Like us dog owners, our dogs can experience pain for a variety of reasons. Trauma, illness, infection, allergies, and chronic conditions can all cause discomfort in a dog's body. A dog can also experience headaches, ear aches, stomach aches, and all the other pains you might feel. When our pets feel these aches and pains, there are two ways we pet parents can help: prescription pain relief and natural pain relief for dogs.
Typically, prescription pain relievers work better to treat severe pain and short-term trauma. Natural pain relievers tend to work better for lower levels of pain or long-term pain management. The two often work best when used simultaneously — especially for serious chronic conditions like osteoarthritis.
Here's a look at the best practices for managing pain in dogs, plus natural remedies you can try at home.
To treat pain in dogs, we first need to diagnose its underlying cause. For example, if your dog is in pain because of a tooth infection, you'll need to take your dog to the vet so your DVM can take X-rays and remove the infected teeth.
If, on the other hand, your pet is experiencing joint pain caused by dog arthritis, you'll need to come up with a long-term plan to protect your pet's joints from further damage. In either case, both the condition and the treatment can be painful. So, your vet will work with you to manage your dog's pain.
Veterinarians often provide prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat pain. NSAIDs are the same kind of drug as our over-the-counter pain medications, like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
However, you should never share human NSAIDs with your dog. Some human medications are toxic to dogs, and because dogs metabolize medicine differently, their dosing needs will be very different from ours. Giving your dog the wrong dose of pain medication can lead to toxicity and even death.
Only give your dog pain medication prescribed by your vet, and always follow your veterinarian's instructions. Common prescription pain medications for dogs include:
While these medications are well-tested and generally considered safe, they come with a variety of potential side effects, including serious side effects like gastrointestinal ulcers, liver toxicity, and kidney toxicity. If you're giving your pet prescription NSAIDs, work closely with your DVM. If your dog develops diarrhea, vomiting, or bloody or tarry stool, notify your vet immediately.
If you would prefer to use NSAIDs as a last resort or want to try natural remedies alongside your dog's prescription NSAIDs, talk to your veterinarian about how one of the following holistic therapies could work with your dog's treatment plan.
Your family vet or a qualified holistic veterinarian can help you determine the best natural pain relief for your dog's specific situation. A DVM can also make sure that the natural remedy you choose won't interact with any of your dog's current medications.
As you start using natural pain relief for dogs, we recommend introducing each remedy one-by-one. If you add multiple holistic therapies at the same time, you won't know which one is providing benefits or causing side effects.
Try one remedy for a month and watch for improvements to your dog's energy level, activity level, and mood. Also watch for side effects like upset stomach or skin allergies. If a remedy is causing side-effects, you can remove it, wait a few days for the side effects to subside, then try the next therapy. If a remedy is providing benefits after one month, you can continue with that therapy and add on a second one to see if it offers even more benefits.
Continue to test each remedy in this way until you've determined the best mix of therapies for your dog. Check with your vet about the best combination of natural pain relief methods.
If your dog has an injury or suffers from joint pain in a specific joint, you can apply a heat pack or ice pack to help ease the pain. Apply a heat pack for up to 20 minutes at a time to relieve pain caused by chronic conditions like hip dysplasia or arthritis pain. Apply an ice pack for up to 10 minutes at a time to alleviate pain from short-term injuries like if your dog gets hurt playing or is recovering from surgery.
This is one of our favorite remedies because it has virtually no side effects and effectively relieves inflammation.
This spice is a holistic powerhouse. Ginger is often used to treat upset stomachs in both humans and animals, but scientific research shows it can also help alleviate pain, including the pain caused by osteoarthritis. Ginger is rich in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation — the culprit behind acute and chronic pain.
Try grating a little fresh ginger over your dog's food so they can reap the benefits. Start with a small amount to help your dog's taste buds and GI tract acclimate to this spice.
Turmeric is a close relative of ginger. It's rich in a biochemical called curcumin, which offers natural anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, in two separate studies, turmeric relieved pain more effectively than either ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
To prepare turmeric for dogs, mix it with a healthy fat — like olive oil or fish oil — and a tiny pinch of black pepper. This will make it easier for your dog's body to absorb all the benefits of turmeric. Feed your dog 1/4 to one teaspoon of the mixture with each meal (1/4 teaspoon for small dogs, 1/2 teaspoon for medium, and 1 teaspoon for large dogs).
Boswellia extract comes from the Indian Boswellia serrata tree. You're likely familiar with this extract — it's often sold under the name frankincense and is a common ingredient in lotions, perfumes, and candles.
In a study on 29 dogs with joint disease, Boswellia extract significantly improved pain markers like activity level. To try this remedy for your dog, look for Boswellia in all-natural pet supplements. Follow the product’s directions when giving the supplement to your dog.
Native to South Africa, devil's claw is a flowering plant that's been used for centuries as a traditional herbal pain remedy. In studies on devil's claw, it appears to reduce pain more than a placebo, but all the studies done on the supplement have been low-quality. So, right now, there's not enough evidence to say for sure that it's effective.
It is safe for dogs, but it's much easier to find this supplement for horses than for our canine companions. If you want to try devil's claw for dogs, ask your veterinarian for dosing guidance.
CBD oil comes from the hemp plant — the same plant that produces marijuana. However, CBD oil doesn't contain THC, the chemical that causes marijuana's psychological effects or the feeling of being high. THC is toxic to pets. It can cause seizures and lead to a coma. Never give your dog marijuana or human hemp products. Stick to CBD products that are specifically formulated for dogs.
In a study on CBD oil in dogs with osteoarthritis, dogs showed significant pain reduction with no reported side effects.
This practice comes from traditional Chinese medicine and involves inserting long, thin needles into the skin and leaving them for a set amount of time. In recent decades, western studies have proven the efficacy of acupuncture.
The process reduces pain by stimulating the nervous system — and it's a pain-free process itself. The needles used are so thin your dog won't feel them as they enter the skin. Some holistic veterinarians have begun offering acupuncture for dogs. If your current vet doesn't offer the therapy, they may be able to refer you to a canine acupuncturist.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While many older dogs will experience joint pain and begin to slow down, there are natural ways to protect your dog's joints. This can help dogs stay active for as long as possible.
Fish oil made from wild-caught cold-water fish like pollock and salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Many of the common ingredients in dog joint supplements — like glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM — still don't have enough scientific evidence to prove they effectively protect the joints and prevent joint pain. But, in a review of studies on natural remedies for osteoarthritis, significant evidence showed omega-3 fatty acid helps protect the joints and prevent pain.
You can add omega-3s to your dog's food with an omega oil supplement.
This all-natural ingredient contains three different nutrients that could protect the joints — it's rich in those well-researched Omega-3s, and it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which are still being researched as a potential form of joint support.
In a meta-analysis of clinical trials on canine osteoarthritis, green-lipped mussels showed promise for easing arthritis symptoms. You can add this powerful protein to your dog's diet with an all-natural Hip + Joint Chew that features green-lipped mussels as the first ingredient.
While there's still debate about the healthiest food to feed our dogs, there's one thing all veterinarians agree on: Overfeeding is extremely bad for pet health. Obesity in dogs can lead to joint pain and a variety of other chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation — all of which cause pain.
Ensure that your dog maintains a healthy body weight — follow the feeding guidelines on your pet's food and keep treats to less than 10% of their total calorie consumption. If your dog is currently overweight, work with your vet to develop a weight loss plan.
Low-impact exercise like walking and swimming will help maintain your pet's joint health and overall wellness — preventing many of the chronic conditions that cause pain.
Even if your dog is already experiencing health issues, try to incorporate a small amount of low-impact activity each day, and talk to your vet about physical therapy exercises that can help restore some of your pet's mobility.
Natural pain relief for dogs can be an important part of their wellness plan. If your dog is experiencing pain, talk to your vet about the best natural remedies for relief. From herbal remedies, like ginger, turmeric, boswellia, and devil's claw, to holistic therapies like hot and cold therapy and acupuncture, there are more options for your pet than just NSAIDs. And many of these therapies can be used alongside pain medication to provide additional relief.
Of course, one of the best ways to manage pain is to prevent it. Ensure your dog maintains a healthy body weight with diet and exercise. Support their well-being with proven supplements like omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and green-lipped mussels from an all-natural Hip + Joint supplement.
To learn more about your dog's health and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.
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