Life happens. Our young dogs romp and play and get into trouble. And then they get older, developing age-related pain or get injured.

As pet parents, it is awful to see our animals hurting. At the first sign of pain we rush into action to do what we can to get them back in tip-top shape.

The thing is, sometimes we don’t notice the pain right away (oh our stubborn beasts), or if we do notice it, we turn to conventional meds without understanding the risk they pose, particularly with long-term use.

Knowing about all of the options that exist to help your animal is all part of delivering the best – and safest – return to normal. It’s time to talk about options for natural pain relief for dogs.

But first…

Is Your Dog in Pain?

Sometimes it’s easy to tell when your dog is in pain. Limping is an easy sign to spot, as is crying out or avoiding being touched in a certain area.

However, dogs can be very stoic when it comes to showing pain, so here are a few other things to watch for to identify if your dog needs pain management:

  • Slowing down
  • Stopping frequently on walks
  • Sleeping more
  • Hesitation to jump into the car
  • Licking the same spot excessively
  • Groaning noises, heavy panting
  • Less affectionate/grouchy

You know your dog best. If you notice any changes in behavior it’s always a good idea to speak with your veterinarian, just to have things checked out. If you leave pain, it could get worse, or impact overall quality of life.

The Risks With Conventional Pain Medicines

When our dogs are in pain, our responsibility as pet parents is to try to relieve that pain completely, or at least do everything we can to minimize it.

Many vets will recommend conventional drugs to accomplish this. If your dog’s ever been in pain or had surgery, or has arthritis or other joint problems, your vet probably recommended non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease the pain and reduce the inflammation.

And these drugs do have their place, we won’t deny that. But they also have risks, some of which are significant, so it’s important to be well informed. Not only are these risks well documented, the manufacturers themselves warn of their possibility.

For example, manufacturers of popular pain meds like Metacam and Rimadyl list these possible side effects on their websites:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Black, tarry-colored stools
  • Eating less, change in drinking
  • Ulcers
  • Change in urination habits (frequency, color, smell) 
  • Skin redness, scabs, or scratching
  • Yellowing of the gums, skin, or whites of the eyes 
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Negative behavior changes such as lethargy, depression, or aggression

But these tend to be the less serious issues. Serious side effects, especially with long-term use ofcyclo-oxygenase inhibitory NSAIDs, may be associated with severe gastrointestinal, kidney, or liver issues.  

If possible, it’s always best to reach for natural alternatives at first to try and reduce or relieve pain without the risk of negative side effects.

Natural Pain Relief for Dogs

We’re happy to report that there are numerous options for natural pain relief for dogs that are effective and safe.

1. CBD Oil

CBD oil comes from the cannabis plant, specifically hemp, and is the non-intoxicating cousin of THC. It works with the body’s endcannabinoid system to bring about homeostasis, or balance, when something is amiss. And that work includes helping to relieve pain.

Research shows that, for pain, CBD can be highly effective. A 2018 double-blinded, placebo-controlled, cross-over study, done to determine the efficacy of CBD oil in dogs affected by osteoarthritis, had incredible results. It found that a 2 mg-per-pound dose effectively reduced the dogs’ visible signs of pain and significantly improved their activity and mobility.

CBD is also good for pain in kitties. Find out more about that here.

2. Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in people with joint pain. Many experts recommend eating seafood, such as salmon, mackerel, cod, and mussels, which contain EPA and DHA. Smaller amounts of EPA and DHA can also be found in eggs, particularly omega-3 fortified eggs. 

In one clinical study, for example, researchers took blood samples from 167 adults with knee arthritis. Results showed that individuals who had relatively high amounts of omega-3 in their blood had less knee arthritis pain, better knee function, and less stress. So more omega-3 in the blood = less pain. For reducing pain naturally, and really just for overall health, omega-3s are really important.

[RELATED] What’s the best source of omega-3s? We’ve broken down some of the most popular and the pros and cons of each. Check this out.

3. Glucosamine Chondroitin

This is a good choice if your dog has ongoing joint pain, either form an injury or arthritis.

With arthritis, the cartilage in the joints can degrade as your dog gets older, 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. A glucosamine chondroitin supplement can provide support to the cartilage through glycosaminoglycans which provide natural anti-inflammatory properties and pain relief to help your dog’s joints feel better.

4. Boswellia

The resin of the Boswellia serrata tree has long been used in traditional medicines. And research shows it can also be helpful for treating pain in our animals.

Boswellia works by inhibiting the production of a specific type of leukotriene, which modulates the immune response to inflammation. Plus, there are no known side effects. You can use a supplement for humans, just watch for other ingredients. Speak to your holistic vet about specific dosing, but typically treatment for a 50-pound dog should start at 300 mg given by mouth twice daily for two weeks. After that, cut the dose in half for ongoing maintenance.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is well known – and well researched for pain and inflammation. Those benefits come from compounds called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin – the main active ingredient in turmeric.

While some inflammation in the body is good, chronic, low-level inflammation is not. Research shows that curcumin has serious potential when it comes to the prevention and treatment of various proinflammatory chronic diseases. Researchers believe this power to fight inflammation comes from its ability to inhibit a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation.

Turmeric on its own isn’t highly bioavailable – meaning it isn’t absorbed well by the body – so mix it with a little coconut oil and black pepper to increase that rate of absorption. This is called golden paste – here’s the recipe.

6. Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself. These remedies are top-of-the-list for pain, particularly joint pain, making them a staple in any regimen for natural pain relief for dogs:

  • Arnica: First indicated remedy for trauma, but it addresses old injuries as well. A muscular tonic, arnica is a go-to for pain and inflammation
  • Symphytum: Indicated for injuries to bones, cartilage, tendons, and periosteum
  • Ruta Grav: Indicated specifically for soreness in the bones, tendons, joints and cartilage. Good for sprains, strains, bruised bones and pulled ligaments
  • Calendula: Known as the greatest healing agent

To give a remedy, place a dose inside your dog’s cheek or stir a few pellets in a glass of water and give your dog some using a dropper. The dose is not important – as long as some of the remedy gets in contact with the mucus membranes, that’s what matters.

Other Things to Consider for Natural Pain Relief for Dogs

Along with herbs and supplements for natural pain relief for dogs, there are several other things to consider, especially with chronic pain like arthritis.

  • Weight management – If your dog is carrying a little extra weight, this can put pressure on the joints. If your dog has arthritis, or is healing from an injury, do your best to keep their weight down.
  • Hydrotherapy – Underwater treadmills and swimming  are extremely useful in maintaining mobility and improving musculoskeletal function while being low impact on the joints. Many patients will benefit greatly from hydrotherapy and we can refer you to suitable facilities for this.
  • Exercise – depending on the type of pain your dog has, your vet may recommend limited or no exercise. However, if your dog has chronic pain from arthritis, exercise can be very helpful in maintains/rebuilding strength and healing stretch out the muscles. Just go slowly, don’t push distance, and always make sure your dog can handle it.
  • Acupuncture – While this is not something you should do at home, acupuncture (done by a certified practitioner) can significantly reduce pain naturally.

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