Dogs can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but they should not be given the human version of these medications, according to WebMD. Special drugs are manufactured specifically to treat pain in dogs, such as meloxicam, deracoxib, firocoxib, tepoxalin and carprofen. In some cases, a vet may approve short-term use of aspirin.
All NSAIDs available to dogs must be obtained through veterinarians with a prescription, notes WebMD. During the course of treatment, it's important for a dog owner to monitor a pet's symptoms and stop treatment immediately if the dog exhibits personality changes, becomes lethargic, refuses food or water, develops skin irritation, passes unusual stools, or begins vomiting, as these are all signs that the medication is causing an adverse reaction. NSAIDs must be administered with food to protect a dog's intestines, kidneys and liver from possible damage.
Veterinarians don't commonly prescribe stronger painkillers, but these drugs do exist in cases where NSAID treatment is not enough. Examples of such medications include amantadine and gabapentin, both of which are also prescribed to humans for various forms of nerve damage pain. Tramadol is a strong opiate derived from poppies and may be prescribed to old dogs who are suffering from general malaise. WebMD warns against using steroids for pain management, as they can cause dangerous health complications in dogs.