Quest for Natural Pain Relief for Dogs
My Junior has been in pain since April 2018.
With every turn of his neck, bump from a passerby, or lean to sit up or stand, Junior would cry out in pain.
For four long months, Junior’s pain seemed to worsen, causing trips upstairs to my children’s rooms (Junior’s favorite) less and less frequent, and tiny movements of his head resulting in a loud yelp.
Junior has Wobbler Syndrome. He is 22 months old.
We have made the decision to manage Junior’s Wobblers medically. This means that we will use a combination of medicines, supplements, and diet to relieve Junior’s chronic pain and, hopefully, prevent the progression of his disease.
Junior was prescribed 900 mg of Gabapentin and 150 mg of Rimadyl BID (twice a day), and while both of these medications are considered safe, my quest, my obsession, since his diagnosis has been to find natural alternatives.
*Caveat – Pain is subjective and difficult to predict which supplements will work for which dogs. I am offering the following list as a starting point. These are the supplements we have tried and that have worked with success for Junior.
Also, keep in mind there are different types and degrees of pain. Bone cancer pain is quite a bit different than arthritis pain or even the pain from the spinal compression of Wobbler Syndrome.
In addition, the role of inflammation in the degree of pain associated with a particular condition should not be minimized. To say that a supplement can relieve pain in your dog often means it can reduce inflammation, the by-product of which is pain. If you reduce the inflammation, you reduce the pain.
In this post are affiliate links from which I may receive a small compensation. There is NO ADDED COST to you should you use these links.
Top 5 Supplements for Natural Pain Relief in Dogs
Big Dog Mom: “I am writing an article about Green Lipped Mussels.”
My Kids: “Green Lipped what? Eeeww!”
If you had the same response, keep reading. While they sound strange and kind of gross, Green Lipped Mussels can pack a powerful and natural pain-relieving punch for your dog.
Green Lipped Mussels live in the waters off the New Zealand coast and have been consumed raw by native New Zealanders for many years for inflammation reduction and longevity.
Green Lipped Mussels contain two key ingredients that contribute to their ability to reduce inflammation, glycosaminoglycans and omega-3 fatty acids.
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are necessary for brain, cartilage, and tissue development and play a vital role in the health and maintenance of cartilage and tendons, skin and connective tissue.
Omega -3 fatty acids are well proven to help support healthy inflammation management, which can reduce pain and support joint mobility.
In a 2013 Canadian study, researchers found that Green Lipped Mussel supplements contributed significantly to the well-being of dogs by improving both pain and mobility during the two-month testing period.
“This [data] shows the efficacy of a GLM-enriched diet, which should definitely be proposed as an adjunctive treatment to conventional medicine.”
While they sound strange and kind of gross, Green Lipped Mussels can pack a powerful and natural pain-relieving punch for your dog.
“I discuss Green Lipped Mussels with pet owners whose dogs have joint pain, arthritis, and stiffness. I give GLMs to my dogs to help reduce inflammation and as a preventative against arthritis (my dogs are 11, 6, and 6). When reviewing GLM supplements I look for a freeze dried powder that has been cold-processed to help retain it’s nutritional value.” ~ Kristin Clark, Raw Pet Digest
Xtend-Life™ Green Lipped Mussel Powder – Natural Pain Relief for Dogs
About a month ago, before Junior’s official diagnosis of Wobblers, I was on one of the Facebook Live sessions offered by Scott, the Dog Dad.
I posted a question about supplement options for natural pain relief in dogs and someone mentioned GLM.
My response… What is GLM?
It didn’t take me long in my research to find Xtend-Life Green Lipped Mussel Powder. I reached out to them and they generously sent me a bottle for Junior to try.
You can read their Complete Buyers’ Guide to Green Lipped Mussel Powder here.
Among the many benefits of Xtend-Life’s Green Lipped Mussel Powder for natural pain relief for dogs are:
- Sourced from the pristine waters in the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island of New Zealand.
- Up to 90% of Xtend-Life’s GLM original properties remain once converted into a powder, in comparison to only 10% in a mussel oil.
- Processed by a unique freeze-dry process under low temperatures, ensuring all the bio-active ingredients within the mussel remain at the highest levels possible
- 100% pure, natural whole food product.
I have been giving Junior 4 Xtend-Life GLM powder capsules a day, usually around lunchtime.
After a couple of weeks of supplementation, I have noticed Junior be much more himself, playful and silly. I have gone back and forth with reducing his Rimadyl while giving the GLM, and, while I can’t say concretely that it has dramatically improved his pain, I will say his mobility and vitality are significantly better.
2. Treating Pain with Hot and Cold Press
While this is not a supplement, something often overlooked by dog owners is the effectiveness of simply adding a hot or cold press to help relieve pain naturally.
But the challenge for most of us is knowing when to use hot and when to use cold temperatures for pain relief.
Follow these general guidelines and be sure to consult your veterinarian with any questions.
The Benefit of Heat for Natural Pain Relief
Heat therapy is an effective way to improve circulation and blood flow to a particular area due to increased temperature. This heat can reduce discomfort, relax and soothe muscles whereby increasing muscle flexibility, and heal damaged tissue.
Heat therapy is most commonly used for joints but can be applied anywhere there is pain, stiffness, or where an increase in blood flow would have a healing effect.
Keep in mind that when I refer to adding heat or “hot” I do not actually mean “hot,” but rather, warm.
Heat therapy can generally be used for longer durations of time, as compared to cold therapy. 30 minutes to 2 hours is not unheard of for relieving stiffness and tension for example. Simply apply for 15 minutes at a time until the body is warm to the touch and repeat as needed. You can do this every few hours.
There are many methods for applying heat therapy or a warm press to your dog. Some ideas include:
- Warm Water – Not hot!
- Warm Moist Towel or Washcloth – I simply fill a bowl with very warm water then submerge the cloth in the water, and then apply to the dog for a few minutes. You will need to re-submerge the cloth frequently to ensure heat consistently applied.
- Hairdryer – Use a low setting and BE CAREFUL not to get too close. If your dog is not desensitized to a hairdryer, do not use this method!
- Heated blanket or pad
- Homemade Warm Compress – Pour uncooked white rice into a thick sock, tie the end, and microwave until desired warmth. Check to make sure it’s not too hot before touching your dog.
The Benefit of Cold for Natural Pain Relief
Cold therapy, on the other hand, works by reducing blood flow to a particular area, which can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon. Often cold is used to relieve pain by reducing damage to muscles immediately after an injury, surgery or heavy exercise.
Additionally, applying a cold press can temporarily reduce nerve activity, which can also relieve pain.
Keep in mind that while the cold treats the swelling and inflammation, it does not treat the actual injury. Only your veterinarian can do that.
Cold therapy can come in a few different forms which will depend on your dog, the condition you are treating and what you have available to you at the time.
- Homemade Ice Pack – Simply put some crushed ice in a plastic bag.
- Homemade Cold Pack – This is my favorite method. I’ve made several of these and keep them in my freezer at all times. I make mine using rice and fabric. Simply sew your fabric, fill it with rice, and freeze.
- Commercial Gel Pack
- Bag of Frozen Peas or Corn
When You Should Use Hot Therapy or Cold Therapy to Relieve Pain in Dogs
Keeping in mind the general rules stated above, I created this infographic that I’m hopeful will help you delineate when you should use heat therapy and when you should use cold therapy for your dog. [*Pin it for Reference!]
As always, consult your veterinarian with additional questions for your dog’s specific condition.
Turmeric is a spice related to ginger that has been used in East India and the Middle East for thousands of years.
However, turmeric itself is not that exciting.
What is inside it is! Curcumin.
Curcumin is a phytochemical packed with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and revolutionary healing potential. It is said that curcumin contains proven anti-inflammatory effects that are comparable to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents as well as some prescription medications.
If simply taken whole, turmeric does very little in terms of reducing inflammation and relieving your dog’s pain.
However, by combining a little fat and ground pepper (piperine) you increase the intestinal absorption, and thus the bioavailability, of curcumin by over 2000%.
“…piperine in black pepper can trigger TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1) in the body. This triggering can reduce pain!”
Golden Paste Recipe
Chia seeds offer an excellent source of B vitamins and they are loaded with important Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and antioxidants. A powerful combination when you add it to the plethora of other healing properties of turmeric.
- ½ cup of organic turmeric root powder
- 1 cup of water (may need more)
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup organic cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (you can also use olive oil)
- 1-2 TBS of chia seeds
- Molds to freeze for storage
While soaking the chia seeds in a little bit of water, combine the water and turmeric in a small pot and heat over low/medium heat until it turns into a thick paste. Add the pepper and coconut oil, mix, and remove from heat.
Once it cools down a bit, add the chia seeds and mix. Pour into a container and use it over the next two weeks. If frozen, the golden paste will last much longer.
WARNING!!! Turmeric STAINS! Be very careful as you make golden paste as everything it touches will retain its beautiful yellow hue.
Lastly, you will have to play with the amount you feed. Start with 1/2 – 1 TSP for large and giant breed dogs. My frozen cubes are closer to 1 TBS, so I break these in half and feed over two days.
There is no right or wrong. Find what works for you and your dog.
The first time I gave Junior Golden Paste, he went from sedate and seemingly painful to a wild, playful puppy in a matter of an hour. He was feeling so good that he dug his formerly favorite (pre-pain) West Paw frisbee out of the toy basket and began running all over the house flipping the frisbee into the air.
If ever there was a time I needed my camera!
Because the Omega-3s are fragile and break down quickly in the presence of heat, air or light, they are lacking in both the commercial and fresh foods that we tend to feed our dogs.
Fish oil is one of nature’s richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) which have natural anti-inflammatory properties.
Great sources of EPA and DHA are fish including salmon, sardines, mackerel, black cod, herring, anchovies, and albacore tuna.
[READ: Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Dogs: What Every Dog Owner Must Know for more information on omega-3 fatty acids.]
I feed a combination of Dr. Harvey’s brand omega 3 and salmon oil, Xtend-Life Omega-3 for Dogs, cod liver oil, krill oil, fish oil, salmon oil, and whole frozen sardines. I alternate which ones I feed and increase or decrease the amount based on the rest of the diet for that day.
Two additional comments that I will make regarding omega-3 fish oils and feeding fish in general.
First, be sure to check the source of the fish oil you are feeding. Ideally, it will be wild-caught, human-grade fish oil, sustainably sourced from fresh, uncontaminated waters. Also, most oils need to be refrigerated to prevent oxidation, so don’t forget that step after you buy.
Second, I have had to experiment with how best to feed fish and fish oil.
My boys prefer whole sardines to be frozen. That is the ONLY way they will eat them. When frozen, Sulley and Junior LOVE whole sardines.
When feeding omega-3 fish oil supplements, if you have a very picky eater, you may consider mixing the oil into something else your dogs love like kefir or their organ grind, rather than pouring it directly on their food.
The benefits of omega-3 supplementation go far beyond natural pain relief for dogs, but you may need to experiment with what works best for your dog.
And last, but not least, is wheat germ oil.
Wheat germ makes up about 2.5% of the wheat kernel but is packed with nutrients. It is high in octacosanol which helps to enhance endurance, performance and reaction time during physical activity.
Wheat germ is also a wonderful source of vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown wheat germ oil helpful in reducing pain in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis through its anti-inflammatory action.
I gave Junior wheat germ oil when he had Panosteitis as a puppy. Recently I decided to add it back in (approximately 1 TBS) on alternate days with my fish oil oil supplementation as a source of vitamin E and to add to the anti-inflammatory properties of Junior’s diet.
**Note: Because wheat germ has lecithin in it, it is a natural laxative so be careful about not giving too much. I just use a small spoonful. A little goes a long way with this wonderful supplement.
Natural Pain Relief for Dogs BONUS:
This is not a supplement you will add to your dog’s diet, it is something I learned… the hard way.
If you are looking for natural ways to reduce your dog’s pain and inflammation, this might be one of the most important steps you take.
Reduce or Eliminate Chicken from Your Dog’s Diet
Simply put, chicken is extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids.
The omega-6 fatty acids produce hormones that increase inflammation. The hormones produced by omega-3 fatty acids work antagonistically and decrease that inflammation. So a balance between these hormones, and the fatty acids that control them, plays a large role in your dog’s immune system and overall health.
Chronic inflammation is, in part, caused by a diet that is unbalanced; high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids.
If you compare protein sources and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids they contain, chicken has a 23:1 ratio! The ideal would be a 5:1 ratio.
I will write more about chicken and my experience with it in a future post, but for now, let me just say, I have seen the benefits of eliminating chicken from Junior’s (and Sulley’s) diet first hand.
- Reduced pain and inflammation
- Greater mobility
- Elimination of skin issues
- Elimination of ear infections
“Chicken is so high in omega-6 fatty acids that you can’t feed it and hope to get a reasonably healthy balance of fats. Even if you feed a lot of omega-3 rich fish, let’s say half of your dog’s diet, you’ll still end up with 11 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3.”Chronic inflammation is, in part, caused by a diet that is unbalanced; high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids.
“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~Napoleon Hill
One of the most heartbreaking things to watch when your dog is in pain is the change in their personality.
Sulley and Junior had not played together since before the pain started back in April. Every time Sulley would try, Junior would yelp, and Sulley would sulk and apologize to him.
It was heartbreaking!
It is no exaggeration to say the change in Junior over the last month has been no less than remarkable!
I have been able to decrease Junior’s Rimadyl by more than 50% with no noticeable change in his level of pain with the combination of these five (well, six, including the BONUS rule) natural supplements.
Sulley and Junior play together like crazy walruses again. Junior is back to running and fetching his ball by the pool. And some days I catch myself momentarily forgetting he has a disease.
Junior is doing so well, I have restored hope in what the future holds for him and my ability to manage it.
I want this for you and your dog too.
Please use the links to the products I am recommending as your starting point.
Pain does not have to be a fixed outcome. It is the result of not seizing the plethora of opportunities we have available to prevent it.
Carpe diem!Pain does not have to be a fixed outcome. It is the result of not seizing the plethora of opportunities we have available to prevent it. Carpe diem!