If your pet has been suffering from joint pain, your first priority is to make them comfortable and help them regain the function that they might have lost from being stiff and in pain. There are various natural and medical ways to treat pet joint pain. If your pet’s discomfort is mild, you can start with natural remedies and at-home treatment; if, however, their range of motion is severely limited or they are in a lot of pain, make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss all of the surgical and pharmaceutical options available to relieve your pet’s suffering.
For mild discomfort in the joints, natural remedies are generally safe, noninvasive, and effective. They also make a good complementary treatment when combined with surgery and/or medication in more severe cases. Talk to your veterinarian, however, before trying any of these remedies on a pet who has been in severe pain or who is on medication or had surgery, because in some cases, they could be contraindicated.
Acupuncture can be another very effective way to treat pet joint pain. It can be used on the spine as well as on other joints, but it tends to be less effective on the latter. Acupuncture works by stimulating the muscles that are tight and filled with tension from the joint pain. It is usually well-tolerated along the back in cats and dogs, but this will depend on your pet’s patience, individual pain tolerance, and temperament. Acupuncture is done by a professional; do not attempt it at home!
Massage feels great to humans who have tense, sore muscles and joint pain; it also feels good to your pet. It is important that you don’t massage directly on the painful joint, as this can increase inflammation and cause even more pain. Instead, start with light strokes to increase circulation in the area near the joint. Gently rub and knead any tight muscles in the area. Watch your pet carefully; they will let you know if something doesn’t feel good. Also, proceed with caution because pets who are in pain might scratch, snap, or even bite if they are surprised by additional pain.
Both warm and cold compresses can help treat pet joint pain. If an injury has occurred or if there is swelling, a cold compress can be preferable. Use an over-the-counter ice pack, preferably a soft one. If your pet has thick fur, you can simply hold it against the fur in the area, but if the fur is sparse or short, you will need to wrap the ice pack in a thin towel to avoid over-chilling your pet. If your pet tolerates it, you can leave it on for up to 20 minutes. Even a few minutes will help, however. Heat is better for generalized stiffness without swelling. It is also good to use at least 24 hours after an injury. Again, make sure that the pack is not too hot. Wrap it in a towel to avoid damaging tender skin.
A supplement such as 1TDC™
that is designed to increase flexibility and improve overall joint health can also be very helpful. Use it as directed and check with your veterinarian first if your pet is already taking medication or other supplements.
Some pets will require pain medication to help them feel better when they have joint pain. The point of medicating is to relieve their symptoms without creating serious side effects, so you will need to watch your pet carefully to be sure that their pain is lessened and that they are not suffering more due to the side effects. Some of the medications that might be given include narcotics, steroids, and anti-inflammatory medications. You might give your pet drops or a pill at home, or they might have injections at home or in your vet’s office. Be sure to let your veterinarian know about any medication or supplements they are already on to prevent potentially dangerous interactions. Also, if your pet seems lethargic, isn’t eating, or is showing other signs of a side effect, check with your veterinarian to see if the medication or the dosage needs to be changed. Do not give your pet human medication, as it can cause severe side effects and is toxic to pets in some cases.
Surgery is an option to treat pet joint pain in some cases. If the home remedies, supplements, and medications are not working, surgical intervention might be the answer to solving your pet’s pain problem. Most veterinarians like to try other measures first to avoid the risks and discomforts associated with surgery, but once those other measures haven’t worked, surgical procedures are appropriate and can be extremely helpful. The cost and recovery time for pet joint surgery depends on the procedure and how it is done. For example, a traditional hip surgery will take your dog a long time to recover from, but arthroscopic surgery will be much less invasive and can have a shorter recovery period. Often, the cost for an arthroscopic procedure will be more than for a traditional procedure due to the expertise and equipment needed. You might be referred to a specialist, who might charge more than you’ve paid for procedures at your regular veterinarian’s office. It is important to talk to the treating veterinarian about the costs and recovery time in advance of scheduling the procedure. If you are worried about your pet’s joint pain, talk to your veterinarian promptly. With early intervention, expensive and painful surgical procedures can often be avoided. Getting to the root of the problem will also allow your pet to have a more fulfilling, pain-free life, so don’t put off this important conversation with your vet.