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Not a fan of pharmaceuticals for your pup? Many traditional veterinarians recommend them for pain relief, particularly in moderate to severe cases. But even vets know that these meds have negative side effects for some dogs. Fortunately, a growing number of vets are incorporating integrative medicine into their treatment plans, giving you safe and effective natural pain relief options for your dog. We’ll explore the best holistic alternatives for many conditions, how to find a vet in your area who offers natural pain relief, and more.
How To Relieve Dog Pain Naturally
The first step in treating pain is to see your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis, regardless of the cause. For example, if your pup is limping, he may have an injury or arthritis. Your vet may need to take x-rays and run other diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the pain and if any other treatment is necessary. Developing a comprehensive treatment plan is crucial to your dog’s health. Once you have a diagnosis, you and your vet can discuss alternatives to pain medication.
Side Effects Of Traditional Pain Meds For Dogs
Veterinarians often prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat pain. These are canine-specific versions of drugs like acetaminophen and ibuprofen (never give your pup human NSAIDs). While veterinary NSAIDs are generally considered safe, some dogs suffer side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulcers, and even liver or kidney toxicity with long-term use.
Your Vet Can Offer Alternatives
If you’d prefer to avoid NSAIDs or other pharmaceutical medications, talk to your vet (or a holistic practitioner who is specialized in this area) about the following holistic pain meds and therapies for dogs. They can determine the best alternative pain treatment for your pup’s specific condition. It’s also important for your vet to rule out any harmful interactions the following supplements or herbal remedies may have with anything your dog is currently taking.
Best Natural Dog Supplements For Pain Relief
If your dog has mild to moderate discomfort from joint problems an injury, or post-surgery, these over-the-counter supplements are frequently used to manage pain naturally.
Millions of pet parents give their dogs natural joint supplements to prevent and reduce the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other joint problems. The best joint supplements, like all-natural Dasuquin, also improve cartilage production and inhibit cartilage breakdown to help slow down the degenerative progression of arthritis.
Fish Oil & Green-Lipped Mussels
Fish oil and green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) offer some of the best natural joint pain relief for dogs. Both are excellent sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been scientifically shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve mobility in arthritic dogs.
Fish oil can also support your pup’s immune and skin health. We recommend Honest Paws Mobility chews for a high-quality, all-natural green-lipped mussel supplement. And our top fish oil pick is all-natural PetHonesty’s Omega-3 Fish Oil.
Derived from the hemp plant, cannabidiol (CBD) offers the natural medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high from taking THC. Studies have shown that CBD can help relieve pain and increase activity in dogs with arthritis. And CBD may also help with other pain, as well as boost the immune system.
There are also some scientific findings and a lot of anecdotal evidence that CBD helps reduce anxiety, itchiness, seizures, and more in dogs. You’ll want to choose high-quality CBD oil made specifically for our furry companions or CBD dog treats (we recommend HolistaPet, among others).
Herbal Pain Relief For Dogs
If you’re familiar with herbal medicinal treatments for humans, you likely know the benefits. But not all herbal remedies for humans are safe for dogs. The following are safe for our furry friends and can serve as natural painkillers for dogs by reducing inflammation. These natural anti-inflammatory herbs for dogs can help alleviate mild to moderate pain from arthritis, injuries, sprains, wounds, and more. As with any of these at-home remedies, check with your vet first before administering to your pet.
Ginger is most commonly used as a highly effective anti-nausea remedy for humans and our pets. But ginger has also been scientifically shown to reduce pain. Ginger works by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which cause tissue inflammation.
You can mince or grate some fresh ginger root or ginger powder and sprinkle it over your pup’s food. Here are safe amounts of ginger for dogs per day. However, it’s a good idea to start small to help avoid stomach upset.
- Under 10 lbs: 1/4 teaspoon
- 10-35 lbs: 1/2 teaspoon
- Over 35 lbs: 3/4 teaspoon
Numerous studies have found turmeric, a root in the ginger family, to be effective in reducing pain in humans and dogs. Turmeric is rich in curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has also suggested it can help reduce the risk of cancer.
You can grate it over your dog’s food like ginger (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds per day). However, research has shown that curcumin mixed with a small amount of black pepper and healthy fat, like coconut oil or fish oil, significantly improves the body’s absorption of curcumin. So you can make a homemade paste for your pup or give him a turmeric dog supplement containing all of these ingredients.
Boswellia, extracted from the Boswellia serrata tree in India, has long been used as a traditional herbal medicine in dogs and humans. It’s another powerful natural anti-inflammatory that can help many painful conditions in our canine companions such as arthritis, spinal disease, and lameness.
You can find Boswellia in some all-natural dog joint supplements. Pure Boswellia extract is also available but the dosage is for humans. Experts say a safe dosage for pups is 5 to 10 mg of Boswellia per pound of your dog’s weight, but always consult your vet before giving your dog any supplement not formulated specifically for dogs to make sure it’s safe.
Other Herbal Remedies
Some holistic vets also recommend the following herbs, but there’s not as much scientific evidence on their efficacy in relieving pain.
- Devil’s claw
- Yucca root
Home Remedies For Dogs With Pain (Therapeutic)
How can I ease my dog’s pain at home other than by giving him supplements and herbs? It’s so difficult to see our canine companions in pain, and we want to do anything we can to help them. Fortunately, home pain relief for dogs also includes several different holistic therapies you can administer to your furry friend.
Cold And Heat Therapy
To relieve inflammation from an injury or chronic joint pain, apply a hot or cold compress to the area that’s causing your pup discomfort. Ask your vet whether a hot or cold pack is best for your dog’s condition. Typically, a heat pack is used for chronic pain from arthritis (keep it on for about 20 minutes). A cold pack (10 minutes at a time) is usually more beneficial for injuries or following surgery.
Massaging your pup can help reduce pain, relieve stress, relax sore muscles, improve muscle and joint function, increase blood flow, and help sprains heal faster. It can benefit dogs suffering from musculoskeletal injuries, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and more.
In many cases, you can perform an at-home massage on your furry friend (your vet can demonstrate techniques). If your pup requires rehabilitation from a serious injury or condition, your vet may refer you to a veterinary rehabilitation therapist, who can incorporate massage and other necessary physical therapy into a comprehensive treatment plan to help your pup heal.
At-Home Physical Therapy Exercises
Depending on your pup’s condition, you may be able to do some dog physical therapy exercises at home. Your veterinarian or rehab therapist may recommend them for arthritis or other chronic conditions, for healing from surgery or injury, and more. They will give you instructions on which exercises are best for your pup and how to perform them safely with your furry friend.
Alternative Veterinary Therapies
A growing field of certified veterinary experts offers alternative therapies for dogs to help with chronic pain management as well as shorter-term pain and mobility issues following injuries, surgery, paralysis, and more. These various techniques fall under an umbrella of holistic vet care called canine rehabilitative therapy. Here are a few of the most beneficial therapies for pain relief.
Acupuncture is as effective for our canine companions as it is for humans. By inserting long, thin needles into the skin, acupuncture helps reduce pain and boost healing after surgery or trauma by stimulating the nervous system. It can even treat symptoms of cancer, asthma, allergic dermatitis, epilepsy, and more. It’s commonly used in conjunction with massage, laser therapy, and other therapies to treat:
Dog acupuncture should only be performed by a certified canine acupuncturist. Fortunately, a growing number of veterinarians are attaining this certification (see below for how to find one near you).
Laser therapy, also called low-level therapy or cold laser therapy, is a non-invasive treatment used to relieve pain and repair tissue in dogs and humans. To avoid confusion, it’s different from surgical laser techniques. Cold laser therapy uses a much lower frequency of light than surgical lasers. It works by penetrating and stimulating cells to release natural chemicals involved in healing.
Benefits of laser therapy include pain relief, decreased inflammation, muscle relaxation, cell repair, and promotion of cell growth. Cold laser therapy also releases endorphins, which reduce pain signals and increases blood flow to damaged tissue. The most common conditions treated by cold laser therapy in dogs are:
- Chronic arthritis and joint pain
- Surgical incisions, particularly after joint surgery
- Tendon and ligament injuries
- Traumatic injuries and wounds
Other Veterinary Pain Relief Therapies
Canine rehabilitation therapists use several other techniques in addition to laser and massage therapy to alleviate pain in dogs. These can benefit dogs with chronic, degenerative conditions, certain diseases, post-surgery, and post-injury. Often, a combination of these various therapies is used for optimal pain relief and healing. Additional therapies include:
- Therapeutic exercises or physiotherapy
- Chiropractic therapy
- Therapeutic ultrasound
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy
- Extracorporeal shock wave treatment (ESWT)
Pet Insurance Can Help With Alternative Therapies
If your pup can benefit from alternative therapies like acupuncture and rehabilitation to relieve his chronic pain or help him heal from surgery or an injury, some pet insurance providers offer coverage for these alternative therapies. Read our article to find out more about pet insurance.
Why Are A Healthy Diet & Weight Management Important For Pain Relief?
Excessive weight places more strain on your dog’s joints. Overweight and obese dogs are at a much higher risk of suffering from chronic degenerative joint problems like arthritis, and excess weight can inhibit healing and pain relief for orthopedic injuries. So, weight management is a crucial component of pain management for overweight pups. Your vet can help you devise a plan to help your furry friend lose weight, including specific dog food for weight loss.
A healthy, high-quality, and well-balanced diet is key to your pup’s overall health. And your dog’s diet can serve as a preventative for future health problems as well as a supplement treatment for current health and pain issues. Talk to your vet about the best dog food for your pup. Fortunately, all-natural dog food is easy to find on the market these days, thanks to consumer demand.
Finding A Holistic Vet Near You
If your regular veterinarian doesn’t seem knowledgeable about natural pain relief and alternative therapies, you may want to find a veterinarian specifically trained in alternative treatment options. Here are some great places to start your search for one in your area:
Frequently Asked Questions
You may find one of these questions and answers helpful for your dog’s specific type of pain.
Is Natural Arthritis Pain Relief For Dogs My Best Option?
Arthritis is one of the top conditions that natural pain relief can help. Why? Arthritis and other degenerative conditions require long-term treatment and pain relief. And most pharmaceuticals aimed at reducing pain can have significant side effects when used for long periods of time.
How Can I Relieve Dog Back Pain Naturally?
If you think your dog is suffering from back pain, contact your vet as soon as possible. Back pain could be a sign of aging, an injury, or intervertebral disc disease. If the pain is from a mild injury or just a normal part of aging, placing a heat pack on your dog’s back for 20 minutes every couple of hours can help relieve the pain.
What Are The Best Dog Leg Pain Home Remedies For Sprains?
Leg sprains are common injuries in dogs, and they can range from mild to severe. Your vet can determine the extent of your pup’s injury and recommend the best treatment. Rest is the best medicine for any type of sprain. To help relieve pain for mild sprains naturally, you can apply a cold pack periodically to the area.
Also, supplements with green-lipped mussels, turmeric, Boswellia, fish oil, or CBD oil can help reduce pain from sprains. In more severe cases, your vet may recommend acupuncture and other alternative rehab therapies.
What’s The Best Natural Pain Relief For Dogs With Cancer?
Holistic veterinarians often recommend acupuncture and massage for dogs with cancer. Research has shown that acupuncture combined with massage therapy results in better pain control. Both therapies also help reduce the stress and anxiety that many dogs with cancer experience. Reducing stress also helps relieve pain. CBD oil is another option. Early studies have shown evidence that CBD is effective in treating cancer-associated pain and anxiety. A holistic vet might also recommend a variety of natural supplements for your pet based on your dog’s type of cancer and symptoms.
What’s The Best Natural Pain Relief For Dogs After Surgery?
Many holistic treatments can alleviate pain following surgery. You can discuss your options with your veterinarian. The optimal natural pain relief can depend on the type of surgery your pup has. Herbal supplements and applying a cold pack can help reduce inflammation. Other options, particularly for dogs with joint surgery, may include canine rehabilitation therapies like laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, physiotherapy, and more.
Which Pain Medications Are Traditionally Used For Dogs?
If your furry friend is experiencing significant pain, your veterinarian may strongly recommend using canine pharmaceuticals in addition to natural pain relief. So you may want to learn more about commonly prescribed pain medications for dogs, including Rimadyl, Gabapentin, and more. Your vet can discuss any possible side effects you’re concerned about.