What Can I Give My Dog For Pain? Common Signs of Pain in Dogs

13 Minute Read
Updated May 3, 2024

Is your pooch playing it cool or secretly in pain? It can be tricky to tell sometimes! From mysterious limps to sudden pickiness at mealtime, our furry friends have a knack for masking discomfort.

To help keep your pooch safe and happy, it's important to be able to recognize signs of pain in dogs so that you can treat their ailments quickly and effectively. 

It's normal for dogs to try to hide their pain. The symptoms you might expect to see in an animal in pain may not be how they typically present.

Dogs instinctually hide their pain. This can make identifying signs of pain in dogs early a bit difficult. 

It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the more subtle signs of pain in dogs so that you don't miss injuries. Early detection and treatment offer your dog a better chance at a quick and complete recovery or at least the option of effective pain management and a reduction of further injury or damage.

Pain management for dogs can be tricky and should always be discussed with your vet to ensure you are choosing the most efficient and safest way to manage pain.


Why Do Dogs Hide Their Pain?

It's not unusual for dogs to hide their pain. Signs of weakness can make them feel vulnerable to potential predators, and although your dog's only natural predator nowadays is the vacuum, the instinct to mask their injuries or discomfort is deeply ingrained in them.

For wild canines, like wolves and coyotes, pain or injury can be a matter of life and death. In addition to being a target for predators, it can also make them seem weak to the rest of their pack, which could result in them being left behind.

This instinct to hide pain may be normal and even useful in the wild, it can make recognizing injuries and pain in dogs difficult for pet owners.


Common Causes of Dog Pain


There are a lot of reasons that your dog could experience pain. From simple scrapes or bug bites to more severe illnesses or injuries, pain can come in many forms, but there are some common causes of dog pain that most dogs will likely be faced with at some point in their lives. 

Catching signs of pain in dogs early will allow you to work with your vet to diagnose and treat them quickly and effectively.

There may be several causes for your dog’s pain, but there are a few causes that are more common in dogs:

Arthritis and Joint Pain

Joint pain is one of the most common types of pain in dogs. Over time, connective tissues will wear down, allowing the bones to grind against each other. This leads to inflammation and pain, and will permanently damage the joint if not treated quickly.

Arthritis is more common in seniors due to natural wear and tear, but it’s not just an old dog problem. Large dogs, fat dogs, and certain dog breeds that are prone to hip and joint issues often suffer from arthritis at younger ages. Proactive care is especially important for these dogs.

Here are some of the most common signs that your dog might be dealing with joint pain:

    • Reduced activity
    • Difficulty getting up and down
    • Limping or weakening of the limb
    • Swelling, twisting or bulging of the joint
    • Abnormal posture or hunching
    • Groaning or wincing during movement or when touched
    • Increased sleep or lethargy
    • Aggression or behavioural changes


Pain stemming from an injury can cause a lot of pain very quickly. Even though dogs often hide their pain, the signs of injury might be more noticeable. In this case, a vet visit should always be your first action. 

Remember that not all injuries are visible, so don’t wait to get your dog checked out. X-rays or blood tests may need to be done to rule out broken bones, infection, or internal injuries. 

Look for these signs of injury, and act quickly:

    • Pain when touched, aggressive reactions
    • Yelping or wincing
    • Immobility or limping
    • Bleeding, lacerations, or bite marks
    • Swelling
    • Loss of appetite or not drinking
    • Difficult or abnormal breathing
    • Pupil dilation, constriction, or rapid eye movements
    • Abnormal posture or hunching

Surgery or Recovery

Recovering from surgery often comes with some pain and discomfort. While your vet likely prescribed some pain medication and antibiotics post-surgery to reduce the risk of infection and manage severe pain, this is often only given for a short period of time.

Minor pain may persist after the medications are gone, so you might have to find other ways to help manage that pain throughout the rest of the recovery period. 

Identifying if your dog is in too much pain after surgery is tricky, but here are some signs to keep an eye out for:

    • Mobility issues, abnormal to their recovery
    • Immobility
    • Falling or unsteady on their feet
    • Aggressive behaviour
    • Loss of appetite
    • Swelling, puss or other signs of infection
    • Excessive or obsessive licking of the surgical site

Contact your vet if you have any concerns. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to recovery, and your vet can help guide you toward the appropriate next steps.

Dental Pain

Dental pain in dogs can cause changes in eating habits, weight issues, and aggression. Unfortunately, signs of dental pain are one of the most commonly missed in dogs.   

While minor dental issues can be difficult to detect, a regular dental cleaning routine for dogs is a great way to stay hands-on and proactive. Both at-home dog teeth cleaning and annual dental checkups from the vet will give you the best chance of preventing and catching dental pain.

Signs of dental pain include:

    • Loss of appetite or difficulty chewing
    • Weight loss
    • Excessive drooling
    • Bleeding gums
    • Pain when touched
    • Not drinking or dehydration


Leave the Diagnosis Up To Your Vet

We all have a bad habit of trying to self-diagnose our own issues, so it's not uncommon for pet owners to take a guess at their pet's pain issues too. The problem with this is that symptoms don't always tell a complete story. 

You may find ways to provide pain relief for your dog, but if you don't discover what is causing the pain, your methods are likely going to be a temporary band-aid. By treating symptoms and not cause, your dog's health issues or injuries can easily get worse. 

While recognizing symptoms is important, getting a proper diagnosis from your vet will ensure that you choose the best and safest method of managing pain and recovery.


Caring for a Dog in Pain

Whether you've just discovered the signs of pain in your dog or if you are actively treating the injury, you must be careful about how you handle your pet and what activities you let them participate in.

    • Be careful how you pick up or pet your dog
    • Treat wounds and practice proper wound care
    • Limit strenuous activities
    • Talk to your vet about proper treatment and aftercare

Depending on the injury or illness, your dog may not be comfortable being picked up or even petted in certain areas. Steer clear of surgical incisions, wounds, and areas of swelling. Not only do you not want to touch or irritate the area, but you should also be cautious of transferring bacteria from you to your dog.

Proper wound care may also be necessary. Cleaning and wrapping a wound or inspecting a surgical incision can help you catch issues before they become more painful or dangerous. You may also need to limit access to the affected area to keep your dog from scratching, licking, or further damaging the wound.

Reduces activity may also be recommended by your vet to varying degrees. Climbing onto furniture, going up and down stairs, and jumping up to see their humans may be an issue with open wounds or post-surgery sites. Keep playtime to a minimum and try to encourage low-energy activities, like dog puzzle toys and long-lasting chews, and rest when needed.

Talk to your vet about appropriate activities and safe ways to handle your dog during recovery. For chronic issues, routine changes may be necessary to accommodate problems that will continue to worsen as your pet ages.


How to Treat Dog Pain


Depending on the type and severity of pain, you could treat dog pain with either prescription medications from your vet, or with natural supplements. 

Acute, severe, and chronic pain is often best treated with prescription pain management. Speak to your vet about a treatment plan, taking into consideration both short and long-term pain management options.

Prescription pain drugs prescribed by your vet can range from opioid painkillers to powerful anti-inflammatories. Never, ever give your dog pain medications meant for humans without talking to your vet first. 

Even over-the-counter drugs like Advil or Tylenol can be very dangerous and are rarely, if ever, recommended for dogs. 

Beyond medication, physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture or hydrotherapy are among some of the possible alternative dog pain management methods. These are often better suited for long-term recovery.

Natural Pain Management for Dogs

Depending on the type and cause of pain, a natural pain management solution may be appropriate for your dog. This should of course be discussed with your veterinarian, but natural pain solutions can be useful for managing chronic pain from arthritis and other hip and joint issues. 

These won't be painkillers, per se, can help reduce pain by reducing inflammation and protecting connective tissues of the joint.

Fish Oil


Fish oil contains omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that can naturally reduce inflammation throughout the body. This will result in easier and less painful movement of the affected joint. Here are a few of our favourite brands:



This well-known spice is a popular option for treating pain in dogs, especially pain related to hip and joint issues due to its natural anti-inflammatory properties. Learn more about the benefits of turmeric in Turmeric for Dogs. Treating your dog's pain with turmeric is easy with North Hound Life Golden Turmeric Superblend.

Glucosamine, Chondroitin & MSM


This one is probably not a surprise, as glucosamine and chondroitin are a common solution for hip and joint pain in dogs, cats, and even humans. Together, these two supplements help to repair and rebuild collagen in the connective tissues that protect your dog's joints. 

MSM is a powerful anti-inflammatory for the joints. It's often combined with glucosamine and chondroitin to help reduce pain, improve mobility, and protect from further damage to the joint.

Hyaluronic Acid


One of the main causes of hip and joint pain is wear and tear over time. As the joints move, the friction causes a breakdown of the connective and protective tissues. One of the best ways to help minimize this is with hyaluronic acid. 

This is a natural lubricant for the joint. As puppies, dogs naturally produce this substance, but after the age of 2, the production of hyaluronic acid diminishes, leaving the joints open to rubbing and damage in older dogs. Supplementing with Omega Alpha HA-180 Hyaluronic Acid can help replenish this natural joint lubricant to ease discomfort and reduce further damage.

White Willow Bark


This is the only natural supplement on our list that is technically a painkiller. White willow bark is often referred to as nature's Aspirin because it contains salicin, which is the active pain relief component in Aspirin. Try Vet's Best Aches + Pains to combine the protective power of glucosamine and MSM with the pain-relieving properties of white willow bark.


New call-to-action

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Pain

What painkillers can I give my dog?

Talk to your vet about prescription pain relief options for your dogs to see if they are appropriate or if natural supplements can help. Never give your dog over-the-counter pain relief for humans. Even baby Tylenol can be extremely dangerous. Talk to your vet before you start any pain management at home.

How do I know if my dog is in pain?

Dogs are often good at hiding mild to moderate pain, so don't look for traditional responses. Instead look for changes in behaviour, eating habits and energy levels More severe pain will manifest in a physical and obvious manner, such as limping, panting, drooling, or lameness.

How much turmeric can I give my dog for pain?

The dosage will depend on the type of turmeric supplement and your dog's size, but the average recommended dosage is about 1/4 tsp for every 10 lbs. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's dosage recommendations as a starting place and slowly make adjustments as needed. 

What can I give my dog for tooth pain relief at home?

You may be tempted to offer a numbing agent or pain reliever to a dog with tooth pain, but you should never give them any medications or ointments made for humans without first talking to your vet. Dental pain has to be dealt with by a vet. Prescription painkillers for dogs may be recommended to reduce pain, but the only effective solution will be to get them appropriate dental care.


Dog Pain Management: Science VS Nature

It's the age-old debate of science versus nature. Fortunately, there is a place for both when it comes to managing your dog's pain. 

Though natural pain relief is often preferred for long-term pain management and minor injuries, it's not going to be as fast-acting or as potent as a prescription painkiller from your vet. 

Prescriptions manage pain fast, but the medications are often hard on your dog's body and are not recommended for long-term use. 

In these cases, weaning them onto a natural solution can be the next best thing once the diagnosis has been made and acute injury or illness has been treated. Be prepared for some supplements to take several weeks to reach their maximum effectiveness.

Talk to your vet about all the risks of both prescription and natural pain management aids to help make an informed decision that benefits your dog's health both short and long-term.

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.


    Most Popular Dog Posts

    Tips for Crafting Complete and Balanced Homemade Raw Dog Food

    How Long Can Dogs Hold Their Pee? How Long Can Puppy Hold Pee?

    Can Dogs Eat Raw Eggs? Benefits & Safety of Raw Eggs for dogs

    The Amazing Benefits of Goats Milk for Dogs | Can Dogs Drink Milk?

    Best Long Lasting Dog Chews to Keep Your Dog Busy