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

Acute pain would be something that just happened—think of a torn nail, laceration, a dog bite wound, or a fracture. That would be acute pain. Chronic pain is one that they've been living with for a long time, and so the nerves may be in a different situation. And we do treat these quite differently.


Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center for Veterinary Care

How quickly should I bring my dog in if I suspect that they are in pain?

Well, let's get them in here right away. So if you have any suspicion at all that your dog's in pain, let's bring them in here, and we'll talk about it and do an exam and let's figure out what's going on so we can make sure that pain is addressed.

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

I always tell people you know your pet well. If your dog is acting off, let's say he always runs to the door every time you come home, and now he's kind of slowly getting there or not coming at all. If they're hiding, that's a huge sign. Hiding, panting, or shaking are also common signs of pain in dogs. Dogs rarely vocalize. They're seldom going to yelp unless you stepped on their toe and frightened them more than hurt them. For the most part, they're going to do things that would make them quieter, such as hiding and not behaving like themselves. They're perhaps off food and just not acting in their usual way.

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

We'd rather you not ever give pain management of your own to your dog. We choose meds that are appropriate in both dosing, and depending on the breed and the age, and the health of them, we're going to pick the best pain medication. But we do have medication that is specifically for dogs. We use some pain management that humans use, but it depends on the situation, and we think it's best if you let us decide that for your dog.

What are the medications used for pain management in dogs?

We use opioid-type medications for acute and severe pain, just like we do in humans. We have nonsteroidals for dogs, and they are specific for dogs, and we even have some specific for cats. We also use some medications that are specifically helpful for nerve pain. Gabapentin is a good suggestion of one of those. There's a whole category of those. We even use adjunctive pain management, like laser therapy and acupuncture. Every pet and every condition is treated differently, so let us work with you and your situation at home to figure out the best way to treat your dog.

Can a veterinarian help me manage my dog's chronic pain?

Yeah, for sure. There are many things we can do for chronic pain. I always tell people that if your dog is aging, aging is not a disease in and of itself. If you're noticing your dog used to jump up into your car or on your bed and they're no longer doing that, or they can't run as long, or they get tired quickly, then they need a good physical exam. Let's figure out what's going on. Sometimes we take x-rays to determine because dogs won't tell you that their hip has arthritis and that they're having a lot of discomfort here.

I've had many people bring in a dog that's lame, and they'll say, "But he's not in pain." If they're showing any signs of lameness, that's a sign of pain because they're not putting weight on the leg that hurts. So it's painful if they touch it down, or it could even be painful when they're not putting it down, but that's a sign of pain. Bring them in, and let us help you figure out what the best way to treat that would be.

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

The best place to get pain medication for your dog is at your veterinary hospital, as the meds are guaranteed, and your vet can ensure that you're giving your dog the proper dosages.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Pain Management - FAQs


Dr. Michele Drake
The Drake Center for Veterinary Care

What are some signs that my dog is in pain?

Some of the most common signs for dogs would be hiding, shaking, and not behaving like they usually would. I always tell people that if your dog always comes to greet you at the door and they're not doing that right now, that's probably a good sign that they may have some discomfort or something is not right.

What can cause pain in my dog?

Many things can cause pain in dogs, such as if they have a sore paw, they cut themselves, or if another dog has bitten them. They could also have chronically changing arthritis in their hips or knees, which can cause pain. A dog's nervous system is very similar to ours, so whatever could cause us pain can cause them pain also. And certainly, dental pain is a huge one. We see many animals living with pretty severe pain in their mouths, and they will not tell you when they have a sore tooth. That's upon us to help you figure that out.

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

Every dog and cat should be examined at a minimum once a year. And once pets get to about six or seven years old, they should be coming in twice a year. Again, dental pain is the most common pain that we do see that pets are living with. And if you've ever had a sore tooth yourself, you know that is no fun. And there are things we can do to help with that. If they're abscessed, we want to remove that because that's a chronic source of infection and pain. Your dog may have chronic arthritic changes, back pain, neck pain, and even skin infections, earaches, and ear infections can be painful.

Regular wellness exams help us determine pain, but if things are just not quite right in between those appointments and the dog is showing some odd symptoms, then bring them in, and we will help you determine the best course of treatment and care for them.

How will my veterinarian gauge whether my dog is in pain?

A good physical exam. Again, if you had an ear infection, it would be painful. We also know that if a dog has an ear infection or an eye infection, those would be signs of pain. We're trained to determine the causes of pain or to determine if your pet is in pain. And it's our job to alleviate pain and suffering, so we take a good history. For example, if you tell us every time the dog walks, like halfway into their walk, they can hardly use their back leg, but when they first start, they're fine—this helps us determine the source of pain. Along with getting the dog's history, we may take x-rays. We're going to do a physical exam and get to the root of the problem.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 456-9556, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.