Pain Management

Just as with people, dogs can suffer from pain. Injuries, surgery and chronic conditions are all common causes of pain in dogs.

In some cases, pain is temporary and will subside on its own. In other cases, however, medication or relief techniques may be able to help your dog.

Types of Dog Pain

Pain in dogs can be either acute or chronic:

  • Acute pain results from an injury or infection or sometimes as the result of a surgery. This type of pain is short-lived and can come on suddenly. Acute pain is most often temporary and will go away when the cause of the pain is addressed.
  • Chronic pain is ongoing and is the result of a continuing condition. Sometimes chronic pain develops gradually, so it can often be more difficult to observe when a dog is suffering from chronic pain. Chronic pain can be the result of certain disease or of age-related conditions such as arthritis.

If you suspect that your dog is in pain or is suffering from a chronic condition, see a veterinarian for pain management tips and treatment.

Detecting Dog Pain

The first step to managing a dog”s pain is identifying that he”s actually in pain. While your dog can”t just speak up and tell you when he”s hurting, there are ways you can detect pain in your pet.

The main thing to note is any sort of behavior change in your dog. Specifically, these indicators can reveal pain in a dog:

  • acting more aggressively than usual
  • acting more submissively than usual
  • being more needy or affectionate than usual
  • being unresponsive
  • being unusually quiet or still
  • biting or nipping
  • changes in eating habits
  • changes in sleep habits
  • flattening the ears against the head
  • frequent licking of a certain area
  • whining, whimpering or howling.

If your dog exhibits any of these indicators, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible, as they may be signs that something is causing your dog pain and distress.

Managing Dog Pain

First and foremost, dogs must be examined by a veterinarian to determine the cause of any pain. A veterinarian may recommend these treatments for your dog:

  • medication
  • physical therapy
  • surgery.

Surgery is usually only necessary in extreme cases, and medication and physical therapy are more common.

Making sure your dog gets an adequate amount of food and exercise is important in pain management. Your vet may recommend certain types of dog exercise and certain dietary restrictions that can help.

When a dog”s foot or leg is the source of pain, massaging may help him feel better. Talk to your doctor about how to massage a dog”s feet and whether or not this will be beneficial to your dog.

Medications can be difficult to administer to some dogs, though there are many new options that make giving medication to a dog much easier. If your dog has trouble taking pills, ask your doctor about crushing the pills or about alternatives to pills, such as:

  • gels
  • liquids
  • skin patches.


Dunn, T.J., M.D. (2002). Managing Pain in Dogs. Retrieved October 22, 2007, from the Pet Center Web site: (2007). Pain Management for Pets. Retrieved October 22, 2007, from the Web site: