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How to Help a Dog in Pain

A dog who is in pain due to an injury, infection, illness or other condition can live a poor quality of life. This can have many dog owners asking, “How can I help my dog when she’s in pain?” and “Can I give my dog something for pain?” Take a look at some symptoms of pain in dogs and what you, as their owner, can do to help.

How to Help a Dog in Pain

Symptoms of Pain in Dogs

How can you tell if your dog is in pain? There are several ways to determine if a dog is in pain, including:

  • Aggression
  • Whining
  • Refusal to Eat/Drink
  • Depression
  • Decreased Activity Level
  • Shivering
  • Physical Problems (i.e. problems walking due to arthritis pain)

It’s important to understand that a dog’s experience of pain can be very frightening. A human can understand why the pain is occurring and a human knows that there are medications and treatments available for pain. They also know that in the vast majority of cases, the pain will not last forever.

But in the case of a dog, he has no such reassurance. The dog does not understand why the pain is occurring. And one can imagine how frightening it would be to wonder, “Will this pain last forever? Is this how life is going to be from this point forward?” This is why pain is often a frightening experience for the dog.

How to Help a Dog in Pain

When a dog is showing signs of pain due to an illness, injury or medical condition like arthritis, the first step is to get a diagnosis. This will require a trip to the veterinarian’s office. In most cases, when a dog’s painful condition, illness or injury is left untreated, the problem will get worse over time without proper treatment.

In many cases, a veterinarian will prescribe pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication to bring down swelling, reduce inflammation, and relieve the pain a dog is experiencing.

Unfortunately, there are cases where a dog may have to wait (i.e. overnight) to visit the veterinarian. In these cases, a dog owner is left to comfort a dog in pain. Fortunately, there are a few things a dog owner can try to help a dog in pain:

Limit movement

Prevent the dog from walking and moving around by crating the dog. You will also want to bring the dog’s food and water bowl over to his bed. Do not bring the dog for walks, opt for bathroom trips only. Movement can make some injuries and other painful conditions worse.

Apply Ice Compresses

When swelling is present, ice compresses should be applied for 20 minutes out of every hour. This will help to reduce swelling and swelling causes pain.

Apply Heat Compresses

If the dog is suffering from arthritis or a pulled muscle, heat compresses can be helpful. Never apply a hot compress (i.e. microwavable heat pack or electric heating pad) to an area of swelling. A warm compress applied to the shoulders or back can also be soothing and relaxing, helping a tense dog in pain to relax.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated and Fed

If a dog will not eat or drink due to pain, the dog’s owner will need to take measures to prevent dehydration in the dog. If they won’t lap up water, try a syringe to get a little liquid into them. In addition, a dog may refuse food when he’s in pain. Offer other foods like skinless chicken, plain rice, cottage cheese and boiled hamburger with the fat strained away. If the dog refuses this, the dog owner will need to take measures to treat and prevent hypoglycemia.

Notably, many pet owners are tempted to give their dogs over-the-counter medication like ASPIRIN (the only safe over-the-counter pain medication for dogs). Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen are deadly!

Without a diagnosis and a veterinarian’s approval, this should be avoided! ASPIRIN thins the blood, which can cause internal bleeding in the case of a dog with bruising, internal injuries or soft tissue injuries. In short, ASPIRIN could make the situation much worse.

It’s important for pet owners to check their dog’s vitals when a problem arises. This is an essential step in determining if the dog needs immediate veterinary attention.

Jeanna Massman

Monday 15th of November 2021

Every pet owner needs to read this article. Thanks for the information!

The Importance Of Pain Management For Your Pet - Miss Molly Says

Thursday 2nd of April 2020

[…] Treating and managing pain in dogs should be a collaborative effort between the pet owner and the vet. After all, it is the pet owner who is spending the most time with the pet and will thus the first to notice anything out of the ordinary. The vet, on the other hand, will decide on the right way to treat the pain. […]

rochelle haynes

Wednesday 16th of January 2019

Thanks for the tips will come in handy


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

I don't think I would give my dog aspirin either. I would just wait till he goes to the veterinarian’s. Just do the best you can with the tips you gave us.

Cassandra D

Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Thank you for the information.

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