Joint pain in dogs can be a terrible thing to deal with. Whether from an injury or a condition like arthritis, watching your pet struggle with pain is heart-wrenching.

I can speak from experience. One of my girls is 13, and about 2 years ago she suffered a partial ACL tear. She was high risk for surgery, and the surgeon believed the tear would heal on its own (and it did) so surgery came off the table. She went from a spry, active girl, to showing her age almost overnight. Watching her struggle with the pain had me in tears more times than I care to count.

So it was time to do a dive into the research on natural options for joint pain in dogs. And it paid off. These days, her walks may not be as long or as fast as they once were, but her movement has improved significantly, her restlessness has decreased, and she even plays with her much younger sister once again. Most importantly, I know that the pain is reduced.

So, how did we get there?

Joint Pain in Dogs – Conventional Treatment

When my senior gal first got hurt, Metacam was suggested for pain control. This is a popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) given for pain relief. The thing was, if she started it, she’d likely have to continue it for the rest of her life.

As with anything, I did my research, and was a bit hesitant to sign her up for that.

According to the FDA, some of the most common side effects of NSAIDs in animals are:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Decreased to no appetite
  • Decreased activity level

Those might be minor, but this is what really scared me: “The side effects of NSAIDs are mainly seen in the digestive tract, kidneys, and liver.”

Stomach and intestinal ulcers, stomach and intestinal perforations (holes in the wall of the stomach or intestines), kidney failure, liver failure, and death were all listed as side effects.

In fact, they specifically say “Owners and veterinarians should carefully consider the potential benefits and risks of using an NSAID and other treatment options before deciding to use an NSAID. Use the lowest effective dose for the shortest duration consistent with individual response.”

What’s more, A 2013 review of existing reports looked at the results of 35 studies and 29 clinical trials that investigated the use of NSAIDs in dogs. It found that as many as 55% of the studies reported significant negative side effects with this class of drugs. And since most of the dogs in the research they looked at were young and healthy, the potential risk could be much higher for seniors, since it is known that NSAIDs are more likely to be a problem for older dogs.

Ummmm, did I really want to risk that, especially on a long-term basis? No thanks.

Plus, I knew that these drugs wreak havoc on the gut microbiome. That’s the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive system. It plays a crucial role in your pet’s health by helping control digestion and benefiting the immune system and many other aspects of health. An imbalance of unhealthy and healthy microbes in the gut can contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and many other disorders.

So, it was time to hit the books and search for another solution to her pain.

Natural Remedies for Joint Pain in Dogs

Here are some of the things I added to her daily regimen to help get her back on track:

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.

2. 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 joint pain, making them a staple in any regimen for relief of joint pain 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.

You can buy the remedies on their own, or find a combination remedy like Jump for JOYnts from Adored Beast.

3. 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.

And the same goes for joint pain in dogs – reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain!

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.

4. 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.

5. Eggshell Membrane

Do you feed eggs regularly but toss the shells in the compost? 

If so, your dog is missing out! The eggshell membrane is a thin layer that coats the inside of an eggshell. It’s what actually delivers all those beneficial nutrients to the chick growing inside. It is rich in collagen, which is essential for joint health. Amino acids and glycosaminoglycans are also in there – and both are helpful for sore, aching joints.

To feed eggshell membranes to your dog, when you crack an egg, careful slide your finger under the membrane and slowly peel it away. Then just add it to your dog’s regular meal. Some dogs won’t hesitate to gobble it up. If you notice your dog isn’t too keen on big pieces, tear them up a little. This isn’t a bad idea anyways because they’re not the most digestible things on the planet.

Or, you can dry out the shells with the membrane attached and crush them up fine and mix them with food. The shells are also nutritious and some pet owners find this more convenient that trying to peel out the membrane itself.

Other Tips for Natural Relief

Food isn’t the only thing you can change up to help reduce joint pain in dogs. Here are a few other tips to consider for natural relief:

  • Consider a raw diet. Kibble is a carbohydrate rich-food, and it when it’s made, it forms advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). When your dog eats processed foods, these AGEs are released into the body, leading to inflammation. Instead, feed a fresh, whole-food diet without those inflammation-causing
  • Watch the weight. If your dog is carrying a little extra holiday weight, that can put extra pressure on the joints, making things worse. Shedding those extra pounds will reduce the strain on the joints and can also decrease joint inflammation caused by fat.
  • Exercise. Regular exercise helps tone the muscles around the joints, support the joints and keep the joint fluid viscous. Better muscle mass and muscle function can protect your dog’s joints, so you want to make sure you keep up the exercise. If your dog’s in pain, try to a few short walks a day, rather than one long one. If you can, take your dog swimming for exercise since it relieves stress on the joints.

When our girl first hurt herself, she went for her daily adventures in a wagon, but it wasn’t long before a few simple dietary changes and the addition of joint-friendly supplements made the wagon a no-go. Soon she was hoping out, ready to leave the wheels behind and get her paws back on solid ground.

Joint pain in dogs can be difficult to manage, but a focus on what Mother Nature provides can have your pet feeling better too!