As loving pet parents, one of the worst situations we can experience is seeing our dogs in pain and discomfort. After all, our dogs are members of our family, and we want them to be as happy and healthy as possible. Whether your pup has been stung by a bee or your senior dog suffers from arthritis, it’s tough to watch as your best canine companion is in distress. There are prescribed forms of pain management for dogs, but there are emerging natural pain relief options, too.
When you own a dog, you will eventually become all too familiar with the types of pain medication available for canines. Pain relief is an important and necessary concern when your dog is injured or ill, but not all dogs react well to veterinary-prescribed medications. Because of these issues, more pet parents are turning to natural pain remedies to help their pup feel better. What are natural pain relief remedies, and which ones are right for your dog?
Natural pain relief through supplements
The use of natural pain relief supplements is a field growing in popularity amongst many pet parents who want an alternative method to alleviate their pup’s discomfort. While there is significant misinformation about natural pain supplements, here are a few that are proven through research to be safe for use in dogs.
Pain is the result of inflammation within the body, and turmeric is a natural way to calm flare-ups. Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound that has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and wound healing capabilities. This natural supplement can help ease a variety of medical conditions, including:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Liver disease
Studies have found that turmeric provides better pain relief than ibuprofen. Because turmeric has a low absorption rate, it moves through the body quickly. To keep it in your pup’s system long enough to be effective, create a paste with turmeric, coconut oil, black pepper, and water. Feed the paste in small amounts throughout the day, ¼ teaspoon for small dogs per meal and ½ teaspoon for medium and large breeds.
A resin from the Boswellia Serrata tree, Boswellia has been used as a natural anti-inflammatory by people for centuries. It improves circulation, increases joint lubrication, and shrinks inflamed tissue. As such, Boswellia is a common supplement chosen as a treatment for dogs with chronic joint pain and osteoarthritis. It may also help manage pain in these canine illnesses:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Canine Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal disease
Although Boswellia is safe for dogs, in some pups, it may cause side effects, including diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E
Essential fatty acids, such as Omega-3 and Omega-6, cannot be made in the body itself; they can only be supplied in a dog’s diet. While Omega-6 fatty acids are found in abundance in dog food (poultry, meat, egg yolks, vegetable oils, whole grains), Omega-3 fatty acids are harder to find.
Of the two fatty acids, Omega-3 is the one most likely to benefit a dog in pain. Here are the painful conditions that this fatty acid’s anti-inflammatory qualities relieve:
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Chronic arthritis
The best way for a dog to ingest Omega-3 fatty acids is through fish oil supplements. There are two primary Omega-3 sources: DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), both found in cold-water fish and their eggs. Fish oil supplements are easily added to your dog’s meal; most are sold in gelcap form. Be sure that the fish oil is pure and fresh, from EPA or salmon sources, in natural form, and garnered from fish that are not endangered.
When giving your dog fish oil, make sure you also supplement with Vitamin E. This particular vitamin is depleted by fish oil, and the canine body needs this vitamin as a defense against oxidative damage and for fat metabolism and essential cell function. Luckily, Vitamin E also provides anti-inflammatory effects.
Glucosamine and chondroitin
Both glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally produced in animal cartilage. Glucosamine is an amino sugar that helps joints and cartilage by providing shock absorption and lubrication. Chondroitin keeps joints and cartilage healthy and hydrated; it also works to prevent enzymes within the joints from breaking down and destroying cartilage.
Both of these supplements can be administered in food, treats, or more directly, capsule form. Often, they are ingredients in vitamin supplements, such as Cosequin, Dasuquin, and Arthogen.
Natural pain relief through physical therapy
One of the best natural pain remedies for your dog, especially if she has arthritis or hip dysplasia, is exercise and physical therapy. Talk with your veterinarian about establishing a low-impact exercise regimen. Keeping your dog on the move also keeps her joints functioning and fluid. Her aches and pains will only worsen if she lies around all the time.
Canine hydrotherapy is another form of physical therapy that is becoming more popular amongst dog parents. Swimming is a non-impact exercise that will strengthen your dog’s joints and muscles without causing pain or strain on the shoulders, hips, and back. Your dog’s circulation will improve as well as her endurance and flexibility.
Physical therapy techniques, such as full body massage, laser treatment, and acupuncture, are also therapies that many pet parents swear by; however, whether these treatments provide any lasting treatments is debatable. Even if the treatment offers short-term pain relief, isn’t your pup worth it?
Why OTCS, NSAIDs, and prescribed meds are problematic for some dogs
Why do some pet parents prefer natural pain management remedies rather than prescription pain drugs? Unfortunately, many human medications, particularly OTCs and NSAIDs, are not safe for dogs to have. For example, aspirin and ibuprofen are toxic and may result in kidney damage and liver failure. Acetaminophen may be administered under a veterinarian’s guidance, but even this medicine carries the risk of liver and kidney damage.
Canine-approved NSAIDs like Rimadyl, Previcox, Tramadol, and Gabapentin, amongst others, help manage pain in some dogs, but not all. For a percentage of dogs, these medications can cause other medical complications, including vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach or intestinal bleeding, ulcers or gastrointestinal perforations, and kidney and liver toxicity.
Always discuss your dog’s pain management options with your veterinarian. If you’re interested in steering toward more natural pain relievers, ask your veterinarian for guidance on which methods are best for your pup’s medical condition.
Get your dog’s pain under control
There are a variety of ways to manage your dog’s pain issues. Pet insurance can help. Many insurance policies offer some coverage for medications and alternative therapies and treatments. If your dog doesn’t have pet insurance, get a quote here. Pain medications and therapies are costly, so make sure you have the support you need to get your pup the treatment she needs to be happy, healthy, and pain-free.
- Kuptniratsaikul, V., et al. (2014). Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24672232/
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