What meds can I safely give my dog for pain?

Last Updated: July 26, 2021

Try natural pain relief for dogs first with expert recommendations, and learn when it’s time to see your vet — plus the medications that can harm your dog.

Our furry family members are just as big a part of our hearts as our human relatives. When you notice your pooch is in pain, the natural reaction is to find the safest way to relieve that pain — fast.

But before you head to the medicine cabinet for human medications like Pepto, Benadryl, or ibuprofen, know what medications are safe for dogs, which ones could be harmful or downright toxic, and what natural dog medications and remedies may do the trick before you have to pay the vet.

How to tell if your dog is in pain

Because your dog can't tell you where it hurts, it’s important for dog owners to know the warning signs, including any drastic changes to your dog’s personality.

Some of the signs of pain in dogs include:

  • Not drinking water or eating food
  • Lethargy or anti-social behaviors
  • Increased barking, whining, whimpering, or yelping
  • Aggression, especially when touched
  • Excessive licking, scratching, or biting at their fur or skin
  • Irregular breathing, such as panting, wheezing, or breathing heavily
  • Swelling in the limbs
  • Mobility problems or restlessness

Here’s friendly veterinarian surgeon Dr. Dave with some more tips on how to tell if your dog is in pain:

What are some common causes of dog pain?

Just like with us, there can be many reasons Fido isn't feeling his best. It could be illness, allergies, injury, infection, or simply the ailments of getting older.

Once you know the root cause of the pain, it’s easier to determine the best way to treat your dog’s discomfort, including the best option for pain medicine for your dog if needed.


Dogs suffer from a variety of allergies, just like humans. Skin allergies, known as dermatitis, are the most common type of allergic reaction in dogs.

Some dogs are allergic to flea bites, which make them very itchy — particularly at the base of their tail — and may cause red, inflamed, and scabbed skin. Food allergies generally come with gastrointestinal symptoms and may cause itchy skin as well, especially on paws and ears. Seasonal allergies usually cause itching in the paws, ears, legs, groin, and around the eyes.

Symptoms: Dogs with allergies typically scratch, bite, and lick themselves incessantly, which can lead to fur loss, irritation, and serious infections — and pain.

Natural allergy medications for dogs

Veterinarians often recommend Benadryl for dog allergies. The dosage depends mostly on your dog’s weight, so consult your vet for the right amount.

If your dog is allergic to fleas or ticks, keep those bad boys away with an all-natural flea and tick treatment after treating the allergy symptoms. Talk to your vet if you suspect your dog has a food allergy, since these are tough to pinpoint and treat.


Dogs catch colds just like we do. If your dog is eating and drinking normally and seems fairly active and alert, you can ease some of the common cold symptoms with these dog pain remedies: Run a humidifier, encourage rest, and wipe his runny eyes and nose with a warm, damp cloth to keep him comfortable.

Symptoms: Runny nose, congestion, sore throat, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, and loss of appetite.

Cold medications for dogs

Human cold medications are dangerous for dogs. If you think your dog needs veterinary medicine for his cold, contact your vet for advice.

Also consult with them right away if your dog isn’t eating or drinking, has difficulty breathing, or isn’t getting better within a week or so.

Hot spots

Hot spots are raw, inflamed skin lesions that ooze and may be full of pus. They usually occur when your dog scratches an itch so vigorously that it opens the skin. Any continued licking, scratching, and biting the spot can make it more irritated and lead to more licking, scratching, and biting.

Hot spots can increase in size very quickly, and dogs can get them anywhere on their body. It’s important to address the underlying cause of the itching that led to the hot spot, which could be allergies, parasites, arthritis, or even boredom.

Symptoms: Raw, inflamed spots on skin that can be pussy — plus any excessive licking, scratching, biting at specific spots.

Hot spot medication for dogs

Veterinarians often give dogs a topical or oral steroid like prednisone or an antihistamine like Benadryl to combat the itching that causes and worsens a hot spot.

If it’s still small, you can treat the hot spot with a small amount of Neosporin to help prevent infection, but only if your dog won’t lick it off — which she probably will.

So before you try these medications, give a natural remedy a shot, like this plant-powered kin+kind Hot Spot Relief Stick, which may help prevent the hot spot from becoming bad enough to need topical or oral medications. Thomas Ling, principle of kin+kind, says that natural pet products work better and are safer for your animal.

“When we say natural, we mean things that are as [minimally] processed as possible, with ingredients that are close to nature as possible,” says Ling.

But if your dog won’t stop biting and licking despite treatment of any kind, it may be time to haul out the Cone of Shame, also known as an Elizabethan, or E-collar.


Canine arthritis causes joint pain and inflammation, which may make it difficult for your dog to jump up and down, walk up or down stairs, or frolick and run as usual.

Arthritis has many causes and doesn’t just occur in old dogs.

Symptoms: Your dog may not want to be touched on some parts of her body, or she may lose general stamina and have trouble jumping, running, or going up stairs — or even become aggressive.

Arthritis medication for dogs

Managing your dog’s arthritis often requires a change in nutrition as well as softer bedding, raised food and water bowls, non-skid surfaces on the floor, and ramps as needed to improve her comfort and mobility.

Your veterinarian may also prescribe NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or corticosteroid (steroidal) anti-inflammatory drugs. These cannot be taken together, and only your vet is qualified to decide whether over-the-counter NSAIDS are appropriate for your dog.

A hip and joint supplement with glucosamine and chondroitin goes a long way toward reducing your dog’s joint pain, and there’s no need to consult with your vet before giving these tasty, healing treats to your good girl.


Is cbd oil safe for dogs?

Yes! Cbd oil is safe for dog pain relief, but look for cbd oil specifically made for pets. Cbd oil comes from hemp, not marijuana, so it doesn’t have any THC, which would make your dog feel high.

According to the American Kennel Club, cbd and cbd oils are known for “anti-inflammatory properties, cardiac benefits, anti-nausea effects, appetite stimulation, anti-anxiety impact, and for possible anti-cancer benefits, although there’s no conclusive data on this use.”

Which pain medications are unsafe for dogs?

Skull illustration

Unfortunately, many over-the-counter remedies for people aren't safe for dogs. In some cases, NSAIDs may be prescribed by your vet for short-term treatment of pain, but those prescriptions aren't without their serious possible side effects. According the the Food and Drug Administration, all NSAIDs pose a potential hazard to animals, and choosing to use them can put your pet at risk.

Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen are all within this NSAID category, which means that you shouldn’t give your dog Advil, Motrin, Tylenol, or Aleve.

Taking these medications could cause severe reactions, including liver damage, vomiting, intestinal issues, diarrhea, kidney failure, lethargy, and even death.


What are the best natural pain meds for dogs?

There are a wide range of natural supplements for your dogs that are specifically formulated to help them stay happy, healthy, and mobile. Whether you have a new pup or a wise old pooch, adding a daily multivitamin supplement to their routine can be just as beneficial as taking your own daily vitamins.

Targeted natural supplements for dogs include anxiety relief, skin and coat health, and immune support blends.

Browse the 15 best dog supplements that are top-rated by actual Grove members to find one that’s right for your furry best friend.

When to consult your vet about dog pain

Photo of brown dog on bed on floor

Plenty of exercise and high quality dog food helps you maintain your dog’s weight, and regular vet check-ups will help detect health problems early, before they become sources of chronic pain and discomfort.

Any dog ailment that doesn’t resolve within a week or two needs the attention of your veterinarian. If medical treatment is necessary, follow the advice of your vet.

While you're there, ask about natural supplements and treatments that may help cure the current ailment or prevent future troubles while promoting daily health for your furriest family member.

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