How to Treat Arthritis Pain in Dogs Naturally

how to treat arthritis pain in dogs naturally

how to treat arthritis pain in dogs naturally

If your pup is on more drugs than you’re happy with, let’s take a look at how to treat arthritis pain in dogs naturally.

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe there is a need for drugs in the treatment of our animals, and I am sure Red wouldn’t be here without them, but personally I like to include natural options when I can. 

The holistic approach to treatment

The holistic approach (in both veterinary and human medicine) looks at treating the whole being and understanding what caused the problem/issue in the first place. Western medicine typically believes in how to treat arthritis pain in dogs naturallyprescribing a drug to treat the symptom, without delving into the “why” of it. On a personal note I don’t like to be viewed as a “sore knee” or “upset stomach.” While I am grateful for the treatments available, I do like to understand why the problem exists in the first place and how do I treat “that” in a more natural and gentle way if possible. There is also a concern that when symptoms are masked by drugs for long periods of time, it not only makes it harder to treat the problem, other serious problems can develop that will go unseen.

Will it work for my dog?

It is an impossible question to answer because every dog is different and so is their response. The thing is there are so many options out there, the chances are good you will find something your dog responds to.

It’s possible –

You will see good results when used in conjunction with your dog’s current medication

Your vet may be able to reduce the dose of the drug

The results will be so positive your dog will no longer need the medication

Your dog won’t respond well enough to the options to make it worthwhile

If the last scenario happens, don’t worry about it. There are drugs Red is taking that I can’t replace, and to be honest I wouldn’t even try. She has a few issues that takes a lot to keep in balance, I wouldn’t take a chance upsetting that balance just because I like a natural approach. I also like her here with me!!

How long will it take for my dog to feel better?

I hate to say it’s another question that can’t be answered with a specific time frame but… Drugs typically work a lot quicker then supplements and remedies, but some dogs may show improvement within a matter of days, others weeks or longer.  

What’s my experience with and interest in natural and holistic care you ask?

You may or may not know I have a 16 1/2 year old rescue named Red. We adopted her 8 1/2 years ago when she was thought to be around 8. As the years have passed and her health issues mounted, so did the number of drugs she was being prescribed, and I started to become concerned by the number of chemicals her little body was my 16 1/2 year old senior dog named Redforced to process.

Occasionally I would speak to my vet about all the medications Red was taking, and ask if he knew of alternatives I could try. He is not a holistic vet but did advise as much as he could. When we were away for a few months last year and needed a vet I chose to go holistic, and found it so fascinating to learn about the differences in their views to treatment. Long story short I was able to replace a couple of her medications with more natural products, and Red had twice weekly acupuncture treatments for 3 months. 

It also makes me feel good knowing I’m doing my best to add a kinder, gentler element to my animals’ care. 

What are you giving your arthritic dog?

I know many people have been prescribed Metacam and other drugs for pain relief and if they work to make their dogs more comfortable, fantastic. That being said, if you’re interested in adding some natural alternatives it’s encouraging to know options exist.  

Word of caution

I strongly recommend you speak to your vet before implementing any changes. You want to be sure there are no risks of a drug interaction, or the product containing an ingredient prohibited for your dog. Also “natural” doesn’t mean it’s automatically safe to use by all dogs under all conditions. If your vet isn’t able to advise you, speaking to a holistic vet is an option, just be sure to keep the lines of communication open between everyone involved in your pup’s care. 

Let’s define some terms

There are a lot of words we use to describe the natural approach – alternative, natural, herbal medicine, holistic, supplement, homeopathic, nutraceutical. Many are used interchangeably (as I do), so I thought I would include some dictionary definitions to help clarify what’s what! 

Dictionary definitions

Alternative – “…Medical products and practices that are not part of standard care.” For example: treating heart disease with chelation therapy

Herbal Medicine – “The practice of using medicinal herbs to promote health, prevent and/or treat disease

Holistic – “Identifying with principles of holism in a system of therapeutics, especially one considered outside the mainstream of scientific medicine, as naturopathy or chiropractic, and often involving nutritional measures

Homeopathy – “…or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself

Natural Anything that occurs in nature or is produced naturally; it is not artificial, synthetic, or manufactured

Nutraceutical – “… a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.”

Supplement – “Something added to a food or a diet to increase its nutritional value”


Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements, and other related products used to boost the nutritional content of the diet

Natural alternatives for dogs with arthritis

A healthy weight

All the drugs and supplements aside, if your dog is a bit on the chunky side all that extra weight is putting unnecessary strain on his joints, causing pain. Of course treat the disease, but at the same time help your dog lose obesity in dogs will aggravate the pain of arthritisweight in a healthy way. Most if not all vet practices have a free weight loss clinic, so make an appointment to get him started on a weight loss program today!!  


Sweet potatoes

  • High in beta carotene which helps fight inflammation
  • Contain amino acids which help build muscles often withering due to lack of exercise because of arthritis pain


Such as…

  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Dark leafy greens


  • High in antioxidants and great for fighting inflammation
  • Can help strengthen bones and connective tissue in joints


  • Thought to have anti inflammatory properties 
  • Helps remove uric acid from the body, and uric acid can worsen arthritis

Papaya and Mango

Contain antioxidants but lower in citric acid than other antioxiant containing fruits, so easier for dogs to digest


Antioxidants in alfalfa prevent cell damage that can lead to joint degradation

Anti-inflammatory properties reduce swelling and pain

Go grain free 

Eliminating grain has been known to significantly improve arthritis symptoms in dogs. If you aren’t able to omit it 100%, look for brands with reduced carbs, fillers and grains.

Canned food over dry

Canned foods tend to have fewer carbs then dry

The high temperatures used to create dry dog food increases its inflammatory properties

Raw/homecooked diet

Many vets and parents of arthritic dogs believe that a raw or home cooked diet are the best options for dogs in general, not just those with arthritis 


Natural anti inflammatory 

What to avoid

In addition to avoiding grains and highly processed kibble, other recommendations of what to avoid include – 

  • Fatty meats
  • Milk products
  • White potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants

Supplements and other alternatives

Supplements can help decrease inflammation and help the body repair itself, but they can’t fix or change calcium deposits, scar tissue, cartilage tears or other structural damage to a dog’s joints. 


I liked this easy to understand explanation of what glucosamine is, so I am quoting directly from the 1800petmeds website. 

“Glucosamine is a natural substance found in your pet’s body, with the highest concentration found in healthy cartilage. The glucosamine in your dog’s body produces glycosaminoglycan, which is used to help form and repair body tissues such as cartilage. As your dog ages, the natural production of glucosamine in the body slows. As a result, the natural repair process in the body slows, eventually leading to joint pain and stiffness. The ongoing Advanced joint support glucosamine and chondroitin for dogswear and tear on your dog’s joints, combined with the slowed repair time of the cartilage, leads to the development of painful arthritis. The good news is that research has found that providing supplements of glucosamine for dogs can help rebuild cartilage, which can help restore your dog’s joint function and activity levels.

Benefits of glucosamine for dogs:
  • Glucosamine has an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to reduce your dog’s pain
  • Side effects are very rare
  • Helps restore joint health naturally, increasing mobility
  • Improves lubrication in your dog’s joints
  • May reduce or eliminate the need for NSAIDS, which have possible side effects and don’t repair the joints, only reduce pain”

Because it is extracted from the shells of crabs, lobsters or shrimps there is a constant and inexpensive source as the shells are usually discarded. It is possible some dogs may be allergic to shellfish, in that case a product like Glycan Plus Glucosamine is worth a try. It is shellfish free and comes very highly recommended by someone I know who has been using it to treat severe arthritis in her dogs. 

It can take several weeks before seeing any noticeable improvements, several months for real results.

Results range from – 

Dogs who couldn’t walk now able to go for short walks, long walks or even runs, to dogs who have shown no improvement.

Overall, people are very pleased with the results they’ve seen in their dogs.


While Glucosamine is the most common ingredient found in supplements for joint health, another natural substance called Chondroitin can increase the effectiveness of that supplement. Like Glucosamine, natural Chondroitin production decreases with age, which is why supplements can be particularly helpful for dogs suffering from arthritis pain. Naturally found in cartilage, the supplement is derived primarily from bovine cartilage, but also comes from sharks and whales. The source does not seem to influence its’ efficacy.

It may:

  • help the body repair damaged cartilage
  • restore joint integrity
  • prevent stress injuries to joints
  • help repair damaged connective tissue
  • protect existing cartilage from premature breakdown
  • keep cartilage tissue hydrated

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

An MSM supplement is an anti-inflammatory so promotes healing of painful joints, and an antioxidant which gets rid of allergens and toxins from the body. Although it is naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, kelp and cow’s milk, it’s probably easier to buy a supplement so you know you’re getting the right dosage. 

Turmeric golden paste

Turmeric golden paste has made a massive difference in the lives of so many dogs, as it is curcumin, the ingredient in turmeric that is a very powerful anti inflammatory.  It can also inhibit the enzymes known to cause swelling and pain.

If you’re interested in more information about the benefits for both humans and animals, check out the very popular FB group called Turmeric User Group

I have included the recipe from the user group, as well as a recommended dose for dogs. As I always suggest, please speak to your vet before introducing anything new into the treatment plan just to be safe. 


1/2 cup turmeric powder (125 mls) (60 grams)

1 cup water (250 mls), and 1 cup in reserve if needed

1/3 cup (70 mls) cold pressed coconut, olive or linseed/flaxseed oil

2-3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper

Place turmeric and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Then reduce to a simmer (a slow boil) and stir until you have a thick paste. This should take about 7 – 10 minutes and you will probably need to add additional water along the way. Let the mixture cool until it’s just warm to the touch, and then add the pepper and oil. Mix thoroughly (some people like to use a whisk). Vigorous beating isn’t necessary if you let the mixture cool a bit before adding the oil. Store in a clean glass jar and refrigerate. It isn’t absolutely necessary to sterilize the jar, but doing so will help prolong the life of the Golden Paste.

If you simply can’t tolerate any form of pepper, you can leave it out.  The pepper helps to keep the turmeric active in your bloodstream for much longer than without the pepper, but if you can’t have pepper, you can make the Golden Paste without it. The benefits simply won’t last as long for you before you need to have more.

Golden Paste will keep for about two weeks, refrigerated. You can freeze a portion if you think you have too much to use within two weeks.

For medium to large dogs, start the Golden Paste at about ¼ tsp twice a day, in their food. A very small dog, a young puppy or a toy breed dog may need to start with less. Try 1/8 tsp to begin with.”

Coconut oil

Being a natural anti inflammatory, coconut oil helps lubricate joints so helps with the pain of arthritis. Start with a very low dose to begin with, and the chart below, taken from the earthclinic website, will help you get started. One quick note – I tried Red on coconut oil for her dementia and gave her much less than the recommended dose, and she had a bout of pancreatitis because of it, so I stopped immediately.  

Weight in Pounds Initial Suggested Dose Maximum Daily Dose
4-8 lbs 1/8 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon
9-15 lbs 1/4 teaspoon 3/4 teaspoon
16-30 lbs 1/2 teaspoon 1 1/2 teaspoons
31-60 lbs 1 teaspoon 1 tablespoon
61- 90 lbs 1 1/2 teaspoons 1 1/2 tablespoons
91-115 lbs 2 teaspoons 2 tablespoons
116-150 lbs 3 teaspoons 3 tablespoons

New Zealand Green-lipped mussels

If you’re interested in reading the results of some studies on New Zealand Green lipped mussels, you can read one here and another here

The Missing Link Ultimate Canine Senior Health Supplement

One of the members in my Senior Dog Care Club Facebook group highly recommends this product, as she has seen some huge benefits for her dog so I thought I would mention it. It contains New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels as I just talked about, as well as omega 3s and 6s. 

Bone broth

Another alternative many people can’t live without is bone broth. Learn more about it in this article called “Everything You Need to Know About Bone Broth For Dogs.”

This quote taken from the dogsnaturally website will explain why it’s so amazing for helping dogs with arthritis. 

“In the book Deep Nutrition, Dr Cate Shanahan writes “The health of your joints depends upon the health of the collagen in your ligaments, tendons, and on the ends of your bones. Collagens are a large family of biomolecules,

bone broth for dogs
credit: Dana Wabner

which include the glycosaminoglycans, very special molecules that help keep our joints healthy.”

Bone broth is loaded with glycosaminoglycans and you might even be familiar with one of them: glucosamine. Not only does bone broth contain super amazing amounts of glucosamine, it’s also packed with other joint protecting compounds like chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.

Moreover, the glycosaminoglycans from bone broth are resistant to digestion and are absorbed in their intact form. According to Dr Shanahan, they act like hormones, stimulating cells called fibroblasts, which lay down collagen in the joints, tendons, ligaments, and even the arteries.”

Organic apple cider vinegar

There are so many benefits to using organic apple cider vinegar for our dogs, one being its ability to help with arthritis pain. Warm some ACV in the microwave then soak a compress in it and apply to your dog’s joints.

The vinegar can also be added to your dog’s food or water twice a week. Recommended doses have a huge range – I’ve read from 1 tsp-1 tbsp for every 50lb weight of dog to 5ml-1 tsp for a small-medium dog and 10ml-small spoon for medium-large dogs. Because I like to be cautious when trying anything new, I would always start with a really low dose and see how it goes.  

A quick note – if you decide to add the ACV to the drinking water rather than the food, please provide a bowl of organic apple cider vinegar for arthritis relief in dogsplain fresh drinking water as well. The reason being it’s likely your dog won’t drink as much with the vinegar in it, and you don’t want to risk dehydration.

Be sure to look for ACV that is organic, unpasteurised, raw and contains the “mother.” 

This explanation was found on the myitchydog website. “The ‘Mother of Vinegar’ is a natural substance composed of mostly living enzymes created during fermentation of the vinegar. It also contains friendly bacteria as well as other healthy nutrients. The Mother contains most of the important minerals, vitamins and amino acids that are released or created during the fermentation process.

Commercially produced vinegar, even that supplied by various ‘Health Shops,’ most often has the Mother removed to make a clear, shiny and consistent product that looks pleasing to the eye on the supermarket shelf. Filtering also makes ACV easier and cheaper to produce.”

Omega 3s from fish oil

You will notice many pet foods that contain added omega 3s but personally I wouldn’t rely on them as my source Amazing Nutritionals omega 3 for dogsfor several reasons that I’ve read about.

  • How much is really added
  • What type and quality of oil is used
  • Most if not all is destroyed in the manufacturing process

I prefer to give my dogs a supplement so I know exactly what they’re getting. Some vets say it’s perfectly fine to give your dog the same fish oil you take, others prefer products specifically created for pets as it’s easier to get the dosage right. The best source, according to Dr Karen Becker is krill oil. It is fish oil that reduces inflammation, but stay away from liver oil as it is low in omega 3s and could be dangerous in the high doses needed to be effective.


While many of you know SAMe as a a liver support, did you know it reduces inflammation and pain and helps regenerate joint tissue? If you would like to learn more about it, this article “What is SAMe?” should be of interest. 


Bromelain for arthritis treatment in dogsAn enzyme found in pineapples, Bromelain is said to have strong anti inflammatory properties and may help control the progression of joint disease. 


Cayenne increases circulation to sore joints when applied topically, but can also be added to food.


If you’re into natural medicine for yourself, you may have used Arnica for pain relief at some point. Did you know, its anti inflammatory properties can relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis in dogs as well? 


While no longer recommended for internal use, comfrey tea is safe for topical application on sore joints. One way to get the benefits of comfrey is to pour hot water over the leaves and while still warm apply them directly to where your dog is sore. 

Boswellia (also known as frankincense)

Boswellia extract for joint pain in dogsMade from the resin of the Boswellia tree, its anti inflammatory properties shrinks inflamed tissue, alleviates pain and improves range of motion. If you’d like to learn more about the efficacy of Boswellia in dogs with joint pain, this article will interest you. Dietary support with Boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease.”

Licorice root 

Here is what Greg Tilford wrote about licorice root is his article entitled “Top 5 Herbs For Animal Arthritis.”

“I regard licorice root as perhaps the most broadly applicable anti-inflammatory in my herbal medicine chest. It contains several phytosterol compounds that are thought to affect the body’s production and utilization of cortisol, a steroid hormone that helps regulate the body’s inflammatory responses to damaged joints. I find licorice especially useful when combined into a liquid compound with alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and yucca root (Y. schidigera), two other phytosterol-rich herbs that lend digestive and liver support to help with the elimination of toxins that might contribute to the progression of arthritis.”


Yucca has been found to reduce pain and inflammation in people suffering from arthritis, and has been shown to do the same in dogs. This article “Yucca Root for Canine Arthritis Pain” will describe the benefits it may bring to your dog. 


It’s interesting to note that the herb Meadowsweet contains some of the same chemicals found in aspirin, and it is those chemicals that provide relief from pain, swelling and inflammation. The fact that it’s a milder version means many of the side effects of aspirin, such as upset stomach, can be avoided.

Devil’s Claw  

In an article entitled “Top 5 Herbs for Animal Arthritis” I referenced above, Greg Tilford had this to say about the benefits of devil’s claw for the relief of arthritis pain. 

“Multiple studies suggest that devil’s claw tuber may help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis, primarily through the iridoid glycoside constituents it contains. Devil’s claw has become very popular in recent years, and appears in numerous arthritis relief formulas for dogs and other animals. However, despite its popularity, I have heard many mixed reviews from veterinary practitioners and dog owners telling me that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The reasons behind this controversy may be related to how the herb is harvested. The tubers of this bizarre-looking little African plant must be selectively harvested from mature plants that are at least four years old, and the harvest must be done during a very specific stage of the plant’s growth cycle. The most sustainable practice is to harvest only one to a few of the tubers that extend from the plant’s base, leaving enough to assure the plant’s survival and the re-growth of new tubers. Unfortunately, increased demand for this herb has led to the premature harvest of too many tubers, and in many areas we are seeing declining populations of the plant.

Because tubers from immature plants lack sufficient concentrations of active iridoid glycoside constituents, much of the devil’s claw sold on the North American market is functionally useless. With that said, there are sustainable sources for those who seek it out; aside from its bitter flavor, properly-harvested devil’s claw is an excellent joint pain remedy.”

Flax seeds

In addition to being rich in omega 3s and 6s, flax seeds contain alpha linoleic acid which not only helps boost the immune system, but is an anti inflammatory which may help your dog with arthritis symptoms.


There are either more and more articles cropping up about the use of essential oils, or because I’ve developed an interest in them I’m noticing it more. Either way I was intrigued to learn how beneficial they could be for treating essential oils can provide pain relief for dogs with arthritisarthritis in dogs, among other conditions. 

Great care has to be taken when dealing with essential oils, and unless you know what you’re doing it’s best to deal with a professional. I’m just starting with essential oils myself so I’d rather leave you with a couple of links to get you started as you investigate.  

Oils for treating arthritic dogs

A few I’ve come across include:

  • Copibia – anti inflammatory
  • Peppermint – anti inflammatory
  • Lemongrass – anti inflammatory
  • Rosemary – for circulation and pain relief

Safe and effective ways to administer essential oils

  • Put a drop in your hand and let your dog sniff it
  • Add a few drops to a small spray bottle of water and spray around the room, be sure to avoid your dog’s face and furniture
  • Use a diffuser
  • Make a scented candle 
  • Add 1 drop to the dog shampoo when you give him a bath

Note – I have found many sources that recommend putting a drop or two in your hands, then rubbing it all over your dog. At the same time I have read essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin. I was in a health food shop this morning and had a conversation with a member of staff who was quite knowledgeable about oils and their benefits for dogs. She also said to never apply them directly without using a carrier oil. She also recommended I use wheat germ oil rather than almond oil as some dogs could be sensitive to the almond. For more on what that all means, check out the resources below.


Essential Oils For Dogs: Keeping It Safe

5 Essential Oils Your Dog Shouldn’t Be Without

Is it Safe to Use Essential Oils With Dogs?

Physical therapies

Used in conjunction with other treatments, these physical therapies can make a huge difference in your dog’s quality of life. 


Massage helps relax stiff muscles, increase circulation, remove toxins, reduce muscle tension and increase range of motion. What’s great about massage is how easily you can do it anytime anywhere, but you should have a professional show you how to do it, and where on your dog’s body will lead to the greatest benefits.

Ask your vet to show you how to massage or find a canine massage therapist. It’s up to you whether you always have it done professionally, you learn how to do it yourself at home or a combination of both those options.    


The buoyancy of the water takes pressure off the joints, and the resistance helps build muscle, while the warm water loosens stiff muscles and reduces joint inflammation. Hydrotherapy can involve the use of an underwater treadmill, swimming or both. If your vet doesn’t offer hydrotherapy or have anyone to refer you to, a simple search of “canine hydrotherapy” will show places near you.


When weather permits or if you have access to an indoor pool, swimming is great for dogs with arthritis. Because the water supports his weight there is no pressure on the joints or excessive movements that can cause pain. Swimming helps strengthen muscles, circulate blood to stiff joints and keeps your dog at a healthy weight, and we know how much strain an overweight dog puts on his already painful joints!!

Give your dog a bath…with Epsom salts!

That’s right, try 5 minutes a day in a bath of Epsom salts to reduce pain and join inflammation.


Cryotherapy involved exposing the body to extreme cold for a short period of time, which slows circulation reducing pain and inflammation. 

To learn more read this interesting study and see what you think! “Whole Body Cryotherapy in Dogs – Safety and Feasibility

Heat Therapy

Applying heat opens up blood vessels increasing blood flow, reducing stiffness and relieving pain. There are a lot of ways to apply heat therapy including heating blankets and hot water bottles, but ask your vet what he recommends.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy is a noninvasive procedure (on the surface of the skin) using light to stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation. The equipment can be costly so not every veterinary practice will have it available, but if it is something that interests you it may well be worth finding someone in your area who does offer it.  

This is a quote about the therapeutic effects of laser therapy from the K laser brochure I found at my vet’s office the other day – “The painless application of laser energy promotes increased circulation by drawing oxygen an nutrients to the affected area. This creates an optimal healing environment reducing inflammation, swelling, muscle spasm, stiffness an pain. As the injure are returns to normal, pain is relieved and function is restored.”


Around for thousands of years, acupuncture involves inserting needles into various points on the body to encourage the body to heal itself. It increases blood circulation, stimulates the nervous system and releases anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.

I took Red for twice weekly acupuncture sessions for 3 months, although it wasn’t for arthritis I did notice a difference in her overall well being as a result.

To learn more about acupuncture read this – “Are You Interested in the Benefits of Acupuncture In Dogs?” and this “Benefits of Acupuncture: Dry-needling with Electro-Acupuncture.


Chiropractic comes from the Greek words ‘cheir’ (which means ‘hand’) and ‘praxis’ (which means ‘done by hand’).

It seems that arthritis is the number one reason dogs and humans visit the chiropractor. The following is a quote from an article “Canine Chiropractic Care” written by Dr. Andi Harper. “Cartilage has very poor blood supply, it relies on staying healthy with regular motion through the entire range of motion of the joint. Chiropractic adjustments return that complete motion of the joint to prevent arthritis. For those senior dogs where arthritis is already present, chiropractic adjustment allows for more motion to be put into the joint and therefore reducing pain and inflammation. The boney changes will not be reversed with adjustments but the pain and stiffness and discomfort can be greatly reduced.”

Find a qualified professional on the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website or the College of Animal Chiropractic website.

Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)

Don’t worry, no electrical shocks in this therapy! Shockwave therapy uses high intensity sound waves directed at a specific area on your pets’ body, triggering the body’s own repair mechanisms. Degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis and hip and elbow dysplasia are just some of the conditions successfully treated using shockwaves. 

This article “Try Shockwave Therapy When Your Pet Is In Pain or Isn’t Healing” by Dr Karen Becker will give you a lot more detail to help you decide if this is something you are interested in trying, or learning more about.


Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)

A low electrical current is applied to the skin, distracting the nerves from sending out pain messages.

The following are explanations of both of these therapies as described in the post “Exploring physical therapy modalities in veterinary rehabilitation

“Electrotherapy can be used for wound healing, pain control or relief, reduction of inflammation, muscle re-education, reversal of atrophy and strengthening. This modality works at many levels, affecting both the sensory and motor nerves. At the cellular level, electrotherapy causes nerve cell excitation and changes in cell membrane permeability, therefore stimulating protein synthesis, osteosynthesis and fibroblast formation. At the tissue level, electrotherapy causes skeletal muscle and smooth muscle contraction. At the segmental level, it facilitates muscle-pumping action, resulting in improved joint mobility as well as circulatory and lymphatic drainage.

An application of electrical current through the skin, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is used primarily to manage pain. A small, battery-operated TENS unit delivers an electrical current to the patient through electrodes placed directly on the skin. The pulse rate, width and intensity can be adjusted according to treatment objectives. TENS works by stimulating faster sensory nerves with an electrical impulse, causing an overload of interneurons, which limits the ability of sensory nerves to transmit pain signals to the brain, creating analgesia for the patient. The effect of this modality is short-lived, however, as it generally does not last for more than an hour. In veterinary rehabilitation, TENS is used immediately post-operatively and during therapy to help a patient work through a painful treatment.

Stimulating the nerve that causes the muscles to contract, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is used to rehabilitate muscles. This method is delivered to the patient via leads and flexible, low-resistance electrodes that conform to the skin. NMES can be used to help prevent muscle atrophy, increase local blood circulation, and maintain or increase joint mobility. It is particularly useful in patients with edema, delayed wound healing, or in those unable to perform voluntary movement.

The NMES unit features many adjustable variables, including intensity, pulse duration, current, frequency, on-off times, ramp duration and treatment duration. Ramp duration — the amount of time from the onset of the current until the full strength is delivered — is particularly important in veterinary rehabilitation. In human physical therapy, the therapist can explain to the patient how the current and contraction will feel. We don’t have this luxury with our patients; therefore, we must provide a slow, gradual onset of contraction strength to alleviate as much discomfort as possible. An NMES treatment generally lasts 15 to 20 minutes and achieves best results when used two to three times a week.

Contraindications for electrotherapy include treatment over areas of electrical current, such as pacemakers, the carotid sinus, the cervical ganglia and the heart. This modality should be avoided (or at least used with caution) in pregnant patients or in those with a malignancy.”

Heat packs and cold packs

Heat helps relax muscles and can improve range of motion while cold decreases swelling and numbs the pain of arthritis. To learn how to make both these packs at home, check out this article “The Difference Between Cold Pack And Hot Pack For Arthritic Dogs.

Your dog’s bed

I’ve added this section about dog beds because it is another piece in the whole “keeping an arthritic dog comfortable” puzzle. With the number of choices available, it won’t be a problem finding something your dog will an orthopedic bed can offer help for a dog with arthritislove.

As I’ve said many times throughout this article, what works for one dog won’t work for every dog so this may also be a case of trial and error. A couple of things to keep in mind when making your decision –

A bed with 3 raised sides and a lower front means your dog can still rest against the edges like a pillow, but he won’t have to step up as high to get in

Orthopedic beds with memory foam offer great support, some also come with magnets which have been helpful for human sufferers of arthritis

Adding a heating pad or hot water bottle underneath the bed will help relax muscles and increase circulation

Adding a blanket gives your dog extra padding and a way to wrap up if he gets cold 

Final words on how to treat arthritis pain in dogs naturally 

I know how tough it is watching a dog in pain, and feeling frustrated when you can’t find anything to help. I realise to many this is a whole new side of veterinary medicine they weren’t aware of, and I imagine it can seem overwhelming to try and digest everything I’ve talked about. If you’re also feeling hopeful and encouraged than I’m happy.

Remember, don’t just ditch your dog’s current medication and try five new things at once. Take your time, do a bit more research and speak to your vet about your interest in… If he can’t or won’t help find a holistic vet and book a consultation to learn more about his/her approach.

For many pups these alternative treatments have been a lifesaver, so I hope this information on how to treat arthritis pain in dogs naturally will help yours too! 



Have you ever tried alternative treatments on your dog? Were you happy with the results? If you have any experiences to share, I’d love to hear them. You can help other members of this community with your stories. Just leave them in the comments below.


I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.


*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering. 

How to Treat Arthritis Pain in Dogs Naturally

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43 thoughts on “How to Treat Arthritis Pain in Dogs Naturally

  1. Hi Hindy, intersting article and I highly commend you for looking at alternative treatments. I have had dogs all of my life and particually German Shepherds which ape know arthritis suffers. I have always relied on the Vet’s recommendations which of course involved drugs which are not cheap. I still have a dog but fortunately no arthritis. I had a friend that gave his dog half an aspirin which he said worked OK. I have looked at the rest of your site and it is very good. People who love animals are good people.

    1. Hi, so glad you enjoyed the article, and the rest of the site. I’m just trying to help people who are caring for senior dogs. If we find a vet we really trust, then we have to rely on their recommendations. I started to figure if I’m interested in alternative treatments, why shouldn’t I consider it for my dog, when possible. My senior is on quite a bit of medication, which is obviously helping, but I try and get the vet talking about alternatives when possible. I wish I had put her on supplements when I first got her. There are too many success stories not to believe they are worth considering. My neighbour has Shepherds and I know how bad their arthritis is.

    1. Hi Kimmie, Thanks and yes I agree, a more natural approach would do all of us a lot of good. I do a lot of research, and work hard to provide as much helpful information, as I possibly can. I like to present more than one school of thought, so people will realise there are options.

  2. I definitely need to bookmark this page as my lovely labrador will be 9 this year. She’s fine at the moment but it’s worth implementing some of these strategies now. I quite often share my breakfast blueberries with her – good to know they are doing her some good too!

    1. Hi Jane, I agree, why wait until there’s a problem. I wish I had started my senior on supplements and maybe even a more natural diet, when I first adopted her a few years ago. You wonder how much better off they’d be. Better late than never though right?

  3. This is so informative – thank you! I appreciate the definitions of all those different terms. I admit I’d been using some of them pretty interchangeably but I see now that they’re quite different!

    Recently I’ve seen a dog in my neighbourhood that is clearly in some pain when walking. Sometimes her owner will stop and give the dog a little rub over her hips. Do you think that it’s beneficial to start doing a massage like this before a dog develops arthritis? (I’m thinking of my own dog with this question.)

    1. Hi Samantha, I thank you, as always, for taking the time to comment. I thought of putting the definitions there because, like you, I’ve been using the words interchangeably and I wanted to know if there really was a difference. Massage doesn’t seem to prevent arthritis from developing, but it’s certainly another great way to bond with your dog. Things like injuries early on a dog’s life can lead to arthritis, as well as obesity, so keeping a dog’s weight in check, and monitoring healed injuries is a good start.

  4. What a fantastic and thorough article! I tried acupuncture for my 16 year old Yorkie several years ago at the urging of our vet. I was skeptical but amazed at results. It definitely helped him be more comfortable. My new dog is turning 10 next year and in good shape but I can the start of stiffness. Thanks for loads of options to consider.

    1. Thanks Cathi. So nice of you to say, and of course nice to hear. I’m glad you’ve had such success with acupuncture, and you have so many options to help with the stiffness your other dog is starting to experience. Feel free to keep me posted on what you’ve tried and how he’s doing.

  5. Boomer has been having some joint issues after long, intense hikes. We already feed raw, but we are talking about adding glucosamine, green lipped muscles, fish oil and turmeric to her diet too. I’m going to pin this post to refer back to later if those don’t do the trick too. Great post!

    1. Nice to hear from you Debbie. Sorry to hear about Boomer, but it’s encouraging he’s still able to take long hikes – I bet he loves them! Those are excellent choices to try, and many pup parents have had a lot of success with those and bone broth as well. I’m glad you found this post a helpful resource and I’d love to hear which supplements you found have made a difference.

  6. This is the best article I’ve seen on alternative treatments for canine arthritis. My dog Soldier is currently using Glucosimin, Chondroitin and Krill Oil. They’ve made him much more comfortable and I like the fact that there are no potential side effects. I can also attest to how much better a senior dog can feel if he’s gotten a good night’s sleep on an orthopedic bed. Soldier isn’t as stiff and hardly limps now that he’s sleeping on a memory foam dog bed. It’s been worth every penny to see him moving more easily!

    1. Thank you Lori, that means a lot to me. Wonderful news how helpful your treatment plan has been to Soldier, and great to hear about the orthopedic bed. I know those with memory foam have a lot of “satisfied customers” because of the extra support it gives achy joints. Seeing how well he’s doing makes life less stressful for you as well. Thanks for writing in.

  7. This is the most inclusive list of holistic products, foods, and therapies for our pets I have ever seen! Thank you for this! We do prefer a holistic approach for both humans and pets in our family. I love that you included foods on this list as well as holistic approaches to treatments such as chiropractic for dogs! We have a professional grade TENS unit due to my daughter’s cerebral palsy which is also safe for pets. The book we received with it ( and training ) included how to use on pets and I must say – it works miracles! I however, agree 100000% that everyone should discuss all treatments with their vet before doing anything new, just as we would for ourselves and humans!

    1. Thanks Joely, so kind of you to say. I do try and be as thorough as possible, because I get frustrated when I expect certain information based on a post title, and it ends up saying nothing at all. I’m glad to hear your TENS unit is so beneficial to both your daughter and dog, and the convenience of having it in your home must make things so much easier. My dog’s whole system is so sensitive I wouldn’t dare try anything knew without asking my vet.

      1. Indeed! Having an excellent vet sure helps to. We are lucky to have finally found one a few years ago. Lyla is very delicate – always has been and has many health concerns. We are very blessed to have a really good TENS unit for sure. I recommend them but proper training is also necessary to use them properly.

  8. Yes, I can honestly say we love alternative treatments. As a canine sports massage therapist and aromatherapist I love using these methods on my clients and my own pets, but they do also receive a joint supplement and acupuncture.

    One note of caution: I do not recommend adding essential oils to a collar or bandana. Your animal should be able to move away from the scent. Often this can cause a skin irritation even if your animal does not have allergies.

    1. My experience has been drug after drug after drug. Yes they’re effective at helping Red, but it’s nice to have the option of alternatives presented as well. Thanks for that caution Heather. I’m very interesting in healing with essential oils so have started researching, of course I noticed a lot of conflicting information. What you say about being able to move away from the scent makes perfect sense so I have amended that in my article. Thanks very much for pointing that out!

  9. This is the most complete listing of products that will help anyone care for their senior pet. We used acupuncture, Rainbow therapy, laser therapy and massage along with the other solutions you suggested on my 13 year-old Eskimo. I will also use some of those treatments for “maintenance” of my new puppy.

    1. Thank you Amelia, I do try and be thorough and offer as many options as I can because what works for one dog may not work for another. Absolutely a lot of these suggestions can be used on dogs without arthritis – get them started off on the right foot or paw I should say!!

  10. It’s so great to see that pets have so many options for treatment of ailments nowadays outside of conventional medicine. I never had a dog, however when my cat was diagnosed with cancer, I did consult my vet and we had a plan of conventional medicine to help with blood count combined with my own use of natural supplements for pets online. Her cancer was aggressive, but I definitely know hands down she had more time and quality of life than anticipated. I think that was in part to God but also natural supplementation. So I’m definitely a fan. Great resourceful post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I agree, I know firsthand how much alternative therapies have helped my dog. I had 2 cats with cancer, and hadn’t thought about alternatives at that time but it is encouraging to hear how much they helped yours. Thanks for sharing.

  11. What a wealth of information and so in depth! I’ll have to save this one. I have mostly used anti-inflammatories, but have also tried laser therapy, which didn’t seem to help. When I owned a paralyzed dog, acupuncture helped a lot.

    1. Glad you think so Sandy. Not all therapies will work in every situation but I like knowing there are alternatives so there’s a greater chance of finding something effective. It’s interesting acupuncture helped with paralysis, I wasn’t aware that was possible. In what way?

  12. Wow! What an interesting and thorough article. I, too, get concerned with all the medications that are given to both humans and animals. I’ll definitely look into alternatives for my girls should the need arise.

    1. We’ve become so accustomed to having a problem or symptom and getting a pill in exchange. Nothing wrong with that, they’re lifesavers but then it’s another on top of another, with no effort made to understand why we’re having an issue in the first place. I do prefer a holistic approach because it’s kinder and gentler and looks at the whole being, so ideally drugs when absolutely necessary and alternatives/supplements when possible or in addition to.

  13. Wow, what an exhaustive list! We absolutely use omega-3. Other supplements depend on the situation. We do watch weight and employ physical therapy, laser therapy and/or acupuncture. With Jasmine, we also did stem cell therapy. I love regenerative medicine.

    1. Wow I don’t know anyone that has used stem cell therapy, that’s so interesting. There’s an amazing vet program I watch here in the UK which I’ve learned a lot from, and they have used stem cells on patients so I do know a bit about it. Fascinating!

      1. We are big adventurers in regenerative medicine. Stem cells, PRP … I love what regenerative medicine has to offer. Jasmine was one of the pioneers in Canada to have that done.

          1. Initially, we wanted to treat a partial ACL tear. Didn’t like the TPLO option so researched everything. Learned about this from a holistic vet who was doing prolotherapy but was going to add this to her toolbox.

            We treated the knees along with traditional repair because (other surgery took precedence) by the time we could do it the ligament failed completely. Treated arthritis and treated IBD.

  14. What a fabulous post, Hindy! This is actually a great resource for all dog parents, even if their dogs don’t have any issues yet. Thanks for sharing all this wonderful information. I can’t believe Red is 16 1/2 years old! You’ve taken such great care of her.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. Thanks Cathy. It’s good to be informed so you’re not scrambling for info when you need it the most…which of course happens to me!! I’ve had her 8 1/2 years but it feels like I’ve always had her, I can’t remember I time she wasn’t with me.

  15. WOW what a thorough post. My dog had 2 ACL surgeries and we have been very diligent about arthritis control with him from Dasuquin to cold laser therapy to keeping his weight down and getting exercise. Thanks for this post!

    1. Thank you Carol. I try and be as thorough as I can because I don’t like to reach the end of an article without having found the answers I was looking for! Thanks for sharing your treatment plan, hope it helps others.

  16. Excellent information. All four of my Huskies are now senior dogs and I do use many of these recommend supplements and oils as I do like to keep my care as natural as possible.I have just Pinned this to save and to share with others. I found the massage video extremely helpful.

    1. Thank you Dorothy and I’m always interested in hearing about others’ experiences with natural products. Ideally I would like to do the same but I can’t do that with my old dog Red because her system has become too delicate. The slightest change can have serious problems so it’s status quo. I did have her see a holistic vet for a few months when we were away and she had twice weekly acupuncture and natural treatment for her heart but those are no longer options unfortunately.

  17. Hi there

    One of my cavaliers has advanced heart disease, arthritis, and a partially torn ACL. You wouldn’t know if you saw him. Acupuncture didn’t do much. Swimming (30 min hydro-swim) has dove wonders. Maloxicam caused him to go into kidney failure. Switching to gaba pentin was life saving and his kidney values dropped to normal. It’s also much more effective. I also use CBD. I started with cookie form and switched to oil when he wasn’t eating. It helps with pain and appetite. I’ll try the glucosamine more regularly after reading this. Swimming is expensive for weekly visits ($45). Is like to find a way to make it biweekly.

    1. Hi Sheila, Swimming/hydrotherapy can work wonders! Thankfully you were able to switch medications in enough time to help his kidneys recover. I know of lots of people who use CBD oil to treat pain in dogs and they’ve seen some great results. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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