At some point in his life, your Boxer is unfortunately likely to require pain relief.
Before dosing your Boxer with pain medication, it’s important to understand that many of the most commonly used drugs, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs, come with troublesome side effects.
As a Boxer owner, you will want to do everything possible to avoid lumbering your dog with these problems, which can be much more long lasting and difficult to recover from than you might imagine when all you’re thinking of is how to make your dog feel better.
Natural approaches including diet, physical therapy and homeopathic remedies can be effective, non-toxic alternatives to pain meds.
I am not a vet. This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer.
How Do I Know If My Boxer Is In Pain?
Dogs tend to hide their weaknesses including pain.
This projection of strength served an evolutionary purpose, but can make it hard to tell when your Boxer is suffering — and to work out how severe his pain is.
With their history as fighting and hunting dogs, Boxers can tend to exhibit particularly high pain thresholds encased in stoic demeanors.
Pay attention to the subtle aspects of your Boxer’s behavior and you will notice if something is off.
Signs your Boxer may be in pain include:
- Irritability or behavioral/personality changes, sudden snappiness, aggression or withdrawal
- Changed posture or gait — is your Boxer holding or moving his body differently?
- Stiffness or difficulty getting up/down, inability to jump onto couch or into car
- Sagging tail
- Shaking or shivering
- Paw licking — can be a sign of many things, including referred nerve pain from the neck due to collar strain (Use a well-fitting harness instead)
- Exercise intolerance or lack of enthusiasm for normally favorite activities
- Lethargy, sleeping more than usual, unwillingness to move, mobility issues — dogs instinctively know rest is restorative
- Loss of appetite — like us, Boxers may go off their food if they’re not feeling good. Never force-feed a self-fasting dog
- Vocalizations e.g. yelps, whimpers whines (Only usually once pain is severe)
Can I Give My Boxer Aspirin?
Aspirin is an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often called a NSAID for short.
Your vet may be willing to recommend aspirin, but will usually do so with the following cautions:
- Very short term use, usually for an injury (long term use runs the risk of side effects including intestinal bleeding)
- Coated aspirin only — it’s less damaging to the stomach
- Always give tablets with food
If you are going to give your Boxer aspirin, don’t guess at the dose.
Talk to your vet.
In a general sense, here’s what you should know about this class of drugs.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or NSAIDs, are a common veterinary response to pain in dogs.
Veterinary NSAIDs often given to dogs include names you may recognize, such as:
- Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
- Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
- Firocoxib (Previcox)
- Meloxicam (Metacam)
Many conventionally-trained vets regard NSAIDs as safe — however the latest research suggests that’s far from the truth.
Author of The Forever Dog, Rodney Habib and “the most followed vet in the world”, integrative veterinarian Dr Karen Becker are among those raising awareness of the dangers of NSAIDs for dogs (and cats).
83 per cent of dogs in a recent study developed GI erosions, which are sores in the gut that can lead to ulcers.
Other studies have found the same thing, with dogs suffering gut damage in as few as seven days.
Scarily, the damage is often being done quietly, without it showing noticeable clinical signs.
Vets often try to mitigate the damage done by NSAIDs by prescribing “stomach protectants” like Prilosec or Omeprazole at the same time.
But research published in 2020 (listed in the References at the end of this article) found this exact combination of drugs can lead to a raging case of dysbiosis (imbalance in the gut microbiome) which can, in turn, lead to intestinal inflammation and a range of intractable health problems such as:
- Leaky gut
- Behavior problems
As well as gut damage, NSAIDs are known to cause other internal damage including:
- Liver damage and failure
- Kidney damage and failure
Beware that NSAIDs often clash with other medications in potentially dangerous ways and should usually not be given if your Boxer is already on other drugs.
Signs that your Boxer is experiencing damage as a result of NSAIDs (which is likely if the drug is given for more than three days) include:
- Tarry stools (indicative of bleeding in upper GI tract)
- Darker stools
- Change in appetite
- Increased water intake
Can I Give My Boxer Ibuprofen?
Another NSAID, all the above warnings about aspirin also apply to ibuprofen.
Can I Give My Boxer Paracetamol?
Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, is generally not considered a NSAID because it has only mild anti-inflammatory effects.
There is a form of paracetamol for dogs which your vet may prescribe in certain circumstances.
Can I Give My Boxer Human Pain Medicine?
The safest answer to this question is no, although in some cases a vet may be able to advise a safe dosage of a human pain medication for your Boxer.
Beware that the dosages on the packet you buy at the pharmacy refer to humans and will not be applicable to your Boxer.
There may be both a human and veterinary version of a particular drug.
The best option is always to use the preparation that’s been specifically tested in dogs.
It’s vital you consult a vet if you are needing to medicate your dog for pain, as there have been instances of dogs being poisoned by human medications, or accidentally overdosed by owners going it alone.
Natural Pain Relief For Your Boxer Dog
There are quite a few ways you can provide pain relief without resorting to drugs.
In doing so you will be avoiding the toxicity and side effects that come along with medicating your Boxer.
- Feed a fresh, natural raw canine diet — this will be rich in essential fatty acids, avoid the various inflammatory effects of a highly processed diet such as kibble, and lighten the toxic load on your Boxer’s body
- Include regular fasting in your Boxer’s routine — while owners often struggle with withholding food, fasting is a natural part of how dogs eat in the wild and is known to counter inflammation throughout the body while accelerating the liver’s detoxification pathways which help rid the body of disease-producing contaminants
- Offer whole food supplements like raw eggs (including the membrane) which contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, synthetic versions of which are sold as supplements for the relief of joint and soft tissue pain including arthritis. Apples, with the skin on, also contain the plant compound quercetin, dubbed “Nature’s Benadryl” for its antihistamine, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects
- Massage your Boxer — it’s as beneficial and pain-relieving for our dogs as it is for us, releasing feel-good chemicals and easing aching joints and strained muscles
- Do range of motion exercises — different to massage, these exercises are geared towards maintaining joint mobility
- Make sure your Boxer gets regular, gentle exercise to preserve flexibility and promote circulation — you may find low-impact forms of exercise that avoid jarring the joints help minimize pain e.g. swimming instead of walks or runs
- Provide a quality bed with orthopedic support and encourage your Boxer to sleep there rather than on hard surfaces
- Distract your Boxer with something he loves — there is little better than a raw meaty bone to absorb your Boxer in a wholly pleasurable activity. Devouring a bone has been shown to have psychological as well as nutritional and dental benefits for a carnivore, providing intense relaxation
- Engage your Boxer in mental activity and interactive play — “find it” games and other enrichment activities like snuffle mats and puzzles are something your Boxer can do inside and even when his condition doesn’t allow vigorous activity
- Maintain your Boxer at a healthy lean weight — most dogs are overweight, is your Boxer one of them? Obesity puts added stress on the joints and predisposes your Boxer to a range of health problems that degrade quality of life
- Lavish him with love and attention — a little TLC goes a long way. Even a brush or a petting session or a healthy treat helps remind your Boxer he is loved and not alone
- Have him wear a soft vest to provide relief from skin conditions and itching
- Ensure adequate rest — often all that’s required to heal a limp or other injury is a little time and staying off the limb. Combined with fasting, this will usually be a dog’s instinctive response to injury or illness. Give your Boxer time, peace and quiet and space to heal
- Exercise your Boxer on soft surfaces like grass, not concrete which is rough on both paws and joints
- Install stairs or ramps to spare your Boxer the pain of jumping down off furniture or out of the car
Alternatives To Pharmaceutical Pain Killers For Boxers
If you need something stronger for your Boxer’s pain in order to achieve a decent quality of life, it may be worth considering some innovative and integrative veterinary therapies such as:
- CBD oil — topical or oral, make sure it’s well sourced and the real deal
- Homeopathic remedies e.g. for bee sting
- Laser therapy
- Physical therapy such as hydrotherapy
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Golden paste — a turmeric-based recipe created by Australian vet Doug English as an alternative to hard drugs to treat pain, inflammation and itching. Doug has a Facebook group called the Turmeric User Group
- Herbal preparations, western and Chinese
- Medicinal foods like green lipped mussels
A holistic veterinarian may be best placed to either provide these healing modalities or refer you to someone who can.
How To Treat Chronic Pain In Your Boxer
Managing chronic pain is essential for your Boxer’s wellbeing.
However, before you reach for the medicine cabinet, it’s in your Boxer’s best interests to take a broader view and consider all the options.
It’s a sad reality that the side effects that flow from long term administration of painkillers are often not given due weight when making treatment decisions.
Whenever your vet recommends any drug, it is advisable to look it up so that you’re fully aware of all the possible side effects — many of which are not mentioned up front.
Lay people can access veterinary drug handbooks like Plumb’s so they can do their own research.
This way you can be proactive in making decisions regarding your Boxer’s care, and be in a position to advocate for your dog.
Explore all possible natural and non-pharmaceutical options in order to avoid the serious and sometimes permanent damage that tends to flow from extended drug use.
You won’t need pain relief if you can find and remove whatever’s causing the pain.
Causes Of Pain In Boxer Dogs
Your Boxer may be in pain as a result of:
- Poisoning or toxic accumulation (including as a result of ingesting chemical dewormers and flea/tick treatments and inhaling household cleaners or walking on grass treated with weedkillers etc)
How To Resolve The Cause Of Your Boxer’s Pain
While some pain may be the result of progressive, degenerative conditions, other pain may arise from conditions that are reversible.
Identifying and removing the cause of disease is, of course, the ultimate way to remove pain and may well be an option if your Boxer’s pain or discomfort is related to fixable conditions like:
- Itchiness or other skin problems which can be as simple as overwashing — are you bathing your Boxer more than four times a year? It’s too much
- Food allergies
- Stomach problems including Boxer colitis
- Paw gnawing or licking
- Gingival hyperplasia or gum overgrowth
- Ear “infection”
- Sore eyes
Other Common Pain Killers And Your Boxer
The trouble with many of the conventional veterinary approaches to pain management in dogs is that they create as many, or more, problems as they solve.
A few more common veterinary drugs to be aware of are mentioned here.
Your vet may want to prescribe Gabapentin if your Boxer has pain due to:
- Neural problems
- Post-operative issues
Gabapentin began life as a human medication, one that was given the nod by vets despite having been associated with a number of worrying side effects in people.
Research this drug carefully if it’s ever suggested for your Boxer.
A 2018 study found tramadol was ineffective for the relief of arthritic pain in dogs, adding to mounting evidence suggesting oral opiods don’t work for managing canine pain.
While not technically a pain killer, prednisone is often involved in the treatment of painful conditions.
A heavy duty steroid, prednisone is up there with antibiotics as one of the most overprescribed drugs in veterinary medicine.
It’s given in a range of doses depending on the desired effect.
At the lowest doses, prednisone is used to treat Addison’s disease by supplementing the body’s own cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone made by the adrenal glands.
At slightly higher doses, prednisone has an anti-pruritic (anti-itch) effect.
Increase the dose further and prednisone will have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Finally, at its highest doses, prednisone becomes a powerful immunosuppressant used to treat many different autoimmune conditions.
This article documents the extensive range of damaging effects that an 11-month course of high-dose prednisone had on an 18-month-old Boxer including severe gut damage, liver swelling, muscle wastage, mood disturbances, obesity and a condition called calcinosis circumscripta where lumps of calcium-phosphate form on bony prominences throughout the body.
Guidelines For Giving Pain Medication To Your Boxer
As with any drugs, pain medication should only ever be used:
- For the shortest possible duration
- When demonstrated to be effective, both for the condition and for the particular dog
- When absolutely necessary
- After less toxic alternatives have failed
What Can I Give My Boxer For Hip Pain Or Joint Pain?
When it comes to healthy joints, prevention is far more effective than cure.
Hip dysplasia and other joint problems in Boxers are often traceable to how the dog is managed in puppyhood.
Overexercise and neutering/spaying before the age of two, when bone plates fuse, can predispose a Boxer to arthritis and other joint issues as an adult.
If your Boxer is experiencing joint pain in his later years, there are many non-pharmaceutical ways to make your senior Boxer’s life more comfortable.
What is considered old age for a Boxer?
Learn more about the typical Boxer dog lifespan and how to extend it.
Can I Give My Boxer Pepto Bismol?
Pepto-Bismol is not a painkiller, but an anti-nausea drug that can be used to treat diarrhea and stomach upset of the kind associated with heartburn and indigestion in humans.
Rather than medicating your Boxer to mask symptoms of stomach upset including acid reflux, it’s important to get to the bottom of the problem.
The culprit is frequently dietary, namely the consumption of highly processed dog food like kibble.
It’s understandable to want to “do something” when you see your Boxer in pain.
However, medicating your Boxer with pain killers may land him in a worse situation because of the cascade of bodily changes these drugs can cause.
It’s preferable to treat pain by natural means, ideally by identifying and removing the cause — which often boils down to fixing dietary mistakes and other shortcomings in basic care.
If the condition is too far advanced, alternative therapies and homeopathic remedies may have a role.
Budsberg, Steven C, DVM et al, Lack of effectiveness of tramadol hydrochloride for the treatment of pain and joint dysfunction in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018
Department of Justice, Warner-Lambert to Pay $430 Million To Resolve Criminal and Civil Health Care Liability Relating to Off-Label Promotion, May 13 2004
English, Doug, Turmeric User Group, Facebook
Habib, Rodney, What everyone should know before giving NSAIDs (pain meds) to their pets! You Tube, March 1 2021
Jones, Susan M et al, The effect of combined carprofen and omeprazole administration on gastrointestinal permeability and inflammation in dogs, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2020
Gruenstern, Jodie, DVM, The Problem With NSAIDs For Dogs, Dogs Naturally Magazine, 2019
IBM Micromedex, Gabapentin (Oral Route), Mayo Clinic, Retrieved from website October 2021
Lomas, Amy L and Grauer, Gregory F, The renal effects of NSAIDs in dogs, Journal of American Animal Hospital Association, 2015
Mabry, Kasey et al, Prevalence of gastrointestinal lesions in dogs chronically treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2021
Pitcairn, Richard, DVM, Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Rodale, 2017
WebMD, Pain Medications for Dogs, WebMD, retrieved from website October 2021