Natural Remedies for Arthritis in Dogs

By Jane Meggitt

Once your dog reaches late middle age, it's likely he's affected by arthritis to some degree. While your veterinarian can prescribe medication to ease arthritis symptoms, some of these drugs are expensive and side effects -- often serious -- are common. Unless your dog is severely afflicted, natural remedies often can alleviate arthritis pain with fewer potential side effects. Natural remedies for canine arthritis include therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, and nutritional supplements. Consult your vet before using any natural therapies or supplements on your dog.

The Right Diet

Dog waiting to eat from a bowl.

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If your arthritic dog is overweight, relieve some of the stress on his joints by putting him on a diet. Your veterinarian can recommend a regimen for your pet, combined with the proper amount of exercise for his age and condition. Your vet might suggest changing your dog's food to one containing natural arthritis-fighting ingredients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. She also might recommend switching to a grain-free food, as grain might aggravate arthritis.

Brace, Wraps, Pads and Beds

A Labrador retriever lying in his bed next to a ball.

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Ask your vet if a canine orthopedic wrap, brace or pad would help relieve your dog's arthritis-related aches and pains. She can recommend products marketed by reputable manufacturers. Consider buying your dog a specially designed orthopedic bed to help ease joint pain when sleeping. An alternative, for colder weather, is placing a heating pad designed for dogs on his bed.

Canine Acupuncture

Acupuncture needles.

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Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese therapy, can benefit dogs with arthritis. If your veterinarian doesn't offer acupuncture, she probably can recommend a veterinary acupuncturist. For dogs with arthritis, regular acupuncture treatments can relieve some of the pain associated with degenerative joint disease. The acupuncturist will insert small needles into areas of your dog's body containing blood and nerve tissues. Acupuncture has virtually no side effects, so is a safe therapy when performed by a trained professional.

Canine Massage

Dog getting his neck massaged.

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Regular massage can help ease your dog's arthritis pain, and you can learn to do it yourself. If possible, give your pet a good massage for about 10 to 20 minutes twice daily, in the morning and evening. Begin by thoroughly petting your dog, then gently knead his muscles. Follow the kneading by rubbing your hands against his skin, which helps loosen tight muscles. Switch back and forth between kneading and rubbing, making firm downward strokes every 10 seconds to aid drainage. Avoid actually massaging his joints, but concentrate on the areas near them.

Vitamins and Herbs

Raw and ground tumeric.

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Vitamins C and E can help relieve arthritis pain, as can several herbs. Yucca, boswellia and turmeric all have anti-inflammatory properties, as does bromelain, a pineapple enzyme. Although herbs are natural, that doesn't mean they're risk-free, so understand potential side effects and contraindications before administering them to your dog. If your own vet isn't familiar with herbs, try contacting a holistic veterinary practitioner.

Arthritis Nutraceuticals

An owner touching her dog's joints.

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You've probably seen "nutraceuticals," or supplements with medicinal benefits, on drugstore and supermarket shelves. Many of the products marketed for human arthritis also come in canine versions. These include methyl-sufonyl-methane, or MSM, and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Many canine joint products contain all three of these substances. MSM is a form of sulfur and sports anti-inflammatory properties. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which protect cartilage and aid in joint lubrication, also have anti-inflammatory components. Don't expect overnight results from nutraceuticals. It can take several weeks of daily administration before you notice a difference in your dog's movement.