The last thing any pet owner wants to see is their dog suffering, especially after procedures like surgery or vaccinations.
While it’s quite regular for shots to be painful even in the hours or days following injection, it doesn’t stop us from worrying and wondering about how we can help to alleviate some of that discomfort.
Pain after vaccination usually stems from 3 sources: The actual physical trauma caused at the injection site, vaccine side effects, and allergic reactions.
There are a few different things that you can do to help your pup feel more comfortable, but most often our thoughts first turn to, “What can I give my dog for pain after shots?”
While medication can undoubtedly be useful to relieve pain, many common OTC human pain-killers such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Aleve are in fact toxic to dogs even in small amounts. Do not under any circumstances give those medicines to your dog.
Aspirin is one medication that can be administered to dogs for pain relief, at a dosage 5-10mg per pound of body weight every 8 hours. Extreme care must be taken that it is dosed properly, as an overdose can result in internal bleeding, organ damage, and seizures.
Benadryl may also be given at ½mg per pound if the dog is suffering from mild allergic symptoms, such as hives or facial swelling. However, it is recommended that you still take it to the vet ASAP as the extent of the allergic reaction is uncertain.
Finally, there may be alternative, better ways to relieve your dog’s temporary pain after injections. These include natural anti-inflammatory options such as turmeric and feverfew, as well as simply giving it lots of attention and making it feel as warm and cozy as possible.
Yes, dogs do hurt after shots!
It’s important to remember that for a vaccination to occur, a sharp needle has to be pushed through the skin at the injection site so that the medication can be administered into the bloodstream.
Pain, vaccine reactions, and allergic reactions can all occur within minutes or hours after vaccination.
In the first couple of hours after receiving a vaccine, dogs can be particularly sensitive to the pain around the injection site- especially if the vet inserted the needle into muscle rather than just beneath the skin.
A small, firm nodule or lump may even develop at the site, which is a sign that the body’s immune system has become active at the location, or that the lymph nodes have become enlarged. These lumps may be sore, but should subside within a week.
Hives, itching, persistent vomiting, difficulty breathing and a swollen face are all somewhat common side effects and indicators that a potentially severe allergic reaction is taking place.
These anaphylactic reactions can start mildly but progress rapidly to become lethal. If any of these reactions are displayed, the dog must be taken immediately to the emergency vet for life-saving procedures.
Vaccine side effects vary greatly in type and degree, and can include soreness, muscle aches, diarrhea, swelling and fever. Besides these mild side effects, it is also quite common for a dog to be woozy, lethargic, and quieter than usual in the first day following shots.
The very nature of vaccines is the reason for these adverse reactions.
As the vaccine makes its way through the dog’s body, it stimulates the immune system just enough to produce antibodies- without actually triggering the actual disease. At the same time, this process releases chemicals that can cause inflammation and raise the body’s temperature.
It is quite normal for these negative symptoms to last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, though for older dogs or those that are more sensitive the discomfort can persist for even longer than that.
As mentioned above, if the dog is experiencing severe allergic reactions it’s vital to take it to the emergency vet as quickly as you can. In general, if a dog is not back to its usual self after 2 days, it would be a good idea to contact your veterinarian for advice and further assessment.
Though rare, some dogs can also experience acute, life-threatening vaccine reactions that result in organ failure and neurological disorder. These need to be treated through hospitalization with a combination of IV fluids, epinephrine, steroids and Atropine injections.
Regular vaccinations for dogs have been so thoroughly tested and refined that they can be regarded as extremely safe, and are unlikely to produce any lasting or long-term pain.
Therefore, pain medication is not usually necessary for relief except in the most severe of circumstances. Moreover, human medications should never be given to a dog without prior consultation with a professionally-trained vet.
Medications that you MUST not give your dog under any circumstances include:
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
Ingestion of even a small amount of these common OTC human medications can cause serious complications and poisoning in dogs, and may result in organ failure, coma, and death.
Despite pain medication being largely unnecessary after a dog has received shots, most pet owners still wonder if anything can be safely given to our pups.
After all, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see our best friends hurting so much– especially when they are usually so stoic and hide their discomfort so well.
The only medication that may be acceptable for use as a pain-killer in dogs is aspirin, though it’s not without its own set of risks. It should only ever be used for temporary relief, as long-term use can lead to seizures and internal bleeding.
Aspirin is sometimes prescribed for use in dogs as it is absorbed quickly and spreads efficiently to areas of pain and tissue inflammation.
However poisoning can also very easily occur if the dosage isn’t managed correctly, as the removal time in dogs is four times higher than it is in humans.
Additionally, dogs that have existing conditions like clotting disorders or kidney disease can be more likely to experience aspirin poisoning.
As you can see, aspirin needs to be administered very carefully, and can be given safely at a dosage of 5 to 10mg per pound of body weight every 8 hours.
Opt for the coated or buffered aspirin if you have it as it is much gentler on a dog’s stomach, and make sure that it is given with food.
At any point if your dog becomes sleepier than usual or lethargic, stop giving the medication immediately.
Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine that can be used to treat allergy symptoms. It can be effective for reducing the soreness and swelling that results from vaccination.
It can also be used as a pre-treatment and first-line option if your dog appears to be having a visible allergic reaction, such as hives or facial swelling. Note that you should still take it to the vet straight afterwards as the extent of the allergy is yet unknown.
Benadryl can be given to dogs at a dosage of half their body weight (pounds) in milligrams every 12 hours. As an example: If your dog weighs 20 pounds, you can give it 10mg for functional relief.
Loratadine (Claritin) is a good alternative antihistamine that can also be given dogs to treat swelling and allergic reactions after shots.
Loratadine can be given to dogs at a dosage of 0.12mg to 0.22mg per pound of body weight. Dogs that are under 20 pounds are usually given 5 milligrams total per day, while canines that are 21 to 50 pounds are given 10 milligrams a day.
In situations where your dog is experiencing prolonged, excruciating pain, the best course of action would be to take it back to the vet for an examination. The vet will also be able to provide prescription-only NSAID medication if he deems it necessary, such as:
These Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are effective and usually safe for dogs. They work by controlling the enzymes involved in the inflammatory processes inside the body. However, like with all medications some side effects are still possible.
The most common side effects of NSAIDs are vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lethargy and a loss of appetite. More serious adverse reactions can include stomach ulcers, kidney damage and liver problems- which are more likely to occur if the vet’s instructions are not followed.
There are many options out there which may be able to help reduce inflammation and pain, without the associated negative side effects that traditional medications carry.
Turmeric, an orange spice that comes from a plant of the ginger family, is one of the most-studied medicinal herbs that can be used to treat pain and inflammation.
It contains a powerful antioxidant called curcumin, which reduces inflammation by neutralizing harmful free radicals in the body.
Turmeric is extremely potent- so much so that a study conducted on humans has shown that it works just as well or even better than other anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen or aspirin.
Turmeric can be safely given to dogs at a dosage of 15-20mg/pound of body weight.
Feverfew is a flowering plant whose leaves are commonly dried and used for medicine. It contains many different beneficial chemicals, such as one called parthenolide, which can help to reduce pain.
While Feverfew is most commonly used for migraine headaches, it is also able to relieve pain in vascular, reproductive, and gastrointestinal settings. It has the ability to relax muscles and cause vasodilation, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the 80 chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its more famous fellow cannabinoid THC, it is not psychoactive and does not cause a ‘high’.
Instead, CBD shares many of the same biochemical pathways as the NSAIDs mentioned in the above section, and can be very effective in reducing inflammatory pain while still being very safe at the same time.
CBD oil can be given orally to dogs at a conservative dosage of 1-2mgs per pound of body weight, twice a day.
Unfortunately, dogs don’t understand the importance of getting vaccinated, or why they have to get shots.
The experience may leave them both in physical pain and mental confusion, so it’s very important to make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible when they’re not feeling so well afterwards.
No matter how long you’ve been a dog owner, you will be keenly aware by now that dogs love attention! Well, when they’re hurting, they usually LOVE it even more- so definitely heap on as much as you can while it’s feeling unwell.
This is not always the case though. Sometimes, a dog may just want a quiet, cozy place to rest and forget its troubles for a while. If this appears to be true with your pup, don’t be too concerned; check on them often, but try not to disturb them.
When it wants special attention, your dog will come to you. Another way you can help to cheer it up and make it forget its pain is by offering its favorite foods, treats and toys.
If the injection site is swollen and painful, applying a warm (but not hot) compress for 15 minutes every 6 to 8 hours can help to reduce the discomfort.
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your pup’s temperature over the next couple of days with the use of a rectal thermometer. The normal temperature range for dogs is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit; if your dog falls outside this range, take it to the vet for a checkup ASAP.
Finally, it may also be helpful to monitor other bodily functions, such as heart and respiratory rate, for any abnormalities:
- Normal heart rate should be 100-140 bpm for small breeds, and 60-100 beats per minute for large breeds.
- Normal breathing rate should be somewhere between 15-20 breaths per minute.
If you encounter anything outside of these ranges, it may be best to consult with your vet on the best course of action.
When a dog or puppy is yelping after vaccinations and in visible pain, there’s nothing we want more in the moment than to reduce its discomfort.
There are multiple ways in which you can accomplish this, such as through appropriate medications, natural remedies, or simply by physically making it as relaxed as possible.
While many chemicals like acetaminophen and naproxen are unsafe for dogs to ingest, aspirin and Benadryl are two medicines that can be given to canines. However, significant care still must be taken in regards to dosing aspirin as it is very easy for adverse effects to result.
It may be a better move to use alternative, natural options like turmeric, feverfew or CBD oil to reduce pain and inflammation. Not only are these options just as (or in some cases, even more) potent as their chemical counterparts, but they also come with minimal side effects.
Finally, in many instances, all a dog requires after getting shots is a whole lot of attention and love! By giving it hugs, treats, and favorite foods aplenty, your pup will be back to its normal self in no time!
Heather Abraham is a professional blogger who owns two dogs, a cat, a parrot, and a leopard gecko. She has a connection with animals since she was a child. She shares her love for all pet breeds and provides information on pet food, toys, medications, beds, and everything else.
She is committed to learning about the internal workings of animals. Her work permits her to work closely with knowledgeable vets and obtain practical expertise in animal care. When she is not working, her love of animals continues in her writing. Her goal is to educate and uplift readers who also have a passion for animals through her writing.