6 Alternatives for Treating Chronic Pain in Dogs

6 Alternatives for Treating Chronic Pain in Dogs

Chronic pain is a common medical issue in dogs. Dogs often experience chronic arthritic pain in the hip, knee, back, and other joints in the body.

The first course of treatment in these dogs typically include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, or Previcox. These oral medication are commonly prescribed because they are the most effective and provide the quickest relief in many dogs. However, despite their ability to provide pain relief, there are dogs unable to have these medications for various reasons. There are dogs who experience sensitivity to NSAID’s which manifests as loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Since NSAIDs require the kidneys and liver to be metabolized, they are not recommended in pets who have evidence of liver or kidney disease. Also NSAIDS can’t be given to dogs while they are on other medications such as prednisone because of potential complications.

What options are there for dogs who are not candidates for NSAID’s?

Do they have to suffer with chronic pain?

Are there alternatives that will provide the same amount of relief as NSAIDS?

Fortunately, there are other options for pain control for these dogs which we will discuss below.

Adequan (Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan)

I considered this to be a super version of glucosamine because of its actions on the joints. It works by protecting the joint cartilage from enzymes that can cause inflammation and damage to the cartilage. It is administered as an injection that is given twice a week for about a month and sometimes given once monthly for maintenance. This is a great alternative for dogs that may be sensitive to NSAIDs.

Omega Fatty Acids

These alone rarely provide pain relief but they can definitely help reduce the amount of NSAIDS needed for pain management. They work by reducing production of certain inflammatory mediators that  contribute to arthritic pain.

Extracoporeal Shock Wave Therapy

This therapy is typically administered during a physical therapy session and involves the use of high pressure sound waves. These sound waves are believed to stimulate specific growth factors in the bone that help with healing. It is also believed that these waves help inhibit pain signals.

Cold Therapeutic Laser Therapy

Cold laser therapy involves applying a low level laser to the affected area. This is believed to help provide pain relief of osteoarthritis in some dogs. The exact mechanism behind the pain relief is uncertain and needs further study but can be a great help for dogs with chronic pain.

Chiropractic Care

Though it is not a common form of treatment for chronic pain, it is  becoming more prevalent as more pet owners are looking for alternatives to manage chronic pain. Just like in humans, it involves the adjustment of mis-aligned vertebrae to help alleviate pain and increase flexibility in dogs. Veterinarians and even chiropractors can become certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association to perform these procedures on dogs.


Veterinary acupuncture is based on an ancient Chinese practice which involves the use of needles to treat various ailments in humans. In some dogs it has been successful in providing pain relief for those with chronic arthritis. Acupuncture involves placing needles in specific points of the body which may stimulate release of pain relieving substances, and allow for relaxation of the muscles.

As you can see there are quite a few options for providing pain relief in your dog without the use of drugs. So if your dog is one of those who are sensitive to oral pain medications, or you are concerned about side effects of some of the common medications prescribed, you can ask your veterinarian if any of those alternatives may be right for your dog.

Dwight Alleyne, DVM
Dwight Alleyne, DVM is the author of the Animal Doctor Blog, a blog that provides veterinary information about cats and dogs through articles and product reviews. He has almost 20 years of animal experience with 10 years as a veterinary technician and more than 9 years as a veterinarian. He currently practices in Georgia at a small animal practice where he provides veterinary services through surgeries and medical consultations. When he is not working, Dr. Alleyne enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter, and 7 year old cat named Queen.

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