Combating Pain Safely in Cats and Dogs

In Animal Health, cat first aid, Cats, Dog Behavior, Dogs, pet care professional, pet cpr, Pet Death, Pet First Aid, Pet Safety, senior pets, vet tech, veterinarian, Wound care by Cara Armour

By Arden Moore


Appropriately, it is a dreaded four-letter word. Noticing your cat limp and gingerly enter the litterbox or seeing your dog race out the backdoor, slip off the porch and land hard on the ground can definitely alarm you and prompt you to want to relieve the pain pronto.

That’s why I reached out to one of the world’s top experts in pain management for pets: Dr. Robin Downing, DVM. She is a veterinarian board-certified as a veterinary pain practitioner and canine rehabilitation practitioner who heads The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colorado. She is also the hospital director at Windsor Veterinary Clinic.

“Fixing pain in pets is one of the most rewarding activities I’ve been involved in during my career,” she says. She shares good news. There is good news. In recent years, there has been a great focus on discovering ways to manage pain in pets. This has led to new medications as well as advances in other therapies.

These include:

  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Therapeutic laser treatment (known as photobiomodulation)
  • CBD oil and joint supplements. Dr. Downing says to make sure the supplement product contains the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) quality seal on the label.

Taking a Closer Look at Popular Pain Meds for Pets

Based on a physical exam and possibly, lab tests, a veterinarian may decide to prescribe a pain medication for your cat or dog. The four most commonly prescribed medications are:

  • Gabapentin
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
  • Prednisone
  • Tramadol

Gabapentin acts as a sedative and pain reliever heralded for safe use with little to no side effects. It is being used in veterinary clinics more to ease pain in cats during examinations. Dr. Downing saw its effectiveness on her senior cat, Muffin, who had painful arthritis in her knees and muscle joints.

“Muffin could barely walk, but by giving her the right dose of gabapentin daily, she was able to easily walk around our 6,000-square-foot veterinary hospital,” says Dr. Downing. “Muffin lived to be 24 years old. Pain management not only added years to her life, but added life to her years.”

NSAIDs formulated for dogs include Galliprant, Meloxicam, Previcox and Rimadyl. These drugs can aid in relieving both acute and chronic pain as well as inflammation. But Dr. Downing says that long-term use can impact a pet’s organs.

Prednisone is a steroid often prescribed for dogs with Addison’s disease as well as canines experiencing intense pain, fevers or lymphoma. This steroid works quickly and effectively to ease pain and reduce swelling, but long-term use can make pets more at risk for diabetes, a weakened immune system and liver disease.

Tramadol is an opioid that blocks pain pathways in the body and is often prescribed to control pain following a surgery as well as to deal with chronic pain, such as arthritis, in cats and dogs. This is an inexpensive, effective pain-easing drug heralded for its safety. In limited cases, however, it can cause constipation in some pets.

Tune in to learn more with Dr. Downing

I invited Dr. Robin Downing to be my special guest to discuss pain management on my nationally syndicated weekly radio show called, Arden Moore’s Four Legged Life Show. The show also airs on my Arden Moore YouTube channel. Dr. Downing discussed pain in cats on this episode: And, she share how to help dogs in pain on this episode:

The Dangers of OTC Pain Meds Given to Pets

When you experience a muscle ache or a throbbing headache, you may reach for a bottle of aspirin to provide relief. But many over-the-counter pain relievers safe and effective for people are dangerous and even fatal if ingested by cats and dogs.

OTCs for pain fall into two groups: NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) and acetaminophen. NSAIDs include aspirin, baby aspirin and ibuprofen. When given to cats and dogs, they can incur vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, bleeding issues and even kidney or liver failure.

Advil, Motrin and Aleve are examples of NSAIDs. Tylenol is one of the most recognized OTC containing acetaminophen. Cats are so sensitive to this drug that even swallowing one pill can be fatal. In dogs, this drug can damage their kidneys and even cause the liver to shut down.

Bottom line: never give your pet any pain medication without consulting your veterinarian first.

Learn Pet First Aid

Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR– ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home
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