Integrative and Natural Pain Management Options for Dogs

gm grey dog looking upIntegrative care is the practice of combining natural or holistic therapies with conventional care to take advantage of the strengths of each method. Conventional medicine reduces the body’s systems to their basic building blocks and treats that area, while natural holistic therapies address the entire body to help balance and to help it to self-heal.

Fortunately, there are many Integrative Veterinarians nationwide that offer both kinds of treatments for our pets.

These treatments work best as part of a whole body wellness program designed just for your dog with the assistance of your dog’s veterinarian.

Canine massage.   The practice is commonplace for people, but what about for dogs? The skin is the largest sense organ in our bodies and is chock full of sensory receptors and nerve endings that register not only touch, but temperature and pain and send information to the brain. Massage therapy not only relaxes muscles but it stimulates endorphins, increases circulation, elevates oxygen levels, flushes toxins, assists with pain management, helps with inflammation, assists the immune system and accelerates healing. It even helps with anxiety.

Acupressure is an extension of the ancient Chinese culture of Acupuncture. They both utilize the same concept of energy flow within our bodies and seek to stimulate the points where energy meridians lie beneath the skin. Acupuncture inserts small needles at certain points while acupressure utilizes the fingers by applying pressure to the same points.   Acupuncture, with the needles, must be done by a trained and licensed veterinarian while acupressure is done by a trained and certified canine acupressure professional. Both modalities can greatly help with pain management and anxiety. The most common is for back problems. Often, medications do not help because of the nerve pressure and trigger points on muscles that cause pain in the first place. This is when acupuncture and/or acupressure can help.

Cold laser therapy was developed well over 20 years ago and has been used widely around the world. It is a healing technology that is one of the emerging new choices in alternative treatments for aches and pains in dogs.   This low-level cold laser is painless and non-evasive to the animal. It works by light amplification by emission of rays as a means of directing highly concentrated coherent light at a wavelength to the muscles, tissues and organs. It reduces inflammation and muscle spasms and is great for disk and spine issues. It only takes minutes, is painless and dogs feel results with not only pain management, but also mobility and inflammation reduction. The effects are similar to non-steroidal medications that can have serious negative side effects on the body.

Hydrotherapy is therapy in a pool. The benefits of swimming for dogs is well known and has been used for centuries. Because when they swim, like you, there is resistance to movement, a five minute swim is equivalent to about a five mile run - really! And some dogs like swimming even better than running. Hydrotherapy, which includes exercise on an underwater treadmill, as well as swimming, is particularly helpful. It has many benefits for all dogs, but can have an especially dramatic effect on senior dogs, providing a painless, fun means of exercise and movement. The relief it offers can carry over for several days, and many owners even credit hydrotherapy for extending their pet’s life. The buoyancy of the water supports them and lessens the stress on the joints and helps with freer movement and is a safer exercise for those with injuries, disease or pain. It can also help with obesity as well as balance and coordination. It also assists with increasing respiration through pressure on the lungs providing oxygen, disposing of carbon dioxide and helping us to feel much better.

There are even more alternative, natural and complementary therapies for dogs than the ones I have just mentioned. Please speak to your dog’s veterinarian about adding one or more of these to natural modalities your dog’s wellness program.


An excerpt from Jennifer’s book Your Dog’s Golden Years – Manual for Senior Dog Care Including Natural Remedies and Complementary Options

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Positively Expert: Jennifer Kachnic

Jennifer Kachnic is president of The Grey Muzzle Organization, a nonprofit providing grants to animal shelters and rescues nationwide for senior dog programs. She is also author of a manual on senior dog care.


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