a few homeopathic remedies for pain relief — but it can certainly do the trick much faster than waiting to see a vet. Still, make sure to schedule a checkup for your pet, since veterinarians are always the most trustworthy source for an animal’s health care needs.
Read on to find out which medications are safe for dogs and which to avoid at all costs. Keep in mind that the dosage of every medication will depend largely on the size and weight of your dog, so please don’t follow the same instructions for a Chihuahua that you would for an Alaskan malamute.
Of all the bottles in your medicine cabinet, you probably have some that are dog-safe. Antihistamines — including Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin — are all recommended to treat allergic reactions and irritation, according to VCA Hospitals. Although they’re nontoxic and totally safe, some dogs experience behavior changes when they take antihistamines (usually drowsiness or, less commonly, hyperactivity). For this reason, some pet owners even occasionally use Benadryl for motion sickness or as a sleep aid on long car rides. Make sure to read the label closely, though, since some antihistamines also contain decongestant or sleep-aid ingredients that may not be safe for pets.
Many other over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as cough suppressants and anti-diarrheals are also safe for canine consumption (same rules apply; always check the label!), but what about common pain-relieving medicines such as aspirin and Tylenol?
As much as you may want to help your pup when he’s in pain, do not give him Tylenol, ibuprofen, or any other human pain medication. Both of these medications have ingredients that could be fatal to dogs, although Tylenol is sometimes given under strict veterinary supervision (via Chewy). These medications can put pets at risk for gastrointestinal, liver, and/or kidney damage.
Aspirin, in low doses, can be given to dogs for pain relief. This should also be done with a veterinarian’s permission, as aspirin can cause intestinal disorders or even put your pet at risk for internal bleeding (via VCA). Although baby aspirin can be a slightly safer option, vets can provide an anti-inflammatory that’s meant for regular use in dogs. The reason you can’t just give your dog nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in small amounts is that a dog’s body processes drugs slightly differently — OTC drugs can be absorbed by the stomach and intestines faster, which may make them last longer in your dog’s system, allowing the drug to reach the blood in higher levels (via U.S. Food and Drug Administration).
Luckily, there are other ways to make your pup more comfortable until you can see a vet. For surface-level injuries like cuts and scrapes, consider a topical option instead of oral medication. According to VCA Hospitals, OTC steroid creams have fewer (and a lower concentration of) active ingredients, which makes them a somewhat safer bet. Make sure your pet won’t try to lick the medicine, though!
Another recently popular ingredient for pain relief is CBD, or cannabidiol. This is the second-most-prevalent chemical compound in the hemp plant, and it’s known for its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. Dr. Jerry Klein, the chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club, notes that CBD also has “cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and [uses] for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.” Although CBD is still being studied, there are many all-natural pain-relief products available that are hemp-based and free of toxins.
From prescriptions and OTC medications to plant-based pain relief, you and your pup have plenty of safe options. If you’re in doubt, give your vet a ring — they’ll be able to guide you toward the best course of action, whether or not it includes medicine. Remember to keep your fur baby comfy and hydrated if he’s recovering from an injury or illness, and give him all the extra love you can — between naps, of course! Soon enough, with a little TLC, your dog will be up and at ’em in no time.
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