My elderly dog fell down some steps recently and now she’s favoring one hind leg…What can I give her for pain relief? Aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol? I don’t know and don’t want to poison her. She’s not limping all the time so perhaps it’s a bit of arthritis starting. — Yvonne W., via Facebook
An elderly dog that acquires/develops a lameness after even a small injury is an urgent concern. There are many, many potential causes for this symptom. You are correct in that arthritis is a common problem in older dogs, and that it usually starts out slowly. Unfortunately, our older patients are also more likely to develop bone and soft tissue tumors that cause lameness as the initial symptom. Skin infections, especially when hidden under long or matted hair, can be very painful and cause the pet to favor a limb. Ingrown or overgrown toenails can do this, too. Deep fungal infections often affect the bone and will be very painful. A fracture, or broken bone, will be so painful that it is non-weight bearing and it should be obvious that a trip to your veterinarian is needed immediately.
We also commonly see ligament injuries to the rear limbs in dogs. The incidence of these injuries seems to be increasing. Ligament tears are very serious and it is best to treat them surgically sooner rather than later in order to avoid painful degenerative joint disease which will progress if left untreated.
The take home message here is that the proper diagnosis should be made before any treatment is initiated.
In fact, the medications you mentioned are not recommended for use in dogs because we have newer and safer drugs that are much superior for control of pain, and have been developed just for dogs. I have many patients that simply would not be alive if it were not for these medications making them so much more comfortable.
Aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can both be used in dogs at the correct dose, but their use is not recommended due to potentially severe side effects and comparative lack of effectiveness. Ibuprofen can cause life-threatening gastric ulcers and perforations, so it is never recommended.
Remember here that we are discussing dogs! Cats are another creature altogether! Don’t you dare use these drugs for your feline friend!!!
Bottom line: Get the diagnosis first, and then have your veterinarian decide on the best medication for your pet!
(Send your questions to: “Ask DocRic”, Roan Mountain Animal Hospital, P.O. Box 159, Roan Mountain, TN 37687, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit us at: RMAH.org and “like” us on Facebook!)