It can be distressing to watch your dog live with joint discomfort as they age. Joint discomfort can be debilitating for your canine companion, and unfortunately, sometimes it isn't something that can be cured.
The best way to address dog discomfort is to do as much as you can ahead of time to prevent it. But even dogs who are in great health can eventually develop this condition.
Fortunately, there is more than one natural option for dog joint discomfort that can help your dog get back to a better quality of life.
But first, let’s take a closer look at the signs of a dog with joint discomfort and the risks that traditional medication presents. We’ll then review whether or not natural remedies might be the solution to reduce your dog’s discomfort.
Symptoms of Joint Discomfort in Dogs
Joint discomfort is often caused by cartilage deterioration. Cartilage is present in all of your dog’s joints and acts as a cushion for the bones.
When there is a normal, healthy amount of cartilage in the joint, the joint moves smoothly through its full range of motion. But when a dog gets older , that cartilage starts to break down and disappear. The result is swelling of the joint, causing discomfort and reduced movement.
Just about any joint in your dog’s body can develop discomfort. However, it seems to occur most commonly in the limbs and lower spine area in dogs.
As far as the symptoms of joint discomfort, the condition can look different in different dogs, so it can be challenging to detect in the early stages. Some dogs are quite good at hiding discomfort, so be on the lookout for common symptoms as your dog gets older. These include:
- Lameness, stiffness, limping, or trouble getting up
- Reluctance to move, run, play, etc.
- Irritability (growling, snapping, bearing teeth, etc.)
- Trouble getting into position to urinate or defecate
- Incontinence (accidents in the house)
If you see these symptoms in your dog, it’s time to pay a visit to your veterinarian. Working together, you’ll be able to come to a definitive diagnosis. You can then begin exploring the various options available to help your dog feel better.
The Risks of Medication
Just like humans, dogs can take certain medications for discomfort relief. These meds are often prescribed when a dog is recovering from surgery or a wound, or is experiencing discomfort related to an infection or illness.
When it comes to conditions that cause chronic discomfort, such as joint problems, some dogs are prescribed painkillers to help manage that discomfort. While this can be perfectly safe under the guidance and supervision of a veterinarian, it’s crucial to understand that continual use of painkillers can present some risks to your dog.
NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are among the most common painkillers prescribed to dogs. NSAIDs are also common in human medicine — you probably have Motrin or Advil in your medicine cabinet right now.
These drugs are anti-inflammatories and can work to significantly decrease discomfort from joint problems. But continued use can cause side effects. The FDA lists the following as potential side effects of NSAID use in animals:
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Intestinal bleeding
- Liver and kidney toxicity
When you give your dog NSAIDs for discomfort with the express permission and guidance of a vet, your pet should stay healthy. Still, some dog owners may want to avoid the risks entirely. That’s where natural remedies for joint problems come in.
Natural Remedies for Dog Joint Discomfort
Sometimes there is no cure for joint discomfort, but there are plenty of natural methods to help your dog feel more comfortable and maintain a good quality of life even while dealing with joint discomfort. Here are some of the top natural options to help with your dog’s joint discomfort
There are many joint supplements out there that can help reduce swelling in your dog’s joints, thereby reducing discomfort. Look for joint supplements containing ingredients like:
- Glucosamine: Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that is thought to help with joint discomfort by supporting the repair of cartilage in affected joints. It’s one of the most common ingredients in joint supplements, and is very safe for long-term use.
- Chondroitin: This is another naturally occurring substance that supports joint health. Chondroitin promotes water retention and elasticity in joints, helping with discomfort and range of motion.
- Fish oil: An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA, fish oil helps to promote natural inflammatory responses in the body.
- MSM: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a form of sulfur that helps creaky joints thanks to its natural promotion of natural inflammatory responses in the body It’s also a natural analgesic, meaning it can assist with discomfort.
- Vitamin C: For some dogs, high doses of vitamin C can help promote natural inflammatory responses in the joints. Consult your vet before giving your dog large amounts of vitamin C to make sure it’s safe.
- Turmeric: The same spice that you probably have in your cabinet right now can be very effective as an option to help with joint discomfort . (Although you’ll want to give Fido a turmeric supplement made specifically for dogs, not the powdered stuff from your kitchen). Turmeric has powerful properties that support antioxidants and natural inflammatory responses, both for humans and animals.
Many joint supplements use two or more of these ingredients in conjunction for maximum effect. Check out Pet Honesty’s hip and joint supplements to see what might work well for your beloved companion.
Weight Management and Exercise
Aside from supplements, the best way to help your dog maintain healthy joints and reduce joint discomfort is proper weight management.
When your dog carries excess weight, it puts more pressure on the joints. That pressure can speed up the breakdown of joint cartilage, leading to more discomfort . In fact, obese dogs are much more prone to developing joint discomfort than dogs who maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise your dog regularly and give them a high-quality diet with a healthy balance of nutrients. Feed them in proper portion sizes, and don’t let them free-feed. (In other words, don’t leave food out at all times for your pet to munch as they please.)
If your dog is already obese, work with your veterinarian to implement a diet and exercise plan to reduce body weight. For some dogs already dealing with joint discomfort, advanced exercise techniques might be needed. Examples include hydrotherapy (running on an underwater treadmill) and physiotherapy.
The ancient Chinese art of acupuncture is yet another natural option that might help your dog stay as happy as possible. Veterinary acupuncture, usually performed by a holistic veterinarian, involves inserting needles into specific points in your dog’s body to promote the release of endorphins and other natural chemicals, which can help decrease discomfort. Ask your vet about this technique and whether or not it could work for your dog.
What Natural Option for Joint Discomfort Is Best for Your Dog?
Joint discomfort is no fun to deal with, both for you as a pet owner and especially for your dog. It can be daunting to think that there might not be a permanent cure, but don’t despair.
Work with your veterinarian to find out what option or combination of options — joint supplements, proper diet and weight management, exercise, and other natural options like acupuncture — will help your canine friend feel better. Then, your dog can get back to doing what they do best: Being a source of love, companionship, and fun for you and your family.