Because I work so heavily in the pet industry, I am often asked about natural remedies for arthritis in dogs and if they exist. Yes, there are natural and less invasive things you can do to comfort a dog with the aches and pains associated with this condition. My dogs have benefited from these remedies.
As your dog’s bones and joints age, their surfaces become thinner and arthritis sets in. Arthritis is a progressive disease with no cure.
There are many things you can do to help your dog manage arthritis pain. Just like people, what works for one person may not help someone else. The same holds true for dogs.
Whether your dog has been limping, is older and showing signs of arthritis, or you want to safely start a supplement or steps to slow arthritis down, you’ve landed in the right spot.
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How Do I Know If My Dog Has Arthritis?
Arthritis tends to creep up on people and pets, but eventually there will be outward signs including:
- Stiff when trying to move or walk around
- Difficulty when trying to get up from a sitting or lying down position
- Apparent pain when touched
- Not as energetic as usual
- Irritable and mood changes
- Lameness in one or more legs
- Stiff, sore, or swollen joints
- Reluctance to jump, get onto furniture, use the steps
- Weight gain (from inactivity)
Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), affects at least 14 million dogs in the United States. Further, APPA reports that dogs live in at least 69 million U.S. homes. As dogs age, more and more bones and joints are affected.
Osteoarthritis is a disease of the cartilage that affects older dogs, but not all older dogs. According to the Morris Animal Foundation, “When researchers compare cartilage from individuals suffering from OA to cartilage from older individuals without OA, some similarities are evident, but in other aspects tissues are very different.”
Not all aging dogs will become arthritic.
Using CBD For Dog Arthritis Pain Management
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with arthritis, there are things you can do for comfort and pain management. Always work with your veterinarian before starting any new supplements with your dog.
Cannabinoids are at the forefront of pain management in many human and canine conditions, including arthritis. First, some terminology explained in simple terms:
- Cannabinoids are natural compounds in the cannabis plant family. CBD is one of the most beneficial cannabinoids. CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol.
- CBD is found mostly in hemp plants
- Dogs and people have an endocannabinoid system, or ECS. A dog’s ECS is activated when he consumed hemp oil. From there, it communicates with the brain and other parts of the dog’s body.
- Hemp-derived CBD contains a maximum of 0.3 percent THC, a cannabinoid with psychoactive properties. Dogs will not get high from the consumption of hemp-derived cannabidiol products.
- CBD is metabolized by a dog’s liver, the same as people.
Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, Cornell University’s section chief and professor of clinical nutrition, says veterinarians can now recommend and discuss CBD oil with all clients. Based on the available literature, Wakshlag says that there seems to be a place for hemp products in the treatment of osteoarthritis, atopic dermatitis and canine seizures.
My Favorite CBD For Dog Arthritis
My personal favorite CBD hemp oil for dogs is from Pet Releaf. They contain no additives, do not contain solvents or pesticides, and are USDA-certified organic, third-party tested, and veterinarian formulated in Colorado in the United States.
Pet Releaf CBD is designed to alleviate the discomfort and uneasiness that comes with arthritis. I am a strong proponent of preventative medicine and proactive care that doesn’t always involve prescription medications with scary side effects.
If my dog were starting out on a regular Pet Releaf arthritis maintenance plan, I would use:
Read all about Pet Releaf CBD and what dose is best for your dog in our recently published article.
BONUS: Use code FIDOSE20 at PetReleaf.com to save 20 % off your order, plus free shipping on orders over $75
Natural Remedies for Arthritis in Dogs
You do not always have to resort to traditional pharmaceutical medications for arthritis in your dog. Here are some natural options to consider.
Nutraceuticals do not contain essential nutrients dogs need like vitamins or minerals, but they provide other health benefits.
An example of a nutraceutical is a joint supplement containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and Boswelli.) Not all nutraceuticals are created equally and data is often based on subjective feedback from pet parents. This is time-tested nutraceuticals vary in their efficacy from dog to dog, just like people.
My favorite nutraceuticals: Two products I’ve had success with include Dasuquin with MSM chewable tablets and Duralactin Canine Joint Plus Soft Chews. Do not use them in conjunction with one another, but choose the one(s) that work best for your dog.
“I like at-risk dogs on basic joint support from a year of age, and dogs with early diagnoses of joint disorders on it even sooner,” says Dr. Laurie S. Coger, DVM, CVCP, of The Healthy Dog Workshop. “These products are most effective prior to the development of arthritis — ie they are preventative strategies, not treatments. Key ingredients of these supplements include glucosamine, MSM, omega 3 fatty acids, and herbs such as turmeric and boswellia.”
I continued to use Pet Releaf CBD with a nutraceutical when my Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, was diagnosed with DJD.
Cold Laser Therapy
The reality of cold (or low-level) laser therapy for dogs is something I know a lot about. My Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, tore both of his ACLs (anterior cruciate ligament) within one year of each other.
We tried conservative management, including a custom knee brace and laser therapy for dogs at a rehabilitation center.
During the postoperative period and in rehab, Dexter’s therapist made use of class 4 laser treatment for dogs. There are different classes of canine laser therapy, but what stood out most to me was the efficacy of the treatment on my dog’s recovery.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies laser from Class 1 to Class 4. Low-level lasers use wavelengths between 600 and 1,000 nm, or wavelengths, and power levels from 5 to 500 mW.
Dexter’s veterinarian suggested we try a home laser when he was diagnosed with advanced DJD. I used the laser on his hips and back with regular treatments from the comfort of home. It made a difference in his ability to take longer, less painful walks in his later years.
We rented a laser through our veterinarian’s office with the option to purchase, which we did. It ran me about $1,300 and it was well worth it. Check with your veterinarian about laser recommendations.
Class 4 lasers are used in rehab centers and clinics. You will not be using a class 4 laser at home. Lower-level lasers for use at home deliver a lower frequency of light. Class 4 lasers cannot legally be used at home due to safety and health requirements.
Cold laser should never be used on a dog with cancer.
Like the other treatments mentioned, acupuncture cannot heal affected joints, but it can relieve pain and improve your dog’s mobility.
Thin acupuncture needles are instead into various acupuncture points on your dog’s body. Most dogs cooperate for this treatment, as there is little discomfort. Acupuncture is one of the most natural remedies for arthritis in dogs.
Sometimes acupuncturists will use Licki-Mats with peanut butter or a soothing treat. I know pet parents who provided Pet Releaf CBD products to their dog ahead of an acupuncture session.
Acupuncture benefits dogs by:
- Improving blood flow and circulation
- Loosening muscles and tightness around your dog’s joints
- Reduce the need for stronger medications
- Release endorphins, which are the body’s pain relief hormones
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
I’ve used omega-3 fatty acids on all my dogs over several decades, and I am not alone. A study done by veterinarian Dr. Stephen Mehler of Hope Veterinary Specialists in Malvern, Pennsylvania, reports supplementation with EPA and DHA can potentially improve rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Most experts agree that the reasons omega-3’s are beneficial to dogs is their ability to reduce inflammation. When you reduce inflammation, you reduce OA pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids for both people and dogs because they cannot be made in the body. The only source of EPA and DHA for these species is through diet and/or supplementation. Daily supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acids helps support optimal health, so we do that.
I add Dr. Harvey’s Omega-3 Health and Shine to my dog’s meal once a day. He isn’t even a year old, but it is good for his coat, joints, heart, and more.
Water and Physical Therapy
Keeping joints moving is essential for longevity in all dogs. Dogs struggling with DJD can benefit from hands-on therapy like massages, stretches, and other light exercises to the affected areas.
You can have a canine rehabilitation specialist show you how to do the exercises and repeat the process at home as directed.
Water therapy can be therapeutic, especially if it is warm water. Being in the pool increases circulation and allows dogs to move freely without pain.
Ask your veterinarian about canine hydrotherapy and underwater treadmill treatment for your dog.
Dr. Julie Buzby is one of my favorite integrative veterinarians on the planet. She is passionate about providing chiropractic care for animals and has seen the improvements.
Dr. Buzby says you can see the dogs relax after a chiropractic adjustment because they want to “reset” their nervous system.
Many dogs can benefit from chiropractic care including those affected by hip dysplasia, IVDD, neck or back pain, OA, and other disorders.
She also invented a product to help dogs as they age for more stability and traction. If your dog can walk on rugs or carpets but struggles on hardwood floors or slippery surfaces, Toe Grips can help.
Toe Grips slide easily onto your dog’s nails to give them instant traction on hard surfaces and stairs. They can be worn indoors and outdoors and for one to three months per set.
You can purchase Toe Grips on Amazon according to your dog’s size.
Diet and Weight Management
There is a strong link between canine arthritis and obesity. Osteoarthritis is more prevalent in dogs who are obese or have a higher body condition score.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) says OA and obesity go hand in hand. The right diet is incredibly important.
Overweight or obese dogs are 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with OA, while dogs with OA are 1.7 times more likely to be overweight or obese.
Extra pounds aggravate inflammation. Obesity leads to joint loading where excess body weight increases the strain on your dog’s joints. This strain leads to damage and inflammation. Excess fatty tissue can cause existing inflammation to flare and worsen.
Some foods may actually worsen arthritis pain and symptoms including:
- Nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, white potatoes, and peppers. They contain glucoalkaloids, which can cause spasms, achiness, stiffness, and inflammation when eaten on a regular basis.
- Grains including barley, rye, gluten, and wheat. All of these can aggravate your dog’s arthritic pain.
- Fillers such as soybean, grain by-products, ‘meal,’ modified corn starch, peanut, and anything called ‘hulls’ or ‘bran.’ They increase your dog’s bodily inflammatory response.
Here’s how to successfully help your dog lose weight and how I helped my second Cocker Spaniel lose weight. Always talk to your traditional veterinarian, holistic veterinarian, and/or a veterinary nutritionist with specific questions.
Adequan Injections For Joint Discomfort In Dogs
Adequan is classified as a chondroprotectant, which Dr. Buzby explains protects the cartilaginous tissue covering the end of dog the bones.
It contains polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, which you will often see abbreviated as PSGAG. PSGAGs differ from other medications because they are classified as modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOAD.)
DMOADs may slow or change the progression of OA. It is the only DMOAD that is FDA-approved as of this writing. It is only available as an injectable into the muscle. The dosing depends on your dog’s weight.
Frequency varies, but generally is performed by a veterinary nurse or veterinarian in the office twice a week for up to four weeks for eight maximum injections. Dogs are monitored and can have injections as needed afterward. It is not a cure or permanent solution.
I’ve never tried or used Adequan on my dogs to date. It is included because it is a chondroprotectant and used by integrative and holistic veterinarians I trust.
There are side effects to Adequan, which Dr. Buzby explains are rare. These include pain or swelling where the injection went in, diarrhea, bleeding, or inappetance.
However, there are other potential issues, such as transient diarrhea and, sometimes, abnormal bleeding. Do not administer Adequan in dogs with a suspected bleeding disorder and/or if they are on any anti-coagulant medications.
Adequan should be used with caution in dogs with renal or hepatic impairment (i.e. kidney or liver disease). This is because the kidneys are primarily responsible for excreting Adequan (i.e. removing it from the body).
Since liver disease in dogs can impact blood clotting ability, it is best to avoid Adequan in those dogs, too. The veterinary team should also not administer Adequan to dogs who are hypersensitive to PSGAG drugs. There are no age or breed restrictions when it comes to Adequan usage.
However, researchers have not yet evaluated its safety in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. If you plan to breed your dog, ask your vet about the risks versus benefits of using Adequan in this situation.Dr. Julie Buzby
Products to Help Dogs With Arthritis At Home
You can do many things to add comfort to your arthritic dog’s life in the home. Here are a few of our favorite products we have used with success.
Orthopedic Dog Beds
My favorite dog orthopedic beds are the Sealy Lux Dog Bed, which I purchased for my third Cocker Spaniel, Alvin. He is a puppy, but I wanted something roomy that would grow with him and provide comfort. The Sealy Lux Dog Bed is a hit.
My other favorite dog orthopedic bed is from Chewy. The FurHaven Velvet Waves Perfect Comfort Sofa Dog Bed has wrap-around bolsters and comes in several sizes. Both this bed and the Sealy have removable, washable covers.
Elevated Food and Water Bowls
Anytime you can relieve stress from the neck and back, your dog benefits. Two of our favorite elevated dogs bowls are:
Frisco Marble Print Stainless Steel Double Elevated Dog Bowl: From Chewy, this stand holds three cups per bowl, is easy to clean, and goes with any decor. It is nicely priced, too.
Our other favorite is the DogIt Elevated Dog Bowl. From Amazon, this bowl is available in several colors and sizes and is designed with anti-skid feet to keep the bowl from moving. I’ve gifted this bowl many times.
Toe Grips are a must-have item if your dog has arthritis and you have slippery or hardwood floors. Do not mistake the imposters for the real deal.
Keep safe floor runners down for dogs who may slip in addition to the Toe Grips or if your dog needs extra care.
Steps and Stramps
I love the combination of steps and ramp for the Pet Gear Stramp. I purchased this for my Cocker Spaniel puppy, who uses it throughout the day. It saves his joints and spine from pressure.
Jackets and Indoor Warmth
A warm arthritic body is a happier body. If your joints ache, you don’t want to feel cold, so why should your dog?
Here are some of my favorite coats for dogs and some bonus jammies, too, for indoor wear.
GingerLead Support Harness
I’ve used a GingerLead, and I highly recommend one for your dog when the time comes. I met the founders at a conference, and they explained why GingerLead is the best. The sling harness helps dogs rise and allow you to lift them with ease.
Natural Remedies For Dog Arthritis From Pet Parents
I am the administrator and founder of a successful Cocker Spaniel Facebook group called Club Cocker Wigglebutts Worldwide. Here’s what some of our members have done to help ease their dogs’ arthritis pain and symptoms without hard-core medication.
CBD oil, laser therapy, massage, and turmeric all together worked wonders for Maxie.Al Nelson
Lucky just turned 14! He was having severe arthritis where he couldn’t move, was listless, not eating, and was feeding liquid food with a syringe. Got him on anti-inflammatory meds, but it was not enough to help. We added CBD oil and saw miraculous results. Incredible improvement all around.Robin Waters
CBD oil. My furry niece has been on it for about 6 months and it’s made a world of difference. She no longer needs help getting up or going up stairsCarol Johnson
Our Springer had arthritis for 6 years until he crossed the rainbow bridge at 17. The joint supplements work BUT what really made a huge difference was 6000 mg of fish oil daily. Plus sun chlorella algae. Our vet went to a huge medical conference and 6000 mg fish oil was one of the suggestions. it worked SOOO well.
Then at 14 when it got worse we started giving him liquid collagen by Modere. He went from walking stiffly to running and playing ball again. So he got the fish oil, the sun chlorella, a joint supplement and then the liquid collagen every single morning. He played and ran like a younger dog until he was 16. I highly suggest it.Elif Castillo
My 2 pups saw a doggie PT place and a holistic vet, both treated with cold laser, massage, and acupuncture. I also gave CBD and used a device I purchased thru my holistic vet called The Assisi LoopTerry Walker
I have used CBD oil for dementia, pain, appetite, anxiety, and seizures. I have had GREAT success. For me, it was finding a brand that worked with my guys. I landed on Pet Releaf CBD.Lynn Wobeck
I would try to avoid NSAIDs, as they irritate the GI. I have warming mats for them, not electric, that reflects their body heat back to them. They have stairs to all furniture, and I use Ruggables on the hardwood to avoid slipping. Also, keep their nails maintained. Chiropractic adjustments help immensely.Annette McClure
I had great results with CBD oil with my senior dog Snickers.Kathleen Ann Soderstrom
Duralactin worked miracles for my older boy. Duralactin soft chews were a godsend for years for Boomer – an excellent product that turned his life around – wish there was one for people!Debi Lampert Rudman
Can I Prevent Arthritis in My Dog?
Although arthritis is not a preventable disease, there are things you can do to be proactive against arthritis. If you have a puppy or younger dog, now is a good time to start thinking about it. If your dog is middle age or older, there’s a lot you can do.
- Manage your dog’s weight using the tips above.
- Younger puppies should not be jumping up and down off things. Repetitive trauma can damage ligaments and joints and puts pressure on the spine. I trained my Cocker Spaniel puppy to use a stramp (combo of step and ramp,) and he is totally used to it.
- Be careful with the type of exercise your dog does. Some dogs aren’t meant to jog or do agility. Keep your dog active and happy.
- Start your dog on supplements. Choose from the supplements outlined in this article. I use Pet Releaf CBD on a regular basis for my Cocker Spaniel.
- Use a harness on your dog instead of a typical collar to prevent neck damage and muscle inflammation. I keep the collar on outside for my pup’s ID tags. I never attach the leash.
- Talk to your veterinarian about having hip and knee x-rays on your dog and at what age. Some folks start this at age two.
- Keep your dog on a safe flea and tick preventative. Ticks cause many diseases including Lyme disease which causes severe joint problems and pain.
- Don’t overload your dog with multiple supplements. Choose wisely, talk to your veterinarian, and try one thing at a time.
- Add Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of whole fish or high quality fish oil supplements to your dog’s diet to help decrease inflammation.
What About Traditional Medicines for Dog Arthritis?
I am not against traditional arthritis medicines for dogs. I am against over-prescribing these drugs and the high potential for serious side effects or death. Read my post on the truth about Apoquel.
“Although NSAIDs are effective at reducing inflammation and pain and promoting improved comfort and a better quality of life, there are concerns for mild to severe side effects, including damage to the kidneys, liver, digestive tract, nervous system, blood clotting cascade, and more,” says Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA, CVJ.
Mahaney says pain-numbing drugs like tramadol or gabapentin can be used to help with arthritis pain, but they generally don’t directly address the underlying issue and have side effects of their own such as behavior changes, sedation, constipation, nausea, and more.
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions about canine arthritis.
Some pet parents swear by natural treatments like herbs. These include yucca root powder, turmeric, and comfrey. Always check with your veterinarian first because even natural herbs have side effects if misused or with other medications.
No, not always. It is common for dogs to slow down and be affected by arthritis, but other causes of joint pain are not related to aging. Larger breed dogs are predisposed to joint issues. Degenerative joint problems can happen with use over the years. Cruciate ligament issues cause pain and limping.
Yes. Our second Cocker Spaniel underwent two extracapsular suture surgeries on two separate occasions to repair torn ligaments of his rear legs, namely the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL/CCL). He’s had arthritis, but that didn’t stop him or me from living life with modifications.
The main issue Dr. Julie Buzby shares with clients is that fatty acids may increase bleeding times, so she recommends her clients stop them a few weeks before a scheduled surgery.