In recent years we have become increasingly aware of dogs' susceptibility to pain. Pain management is becoming a routine part of veterinary medicine and many state veterinary medicine practices are now implementing laws regarding dog pain management to help guide veterinarians. Sometimes pain is temporary or acute, while in other instances pain is persistent or chronic. Acute pain usually results from surgery or sudden damage to muscles, bones, or any major organs of your dog's body. Surgery, accidents, and sudden organ inflammation are the most common causes of acute pain in dogs. Degenerative joint disease and cancer are the most common causes of chronic pain in dogs.
Signs of pain in dogs may include changes in behavior, restlessness, increased panting, hiding, trembling, drooling, loss of appetite, tucked up painful abdomen, limping, lameness, and self-trauma. Aging dogs with degenerative joint disease of the spine, hips or stifles (joints in the legs, equivalent to the knees in humans) may appear stiff or in pain when jumping up, or cry when picked up.
Some dog owners may prefer a natural approach to managing pain in their dogs. Common alternatives chosen include T-Relief Tablets, Glyco-Flex II Tablets for Dogs, or white willow bark. Acupuncture and/or chiropractic care also provides pain relief for many conditions. Classical homeopathic veterinarians will often prescribe individualized constitutional homeopathic remedies to also help with chronic pain. Constitutional homeopathy is the selection and administration of homeopathic preparations over a period of time for treatment related to disorders caused by an inherited predisposition to a disease. It is aimed at an eventual cure, not just suppression or relief of immediate symptoms. Physical therapy is also increasingly offered by veterinarians to help with managing chronic pain. Homeopathic therapies work by stimulating your dog's body to relieve his or her own pain.
The most common medications prescribed for chronic pain in dogs are known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl, Novox, Metacam, and Previcox. While homeopathic therapies work by stimulating your dog's own body to relieve pain more naturally, NSAIDs differ by being somewhat stronger and acting to block COX-1 and/or COX-2 enzymes. These drugs are very effective in treating chronic pain in dogs, and work better when the pain is due to bone inflammation or arthritis. They are routinely used following most soft tissue or orthopedic surgeries, or to treat bite wounds and traumatic injuries.
While most newer NSAIDs are effective in treating acute and chronic pain, all of these drugs have the potential to produce occasional and sometimes severe side effects in your dog. Digestive upset of the stomach and small intestines may occur, leading to vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood. Black or tarry stool may be noticed, as well as a loss of appetite. Giving your dog NSAIDs with food and using them as directed by your veterinarian may help lessen these side effects. Blood clotting may also be affected, leading to bleeding through the digestive tract, urinary tract, or skin. Liver and kidney inflammation may also occur. Do not to give NSAIDs when your dog is on certain medications such as corticosteroids, or phenobarbitol for seizures, as increased reactions may occur. It is also preferable to have a complete CBC/chemistry blood profile done on all dogs before starting short-term NSAID therapy to detect any pre-existing medical conditions, as well as periodic blood work for dogs on chronic therapy to monitor any side effects.
Dogs receiving NSAID therapy for acute or chronic pain should be given liver supportive supplements. Many of these supplements can help with the added burden of processing many of these medications, and guard against potential liver damage and side effects.