The Best Holistic Therapies for your Dog’s Arthritis
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 veterinary oncologists and friends, 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.
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.
My pups have been eating balanced, raw meals for the past 2.5 years and get GLMs either as dehydrated treats or in powder form with their meals. I’m all about preventative measures 🙂 Great post, I pinned it to my “Prevention is the name of the K9 game” board.
Thanks for the pin and the feedback! I agree that prevention is so important. Glad to hear you are loving GLMs.
I have used all of the modalities you have listed here on my older dogs and am incorporating them into my young puppy’s regimen. Laser therapy has been very beneficial. Since sports medicine vets still recommend fish oil, I do use a 5* IFOS rated fish oil that has been purified. My pup laps it right out of the bowl. I appreciate the tips you have listed here.
Thank you Amelia your feedback. I love that you are using these on your young pup as well! It’s never too early for preventative care and holistic health.
Nice article. I love using supplements (fish oil, glucosamine, etc) for my old cats arthritis.
Thank you very much. There are so many beneficial, non-invasive or chemical therapies for arthritis!
I love all of these natural suggestions! I love that you use essential oils too. I do too and have seen a huge improvement in my dog’s allergies because of it, but it seems hard to get people on board with using them (safely and cautiously) in pets. Luckily my dog doesn’t have arthritis, but he has been on a supplement since he was young hopefully for prevention. I’m also a huge believer that keeping your dog a lean weight and exercising regularly helps too, just like in people.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Alix about lean weight, exercise, and prevention. Sadly, a lot of people assume essential oils are mumbo jumbo instead of a natural practice used for thousands of years. In fact, modern medicine was originally derived from these same plants.
Lola The Rescued Cat
I’m pinning this post as well. I (briefly) studied Eastern healing methods in massage school and love the theory. I need to incorporate more yin foods into my diet. Thanks for the reminder! I’m so glad to see more alternative healing methods being used with animals.
Thanks for the pin and your feedback! And yes, it’s good practice to incorporate more neutral and yin foods into our diets as well as our pets. We are very fortunate to have a few holistic and integrative veterinarians nearby.
Great list. Yes, over time we’ve employed all of those. Not just for arthritis but also for injury recovery and general wellness.
Great points, Jana. These are all very popular and healthy practices for all animals.
I didn’t know about some of these options, so thanks so much! I an horse who was getting very short-strided. I had acupuncture and acupressure done with him and he was better at 20 than he was at 17! He was ridden by my daughter until he was 24. I really believe in these methods. I want to avoid medication for myself as much as possible, so why not help my animal buddies the same way?
I couldn’t agree with you more! What is good for us, is always good for them regarding health and wellness. After all, we are all animals. I love that you used acupuncture and acupressure on your horse and had such amazing results. I use these daily in my practice at Bridle & Bone Wellness and have seen and felt the positive effects as well. Just the other day, my horse was so stiff that I dismounted, worked on a few pressure points causing the lock, and remounted to have a great ride.
I have not tried aromatherapy before and it sounds interesting. I have tried massage when I owned a handicapped dog, but I need more training since I quickly got bored and did the bare minimum, so it didn’t really help. Acupuncture did help this dog a lot though. With another dog I did try the cold laser and unfortunately didn’t see any changes, but that dog had other health issues that may have caused more irritation. Great information though. Luckily, neither of my dogs need treatment for arthritis (knock on wood)!
Thanks Sandy, these are good points. Some pets will respond better to different therapies, just like us humans. Regarding massage, if done by a professional the results can be amazing. We’ve taken a dog that could barely move from arthritis, to hiking and jumping off the bed within a few short months. We did use essential oils as well to amplify the results. Essential oils can be hugely beneficial if used with knowledge and care.
Yes! I love this…and I use DoTerra! Wonderful stuff! The cold laser was a key element in treating the side effects of weak hind end issues in my one Husky who was on epilepsy medication. He had a standing appointment for continuous treatment, and when he could not walk to the vet any more, they came and gave him in-home treatments! I believe the cold laser treatments are what really helped him. I also had him on supplements, reiki, and massage. I’ll be continuing these with my Huskies as they age as several have developed arthritis post CCL surgeries. One has anxiety issues, and instantly relaxed with acupuncture. Great post! Sharing on my “Bark About” board!
Thanks for the share! I’m so glad these therapies have helped your husky. You are an amazing owner to try all possible options for your pets.
Our colleague Timmy Lipenda was a great believer in akupooky as he so sweetly called it. It did him a great deal of good and so I would try that myself. We already go the supplement route with some of our senior cats and their joints so we endorse them 100%
I have seen the results of acupuncture on my human friends too, and am making an appointment for myself to help my healing from this rib injury. Thank you for commenting.