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Natural Pain Relief for Dogs (& a Remedy You Can Make at Home) with Dr. Katie Woodley

Did you know that there are numerous options for natural pain relief for dogs that are effective and safe?

Many pet parents are worried about using conventional pain relievers with their dogs due to the fear of side effects like kidney and liver problems that can make dogs sick.

However, if your dog is in chronic pain from osteoarthritis or other diseases, it’s important that pain medications, whether natural, conventional, or both, are used to make sure your dog has a good quality of life.

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How do you know your dog might be in pain?

dog laying in a calming dog bed

Joint pain, muscle pain, and pain in general can show up in different ways with dogs.

Dogs can also be very stoic when it comes to showing pain, but here are a few things to watch for to identify if your dog needs pain management:

  • Slowing down
  • Stopping frequently on walks
  • Limping
  • Sleeping more
  • Hesitation to jump into the car
  • Licking the same spot excessively
  • Groaning noises, heavy panting
  • Less affectionate/grouchy
  • Aggression when touched in certain areas
  • Vocalization/crying out

If you are seeing any of these signs, it’s important to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian.

There are many causes of pain in dogs ranging from arthritis pain, muscle pain, hip dysplasia, internal problems in your dog’s body, cancer, and many other diseases.

But the good news is that there are many natural remedy treatment options for your dog that a holistic veterinarian or integrative veterinarian can partner with you on to provide safe pain relief for dogs.

Your Dog’s Body Weight

Orange Boy Phil from overweight dog to overwhelming inspiration

Unfortunately, many older dogs are overweight, which predisposes them to osteoarthritis and inflammation in their bodies. Therefore, weight loss is the first step in providing natural pain relief, especially when your dog’s joints have osteoarthritis or joint pain.

Knowing your dog’s ideal body weight and how to body condition score your dog will help you get them to an ideal weight if they are overweight. This is important because studies have shown that excess fat on your dog increases the pressure on your dog‘s joints and can lead to excess inflammation in their body.

Reducing excess weight has natural anti-inflammatory properties for your dog and can be done by increasing exercise, adding real food like steamed broccoli and leafy greens to your dog’s food, and reducing excess treats.

One of the treats that can be beneficial for your dog‘s health and provides extra nutrients in a natural way is Wholesome Pride Pumpkin Slices. These single-ingredient natural treats help keep your dog full, help with weight loss, and aid in improving your overall dog health and wellness.

Pain Medications

dog next to pills. is human medicine safe for dogs

If your dog has joint pain, chronic pain, or is in need of pain relievers, your veterinarian (DVM) may recommend certain drugs.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most common conventional pain relief for dogs.

Common drugs in this class of pain medications are Metacam, Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and carprofen. The human drug, Ibuprofen, is another NSAID pain management. However, Ibuprofen is toxic to dogs and should not be used, even though this is a commonly used over-the-counter drug for people with arthritis pain.

Common side effects seen with NSAIDs are gastric ulcers and possible liver and kidney disease. This class of drugs is COX-inhibitors which work by reducing the production of certain prostaglandins which are important for gut health.  This is why dogs may experience these side effects when taking these types of pain medications.

Other conventional pain medications

Tramadol and gabapentin are two other common pain medications that your veterinarian may prescribe for your dog. There is a lower risk of toxicity with these medications. However, numerous studies have shown that tramadol is not a very effective pain reliever for dogs and should not be the only medication used in your dog’s pain management.

Because of these side effects, natural pain relievers and natural anti-inflammatory supplements should be an important part of your dog’s natural pain relief plan to provide comfort and minimize adverse side effects.

Top Natural Pain Relief Supplements for Dogs

dog playing on the beach

Joint supplements are important to support joint health and reduce inflammation that may be occurring in your dog’s body, especially as they age.

Here are a few of our top natural pain relievers for your dog.

Glucosamine Chondroitin

An easy to give joint supplement is glucosamine chondroitin.

If you have an older dog, osteoarthritis is a common cause of pain. Cartilage in the joints can degrade as your dog ages, leading to inflammation and pain. This thin layer of cartilage in the joint is what produces the joint fluid that provides cushioning in the joint.

Glucosamine chondroitin supplements provide support to the cartilage through glycosaminoglycans which provide natural anti-inflammatory properties and pain relief to help your dog’s joints feel better.

Fish Oil & Green-Lipped Mussels

omega 3 fish oil

Another popular joint supplement is fish oil.

Pet owners have been using fish oil for decades due to its excellent pain relief for dogs.

Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. The fatty acids in fish oil are mainly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These types of fatty acids help with controlling inflammation in the body and promote nerve/brain development and function.

A good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids is green-lipped mussels.

Green-lipped mussels are better than fish oil, because they have over 90 different types of omega-3 essential fatty acids rather than just DHA and EPA, but they also provide a natural source of chondroitin to support cartilage health in the joints.

Numerous studies have shown that green-lipped mussels provide natural pain relief, are a natural anti-inflammatory supplement, and can improve your dog’s quality of life. They are also an ocean-friendly source of omega-3’s and do not accumulate heavy metals.

Curcumin

tumeric for dogs

To replace or reduce conventional pain medications when our dogs are painful, it’s important to find plants, herbs, and foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory.

Curcumin is a great one to add to your dog’s food.

Coming from the Indian spice turmeric, curcumin is an active ingredient that has natural anti-inflammatory properties and many other positive effects in the body, such as reducing your pet’s risk of cancer due to its cancer-fighting properties.

Many dog owners will grate turmeric root into their dog’s food.

But an easy way to use turmeric more effectively is to make golden paste, which is turmeric powder mixed with coconut oil and a little black pepper to increase absorption. Studies have shown that fats and piperine in black pepper increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%.

Golden Paste Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic turmeric powder
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup organic MCT oil or coconut oil

Directions

  1. Mix the turmeric with 1 cup of water in a pan. Save the remaining water in case you need it to thin your paste a bit.
  2. Stir the liquid on low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes. It should form a thick paste at this time.
  3. If the paste gets too thick, add more water.
  4. If the paste is too liquidy, add a little more turmeric and heat it for another couple of minutes.
  5. Once your paste has thickened, add the pepper and oil and stir thoroughly.
  6. Allow the mixture to cool.
  7. Place it in a jar with a lid and store it in the fridge. It’ll keep for up to 2 weeks.

Studies show that turmeric performs as well as traditional NSAIDs like Ibuprofen in humans, helping significantly with knee pain.

As your dog ages, oxidative stress increases which cause inflammation and cells to break down, leading to pain, osteoarthritis, and even diseases like cancer. Turmeric is an amazing antioxidant that slows down these degenerative processes as your dog ages and can help repair the body.

If your dog has arthritis pain, start adding in turmeric golden paste for your dog and see how they do. However, turmeric is a warming spice, so if you notice your dog seems hotter, then discontinue and try the other natural supplements mentioned here.

CBD

natural pain relief for dogs

Using Cannabidiol, or CBD, with your dog can help naturally reduce inflammation, control pain, and even support optimal gut health.

CBD oil is the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant and is becoming very popular amongst pet parents for its numerous beneficial properties ranging from pain control, seizure control, reducing anxiety to even helping with cancer treatment.

THC is the psychoactive component that gives people a high but can also make your dog sick and even comatose if they get into cannabis.

Every mammal has an endocannabinoid system, and it’s these receptors that the CBD molecules will bind to. You can learn more about CBD and pets on my website.

For CBD to be labeled as such, it must have less than 0.3% THC in it, making it much safer and easier to give to your dog without adverse effects.

However, CBD is still illegal at a federal level, which can make it tricky for your veterinarian to discuss this plant with you.

But it’s especially important to ask your vet about CBD oil if your pet is on any medication. CBD is processed through a specific CYP450 pathway in the liver, and certain drugs are also metabolized through this pathway, which can affect how long they stay in your dog’s body. Because of this process, there may be an increased risk of adverse side effects.

Always start with small doses, make sure you’re using quality CBD oil products that have a valid certificate of analysis, and talk to your veterinarian or a holistic vet about the best dosage and way to use CBD with your dogs. There are many different options out there, so make sure you’re not throwing money away on a useless or even harmful CBD oil product.

Acupuncture

Mark Hillary from Serra Negra, SĂŁo Paulo, Brazil, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

And then there’s acupuncture.

Acupuncture must be performed by a certified veterinary acupuncturist, but it’s worth looking into if your dog is in pain.

This ancient modality has been around for hundreds of years and works through the placement of small needles in specific points all over the body. The needles help relax tight muscles, increase blood flow and even help the body produce its own natural pain relief.

The best part of this treatment is that there are no side effects, and many dogs feel incredible after a session (and even during), because of the endorphins that are released naturally. Check out my in-depth post on the subject if you want to learn more about pet acupuncture.

Natural Pain Relief for Dogs

can dogs have greek yogurt

As a holistic veterinarian, I’ve given my own dog all of these natural remedies.

We were able to avoid two knee ligament surgeries in my twelve-year-old German shepherd because we used acupuncture, CBD oil, fish oil, turmeric/curcumin products, and many other natural pain remedies.

Conventional pain medications have a time and a place, but there are many natural remedies you can use with your dog that have natural anti-inflammatory properties so that your dog can have an amazing quality of life, pain-free, with minimal side effects.

To learn more about natural health care for your pet, visit Dr. Katie’s website at www.thenaturalpetdoctor.com.

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