Did you know that there are numerous natural pain remedies for your dogs and cats that are effective and safe?
No one wants their pets to be in pain, but sometimes it can be quite difficult to pick up on the subtle signs of pain your pet may be displaying.
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 and cats sick.
However, if your pet 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 pet has a good quality of life.
I know that I am not a big fan of having to use NSAIDs, like carprofen, on my pet because of the possible side effects. However, I also do not want to think that my pet may be suffering because I am not doing enough for them.
What are some of the subtle signs of pain in dogs and cats?
Joint pain, muscle pain, and pain, in general, can show up in different ways with dogs.
Animals can be quite stoic, so it is important to pay attention to the subtle changes that may be occurring.
We all know our pets the best, so if they are not acting right compared to their normal, most likely there is something going on, whether that is pain or something else.
Here are the basic symptoms of pain:
- Slowing down
- Stopping frequently on walks
- Sleeping more
- Hesitation to jump into the car
- Cats stay lower on the ground
- Groaning noises, heavy panting
- Less affectionate/grouchy
- Aggression when touched
- Vocalization/crying out
Pets are usually very stoic and do not vocalize when they are painful.
If you are seeing any of these signs, it’s important to have your pet checked out by a veterinarian.
It is important to recognize changes from their normal behaviors. If they start excessively panting, this could be a sign of pain or something else that could be abnormal for them.
Cats tend to sleep a lot as a normal behavior.
Signs of pain in cats can be hanging out more on the ground and not jumping up as high as they used to. They also may have behavior changes, like becoming more aggressive if touched in a painful spot.
Dogs can start separating themselves from their families, where they used to be very social prior to feeling pain. They may also start “smelling” more trees and stopping frequently on walks. Hesitating to jump into the car and onto the bed or sofa is another pain sign.
There are many causes of pain in dogs and cats ranging from arthritis pain, muscle pain, hip dysplasia, internal problems in your pet’s body, cancer, and many other diseases.
But the good news is that there are many natural remedy treatment options for your pet that a holistic veterinarian or integrative veterinarian can partner with you on to provide safe pain relief for your pet.
Make sure to get our FREE guide on Managing Your Pet’s Pain Naturally.
So what can you do if your pet is starting to show some of these signs?
You should bring your pet to your veterinarian, especially if this is a new problem.
As mentioned above, there are many causes of pain, ranging from soft tissue injuries all the way to cancer.
The sooner you figure out the cause of the pain, the sooner you can hopefully fix it.
Benjamin Franklin was 100% right with his quote “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Your Dog and Cat’s Body Weight
Unfortunately, many older pets 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 cat and dog’s joints have osteoarthritis or joint pain.
Excessive fat tissue releases inflammation into the body and also contributes to excessive pressure on the joints.
Knowing your cat and dog’s ideal body weight and how to body condition score your pet will help you get them to an ideal weight if they are overweight. Body condition scoring is the best way to assess whether your pet is at an ideal weight.
We live in a world where most pets are actually overweight, so when we see pets who are at their ideal body weight, most people think they are too lean. This is a good chart to follow to help determine if your pet is too heavy or underweight.
You should be able to easily palpate their ribs, they should have a nice tummy tuck from the side and an hourglass shape when you look from the top down on them.
If they feel squishy or are round or flat like a table, they are overweight. Your veterinarian should be able to help you identify their best bodyweight based on their body condition score.
This is the easiest thing that we can control and fix, because we control what our pets eat.
Yes, there are those sneaky pets who open the pantry and get into food, but for the majority we are the ones that control the quantity and types of food we are giving our pets.
Most pets will eat carrots, green beans or other veggies for snacks, and these healthier, lower caloric treats can be very helpful when getting your pet to lose weight.
Learn more about safe foods you can add into your pet’s bowl to help them lose weight and for natural anti-inflammatory effects.
There are multiple treatment options for pain ranging from conventional pain medications to natural therapies such as acupuncture, laser therapy, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and herbal medicine.
Having a variety of treatment options from an Eastern medicine standpoint can really help control the pain, especially if the conventional pain medications don’t work to control the pain, cause side effects or cannot be used due to other health conditions.
If your pet 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 and cats.
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 especially cats 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 are COX-inhibitors which work by reducing the production of certain prostaglandins which are important for gut health. This is why many pets 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.
Gabapentin is commonly used for cats and can help with chronic pain. However, it can also make your cat very drowsy and not feel its best.
Because of these side effects, natural pain relievers and natural anti-inflammatory supplements should be an important part of your cat and dog’s natural pain relief plan to provide comfort and minimize adverse side effects.
Top Natural Pain Relief Supplements for Dogs and Cats
Joint supplements are important to support joint health and reduce inflammation that may be occurring in your pet’s body, especially as they age.
Here are a few of our top natural pain relievers for your dog and cat.
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 pet 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 pet’s joints feel better.
A common joint support supplement for cats is Cosequin. This product has lots of research and can help with pain and inflammation.
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 (eicosapenteanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These types of fatty acids help with controlling inflammation in the body and 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 cat and dog’s quality of life. They are also an ocean-friendly source of omega-3’s and do not accumulate heavy metals.
Learn about omega-3 fatty acids and how they can further help your pets.
To replace or reduce conventional pain medications when our pets 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 pet’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 2000%.
Golden Paste Recipe:
- 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
- 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.
- Stir the liquid on low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes. It should form a thick paste at this time.
- If the paste gets too thick, add more water.
- If the paste is too liquidy, add a little more turmeric and heat it for another couple of minutes.
- Once your paste has thickened, add the pepper and oil and stir thoroughly.
- Allow the mixture to cool.
- 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 pet ages, oxidative stress increases which causes 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 pet ages and can help repair the body.
If your pet has arthritis pain or any other type of pain, start adding in turmeric Golden Paste into your pet’s food.
However, turmeric is a warming spice, so if you notice your dog seems hotter, then discontinue and try the other natural supplements mentioned here.
Also, when using Golden Paste with cats start with a small amount. Start with a 1/4 tsp in the food, and if your pet has a bleeding disorder, make sure to talk with your veterinarian prior to using this nutraceutical.
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. Learn more about CBD and pets here.
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. My favorite brand of CBD for your dogs and cats is VetCS.
And then there’s acupuncture.
Acupuncture must be performed by a certified veterinary acupuncturist, but it’s worth looking into if your dog is painful.
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. Learn more about pet acupuncture here.
As a holistic veterinarian, I’ve given my own pets 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.
Here is a video that goes more in-depth on how you can help your pets naturally through natural holistic pet care utilizing supplements, nutraceuticals, and other treatment options:
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