What are the options for managing chronic or recurrent pain in dogs?

What are the options for managing chronic or recurrent pain in dogs?

Health & Safety

If your dog has an illness or injury that causes them pain, that pain will generally be transient and only remain for as long as the illness or injury is present, and once this has been mended or treated, the pain tends to pass as well.

This is not always the case if a condition leaves lingering issues or complications, but when it comes to short-term pain with a finite end point, pain management for dogs is usually fairly simple, and often, strong painkillers for short term use are used, whereas such medications would have side effects of their own if given long-term for other problems.

Managing chronic, ongoing or recurrent pain in dogs can be complex, because there are so many different factors to consider.

Keeping the dog comfortable is of course one of these, but you also have to ensure that the effects of the medication don’t worsen the condition itself as your dog no longer feels the pain that warns them to take it steadily. Additionally, many conditions that can be long-term or chronic like arthritis tend to come and go, and be more or less painful at different times, which means that a set medication at the same dosage every day is not always appropriate.

Another potential issue is that the long-term use of many if not most medications come with potential side effects of their own, and which can actually cause secondary problems or complications in the dogs that take them, even in some cases resulting in health conditions that are as serious or problematic as the original issue itself.

This means that your vet will need to consider a wide range of factors when it comes to helping your dog to manage chronic or recurrent pain, and not all of these will involve medications – and it can be helpful for dog owners to know about some of the different types of options that your vet will consider, and how they might help.

With this in mind, this article will explain the most common and effective options for managing, reducing or preventing chronic or recurrent pain in dogs. Read on to learn more.

Veterinary prescription meds

One option that is of course widely used and often the most appropriate or only effective method of treating a dog with chronic or recurrent pain is with prescription medications. Whether these are designed to ease pain, reduce inflammation or strengthen the body’s responses, there are a huge range of different types of medications from analgesics to steroids and more that your vet may prescribe.

Some of these may have side effects or may potentially cause secondary complications with long term use, and your vet should discuss this with you. Weighing up the risks versus the benefits is vital, and using such meds as needed and reviewing them regularly is really important too.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy for dogs might involve massage, chiropractic services and a range of other treatments that may be used instead of or as well as prescription medications and other things to keep your dog comfortable, improve their range of movement, and reduce pain.

These are not appropriate for all painful conditions, but can be very helpful for some dogs in some situations.


Hydrotherapy is basically a type of water-based physical therapy that provides a warm water environment to ease aches and pains, along with low-impact exercise directed safely by a canine hydrotherapist. This type of treatment can be useful for a wide range of painful canine health conditions, perhaps most notably arthritis.

Most vets can refer you to a local recommended hydrotherapist, and such treatment is usually covered by most comprehensive pet insurance policies too.

Lifestyle modifications

Lifestyle modifications can make things easier for your dog and reduce their pain, or avoid worsening existing pain. These might be things like making it easier for your dog to get around, such as by installing ramps in place of steps in the home, or changing the type and duration of exercise your dog gets to avoid impacts and further damage.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes that can be made for and to your dog directly can help with pain management too. For instance, a dog with bone or joint problems will benefit a lot from losing any excess weight and getting fitter, and this will also ease the pain on sore or painful joints too.

Surgical correction of an underlying issue

In some situations, certain problems that can cause chronic or recurrent pain (such as congenital health problems) might be able to be corrected or at least improved with surgery. This is not the case for all conditions and may not herald a total cure, but this is something else your vet might consider if applicable.

Supplements and vitamins

Your vet might suggest giving your dog certain types of supplements or vitamins that have been proven to support health or ease certain issues, such as inflammation, chronic pain or nerve disorders, although this is usually a supportive treatment rather than something used as a standalone approach.

Alternative medicines

Finally, alternative medicines are a bit of a grey area in veterinary circles, and whilst some dog owners and even vets swear by things like homeopathy, many so-called natural or alternative remedies (with homeopathy being one) have been fully proven to be ineffective and have no scientific basis.

However, things like acupuncture, laser heat and cooling treatments and a range of other non-invasive alternative medicines or treatments may be considered by some vets, and can usually be used alongside of other more traditional and proven forms of treatment without any contraindications.

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