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Pain Management in Dogs

How can you tell if your dog is in pain? 

Nobody knows your dog better than you but all dogs are different and so depending on multiple factors, pain in your dog may not always be easy to spot.  

With a sudden onset of acute pain the signs are likely to be unmissable but on-going lower level pain in a stoic dog could go undetected.   

It is important to know the signs of pain in dogs so you can look out for any changes in behaviour, mobility, vocalisation, social interactions, appetite and toileting etc.  

There are many signs of pain in dogs, below is a list of some of the more common signs. 

  • Vocalisation – howling, yelping, whining 
  • Withdrawing from social interaction or seeking more affection than normal 
  • Decreased appetite, changes to normal drinking and sleeping habits 
  • Scratching, biting, licking own body 
  • Excessive panting, ears flattened, glazed eyes, enlarged pupils 
  • Reluctance to be touched/handled 
  • Change in mobility e.g. limping, difficulty in getting up, hunched back, reluctance to move 
  • Trembling, hiding, lapses in toileting outside 

 dog howling in pain

What should you do if you think your dog is in pain? 

Always contact your Vet for advice if you think your dog is in pain. Getting the correct diagnosis to pinpoint the source or cause of the pain is vital so that the most effective management and treatment plan can be put in place. 

It is important to always contact your Vet immediately, even if the signs of pain are subtle as most injury, illness or disease is easier to treat if it is detected early.   

 seek veterinary advice if your dog is in pain

What can cause pain in dogs? 

Just like humans, there are many different reasons a dog can feel pain and the duration and severity can vary greatly. An injury or short illness, such as a virus, may cause temporary pain but some underlying conditions such as arthritis may require on-going management. Some examples of underlying causes of pain in dogs include: 

  • Dermatological conditions 
  • Ear and urinary tract infections  
  • Back problems 
  • Dental disease 
  • Cancer 
  • Neurological illness 
  • Hip Dysplasia 

 pain in dogs

What can be done to manage pain in dogs? 

Once your Vet has identified the cause of the pain they may prescribe pain relief, for example non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They may also recommend supplements, changes to exercise routine and adaptions in the home.  

Some conditions may also require treatment such as physical therapy and surgery. Your Vet will discuss the best treatment options and management for your dog.  

physical therapy for dogs

Many Golden Paste Company customers use our Turmeric Supplements to help with pain relief.  

Turmeric and Curcumin (the most researched bioactive component of turmeric) are natural anti-inflammatories and hold antioxidant properties. They can help reduce the inflammation associated with various conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. 

Curcumin and NSAIDs can be compared as they have similar mechanisms. 

Bioactives (compounds that have an effect on the body) in Curcumin can interact with two pain reduction and anxiety systems – GABA and endocannabinoid. 

There have been many studies that show curcumin not only has positive effects on inflammation but can also reduce pain through the nervous system. 


What is pain and how does it affect the dog’s body? 

Pain is a neural response to specific receptors at the nerve endings and is perceived as a threat to the integrity of the area. In the majority of cases, this is through a system called nociception (the detection of painful stimuli). 

In the case of an inflammatory response, and an obvious example would be osteoarthritis, there is a series of steps: 

  1. Physical damage, wear & tear, or allergen recognition stimulates a local release of inflammatory mediators into the environment. 
  1. Within these are a range of compounds, such as Cytokines, TNF, Il, PGE2 etc. 
  1. Free nerve ended receptors, nociceptors, are specialised nerve endings that are present throughout the body. Although absent in, for example, articular cartilage, they are present locally and would be sensitive to: 
  1. Inflammatory mediators binding to the nociceptor terminal. This sensitises the nociceptor 
  1. Sensitised nociceptors increase the sensation of pain, resulting in hyperalgesia. 


The science behind inflammation and pain management 

Within the context of inflammation and its relationship with oxidative stress, the role of antioxidants in the support of the inflammatory cycle, and the overall stasis between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory markers, there is a pivotal role for the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase (COX). COX mediates the conversion of arachidonic acid into the prostaglandin, PGE, which is itself a pro-inflammatory mediator, enabling the release of cytokines etc. 

There are two forms of COX, I & II, having different functions within the prostaglandins. COX I is associated with normal physiological functions of the prostaglandins, whilst COX II, being inducible (responding to stress), is the pro-inflammatory route. 

 anti-inflammatory drugs

How do NSAIDs work? 

Historically, NSAID inhibits COX activity, resulting in reduction of prostaglandin synthesis. This reduces those factors, such as cytokines, that stimulate the nociceptors, thereby reducing the level of hyperalgesia, the pain threshold, and pain itself. Although its anti-inflammatory route is effective, the down regulation of functional PG is the basis for their observed side effects, including newly developed NSAID are increasingly becoming COX II specific, but many still carry side effects.  


How can Turmeric help pain in dogs? 

Bioactives are active ingredients in foodstuffs that can have a role in the oxidative-inflammatory pathways. They cover a vast number of chemicals including terpenoids, polyphenol & carotenoids. 

Turmeric, for example, contains a number of terpenes (turmerones), colourants (curcumoids) and the phenolic curcumin. Curcumin has strongly antioxidant properties and its mode of action includes its support of pro-oxidative, and suppression of antioxidative enzymes. Mainly it acts on COX II, whilst the terpenes are thought to impact NOX, which also helps relieve oxidative stress, and the production of inflammatory markers through that route. 

By apparently avoiding COX I interaction, it can be said that turmeric, or its component curcumin, acts as a NSAID, but without the side effects. 

 using turmeric for dogs in pain

Further reading… 

Top Five Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs 

Arthritis in Dogs – Millie’s Story  

Dogs and Turmeric: What You Need To Know 

Understanding Canine Tumours 

Click here to view our range of natural and effective Turmeric Supplements for dogs.



Yvonne D’Arcya, Patrick Mantyhb, Tony Yaksh c, Sean Donevand, Jerry Hall e, Mojgan Sadrarhamid and Lars Viktrup. Treating osteoarthritis pain: mechanisms of action of acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, and nerve growth factor antibodies. POSTGRADUATE MEDICINE 2021, VOL. 133, NO. 8, 879–894  

Khalid Al-Karbi, Muneera Al-Muhannadi, Yosaf Al-Rabeei ,Rashed J. Al-Kubaisi, Ahamad Bawazir, Mohamed H Mahmoud. Efficacy of curcumin on inflammatory pain across different disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis of Randomized controlled trials. World Family Medicine. 2021; 19(8): 47-55  

Livingston A.  tMechanism of action of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice [Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract] 2000 Jul; Vol. 30 (4), pp. 773-81, 

Marczylo TH, Verschoyle RD, Cooke DN, Morazzoni P, Steward WP, Gescher AJ. Comparison of systemic availability of curcumin with that of curcumin formulated with phosphatidylcholine.. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2007 Jul;60(2):171-7. 

Singh S, Pal M, Lehri A, Tewari SK. Bioological activities of rhizome & leaf essential oil of turmeric (curcuma longa l.).Intl J Basic Appl Res.2013. 15. 349-357. 

Stefanon B, Colitti M, Gaspardo B, Farinacci M. Dietary administration of Curcumin modifies transcriptional profile of genes involved in inflammatory cascade in horse leukocytes. Italian Journal of Animal Science, Vol 8, Iss 2s, Pp 84-86 (2010). 


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