There are a number of natural therapies to provide pain relief and improve mobility for your dog. As our pets age, arthritis and stiffness can become a serious health concern. Most dogs will begin to show signs of arthritis by the time they are 6 or 7 years old. This is something I am working to prevent as long as possible with my large breed dogs.
Medication can have serious side effects. So how do we provide relief naturally but still see results? In recent years we have seen a resurgence of eastern traditions integrated with western medicine. Truly holistic approaches to animal wellness.
Cold Laser Treatment
As a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist I see the benefits first hand. Many of our clients have arthritis. Sports massage uses the hands, fingers, and elbows of the therapist to increase circulation, loosen synovial fluid in the joints, and remove toxins from the body. We remove muscle spasms and reduce tension, thus stimulating endorphins to relieve pain and improve mobility.
We had a client that we regularly saw for his arthritis. Stiff and limping. After working with him three months he was much perkier. After five months he was hiking with his family, and a few weeks later was even back to jumping on and off the bed.
Dating back to China more than 3,000 years, acupuncture is the use of small needles to remove blockage of chi, or energy, to improve health. The idea is to create balance in the body. Animals do very well with this therapy.
“Each acupuncture point has a special function and via the body’s neuroendocrine system, can send messages to the brain. It is most widely recognized as a beneficial tool for pain control for injuries and arthritis, but acupuncture can also assist in many other disease and aging processes.” Pet Tails Magazine
A recent guest post by two veterinarians, Acupuncture for the Veterinary Cancer Patient describes the benefits of acupuncture on veterinary cancer patients. The same may be applied to senior dogs and their mobility. There are so many benefits to this technique.
Gonzo recently visited a holistic veterinarian for spinal manipulation and acupuncture. We’re trying to find the root cause of his recent injuries. I was impressed with his first acupuncture session. 6 needles placed along his hind end on either side for 10 minutes. He was sore beforehand but handled it very well!
Cold Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure that uses light to stimulate cells and increase blood circulation. This can have an effect to reduce pain and desensitize the nerves. The machinery is expensive, and should be performed by a veterinarian who is trained in its use.
The beautiful thing about cold laser therapy is that the process is quick, painless, and can often be done in combination with acupuncture or sports massage for added benefits. Because the effect is cumulative, building on previous sessions, regular treatments are recommended.
Most people know that you are what you eat. In Eastern medicine foods are considering warming (yang), cooling (yin), or neutral. Meaning they increase circulation (warming), decrease swelling and inflammation (cooling), or remain balanced (neutral).
Examples of yin/cooling foods
I will note that after much discussion with my veterinarian and my massage clients, I do not use chicken with my dogs. Too much yang in the balance results in allergies and inflammation. Is it then a coincidence that many dogs are allergic to chicken? So for your arthritic pets, stick to neutral or cooling foods.
You hear about Omega-3s being of utmost importance to your joints. So what is the best way to get these into your pet’s diet? There are so many possibilities it can make your head spin.
Fish oil is long held to be a part of many animals’ diets and natural wellness. Unfortunately there are also so nasty, albeit non health-related side effects. It smells. When your dog ingests it, their breathe will smell as will their hind end. Just not pretty. Effective but gross.
Apart from this fish oils can sometimes increase inflammation in dogs if they become oxidized. And fish can have high levels of mercury. So I don’t recommend it. There are much better options.
Phytoplankton has become increasingly popular. These microscopic plants are the source of Omega-3s from which the fish feed. Added bonus? They do not need to be refrigerated and come in droplet or powder form. Very easy to add to meals, even while traveling. Dogs Naturally Magazine provides a very helpful article on the topic of phytoplankton.
I heard about these recently and wrote an in depth article about it after my research because I was so intrigued. Naturally occurring, these shellfish must be harvested quickly and efficiently. They contain high doses of omega 3 and are considered a superfood. Green shell mussels are harvested in New Zealand and are ecologically sustainable. For more detail, read my recent post, entitled Green-Lipped Mussels- Are They Strong Enough to Combat Arthritis?
Essential Oils and Hydrosols
I absolutely adore aromatherapy*. Essential oils are distilled from different plants, each having different properties. These properties may include antibacterial; anti-fungal; and, anti-inflammatory. Alternatively, while essential oils are very concentrated and should always be diluted prior to use, hydrosols are water-based; the byproduct of steam distillation of essential oils. As a result, sensitive animals respond well to hydrosols.
Dilute appropriate essential oils with a carrier oil and use topically where arthritis is prevalent. A carrier oil may be coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, or more. Massage gently into the skin and muscle to stimulate blood flow and circulation. This reduces inflammation and as a result, provides pain relief. We use essential oils and hydrosols in our massage practice due to the many benefits. Interested in learning more? Read The Beginner’s Guide to Using Essential Oils on Animals.
Anti-inflammatory Essential Oils
*Please keep in mind not all essential oils are safe for animals, and many are toxic. Always use a carrier oil, such as Fractionated Coconut Oil and dilute. Please consult a professional before use especially if pregnant. The oils above have anti-inflammatory properties but may not be best for your pet.
Bridle & Bone Wellness, my company, created two signature products using essential oils to combat arthritis in our patients: Warming Rub and Cooling Spray. Both have anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, and work beautifully on most dogs. We also customize our aromatherapy products for your pet.
There are so many natural wellness options to improve mobility in your senior pet and reduce arthritis symptoms. Use regularly for super-powered results! Using these holistic therapies you can help to improve the quality of life for your arthritic dog. Pin this infographic so you have the information at a mouse click.
Does your pet have arthritis? What helps to relieve their symptoms?
*Disclaimer: I am not a veterinary or medical professional. Before trying any of the above therapies, please consult with your veterinarian to determine the best options for your pet.