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Herbal remedies for pain management in dogs (PART I)

In my previous blog post, 11 signs that your dog is in painI discussed the possible symptoms you can use to identify that your beloved boy/girl is suffering from pain. However, our role as dog guardians does not end there, does it? We are completely responsible for their mental, physical and emotional well being. Thus, our role starts from diagnosing that our pup might be in pain to doing everything we can to help and alleviate the discomfort and pain. Although the first thing to do is to set up an appointment with your veterinarian, sometimes this option may come with its own set of difficulties like:
  • Your vet is on leave
  • It’s the weekend and your vet is not available
  • The emergency pet hospital is too far or you are unable to go due to some reason.
  • Or finally as in my case (If you have read my previous blog posts, you know I have been taking care of an absolutely adorable dog, Guy who stays in our locality). When I found him in pain, it was 1 o'clock at night. We do not have an emergency pet hospital nearby. The vet was not available either. So I had to do whatever I could instantly to help him. Also, since he lives on the street, he comes and goes as he wishes. Thus, it is hard to locate him and take him to the vet. 


We are the voice of our dogs
We are the voice of our dogs

Current update on Guy: He is doing much better, limp is slight and he can straighten his legs. I am still regularly doing physiotherapy to help him heal faster.

Under such circumstances, there are a few things you can do at home to help relieve your dog of some of the discomfort, while you make arrangements to go to the vet. 

Furthermore, the medication recommended by veterinarians like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) come with their own share of side effects. A few of the health risks caused by such medicines are as follows:
  • Gastric or peptic ulcers
  • Upset stomach
  • Kidney toxicity
  • Liver damage
  • Vomiting
  • Reduction in appetite
  • Increased lethargy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Damage to joints (NSAIDs cause the breakdown of the articular cartilage, causing your dog’s arthritis to worsen instead of becoming better or even cause arthritis!)
  • Chronic dry eye problems (can even cause blindness)
You can find more details about the effects of pain killers (NSAIDs) on your dog here.
Thus, what are your options when it comes to helping your beloved pooch fight the pain besides the obviously harmful painkillers?
I bring you 12 natural remedies (6 in part I of this post and 6 more natural remedies are in part II of this post) you can use to help your dog safely and effectively. The herbal remedies described here will keep your dog comfortable and are a much safer option than NSAIDs.


Top 14 herbs (1 to 6 of part I) for natural pain relief in dogs:

  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale):
Comfrey has been used as a healing herb for a very long time now. It has the potential to treat a wide variety of ailments ranging from digestive issues to pain to even cancer. 
The secret behind this amazing compound is the presence of allantoin. Allantoin speeds up the reproduction of the cell. The other compounds present in comfrey like rosmarinic acid have also been observed to have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects which make this compound a prime candidate for joint pain management.

How to use:
For therapeutic use in dogs, provide our pup ½ to 1 tsp of dried comfrey with every pound of food. 
Comfrey has also been advised to be used as a herbal poultice. Wrap a handful of leaves in a towel and place the towel in boiling water unless the water starts to turn a shade of green. Remove the towel from the water and squeeze to release the excess liquid back in the water. Allow the towel to cool a little and apply the towel compress to the affected region for as long as possible. 

A word of caution: Comfrey contains a compound known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which can lead to liver problems when taken in large quantities. However, the PA content in the leaf is only 0.3%, thus marking it safe for us.  The roots, however, contain 10 times higher level of PA, thus make sure to use only the leaves and not the roots. Another thing to keep in mind is that this compound should not be used on dogs with existing liver disease, pregnant or lactating dogs.

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Herbal remedies can work wonders if used the right way
Herbal remedies can work wonders if used the right way


  • Frankincense/Boswellia (Boswellia serrata):
Frankincense or Boswellia is a resin extracted from the bark of the tree, Boswellia serrata. This herb is rich in phytochemicals which can stop leukotriene production (leukotrienes cause inflammation). A study done in 2004 has shown Boswellia to reduce the symptoms of arthritis in 71% of dogs enrolled in the study within 6 weeks of treatment. 

How to use:
Boswellia has been used in many herbal combinations for pain and as an anti-inflammatory remedy. If you are buying packaged Boswellia, follow the dosage instructions on the pack. If you decide to buy the product meant for humans, you must assume the dosage to be for a 150 lb person and adjust it according to the weight of your dog. 

Caution: 
The only side effects of Boswellia as found in the above-mentioned research study were brief flatulence and diarrhoea episodes which happened in 5 dogs. The side effect could not be traced back to the drug either. Furthermore, in the study, a higher dose (400mg per 22 lbs of body weight) was administered, while for daily use only 5 to 10 mg of Boswellia per lb is recommended. 


  • Liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Liquorice’s root is the one with the medicinal properties. It is used in the treatment of arthritis. A lot of studies have shown that liquorice is an effective and fast-acting anti-inflammatory agent. The primary component in liquorice, glycyrrhizin is mainly responsible for acting in an additive manner and increasing the effectiveness of the other herbs in the compound. The structure of glycyrrhizin is similar to corticosteroids, however, it lacks the negative effects of the latter making it safe for use in dogs. 

How to use:
Liquorice root can be used as a low alcohol tincture as it might be difficult for your dog to digest the root directly. Initially, give 12-20 drops of liquorice alcohol tincture per 20lbs of body weight twice a day. If you decide to give your dog liquorice root tea, you can make the same by using 1 tsp of root: 1 cup of water. Tea can be given three times a day to compensate for the tincture dosage.

Caution: Use this herb at a stretch only for 2 weeks. If you feel the need to use it for a longer period, consult a holistic vet. Also, do not use this compound for pregnant, diabetic or nursing dogs.


  • Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens):
Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is an African plant which is known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. The main constituent of this herb is harpagoside, which can cause a quick reduction in pain and inflammation. These properties make this herb a good choice as a pain reliever for arthritis, rheumatism and muscle pain. 

How to use:
Since Devil’s Claw is most often sold as a product for human consumption, thus assume the dosage to be meant for a 150 lb person and adjust it as per your dog’s body weight. 

Caution: 
Do not use Devil’s Claw in case your dog is pregnant, lactating or diabetic. Devil’s Claw has also shown to interact with other pharmaceutical drugs (hyper- or hypo-tensive or cardiac drugs), thus make sure to consult your vet before administering any other medication to your dog. 


For long term pain management, herbal remedies are a great alternative
For long term pain management, herbal remedies are a great alternative (Follow Roscoe @theroscoechronicles)

  • Ginger (Zhinger Officinalis):
This is one of the home remedies probably present in everybody’s home. It is known for its amazing benefits to the digestive system like relieving nausea and gas. A less known effect of this herb is that it can relieve arthritic pain too. Ginger stops the immune system from producing leukotrienes (responsible for causing inflammation). Ginger has also shown to increase blood circulation in older dogs who are suffering from reduced mobility. 

How to use:
Remove the skin of raw ginger root with a peeler. Finely mince the ginger and mix it with your dog’s food. Use ½ tsp for dogs up to 35 lbs of body weight and ¾ tsp for dogs who weigh more than 35 lbs. As the ginger flavour is pretty strong, it is advisable to start with very small quantities in order to get your dog acclimated to the favour of the same before increasing the dosage.

Caution: 
Ginger has a tendency to act as a blood thinner due to the presence of salicylate. Thus, make sure to not use this drug if your dog is scheduled for surgery or is being administered anticoagulant drugs. Ginger has also been observed to reduce the blood pressure, thus consult with your vet if your dog is suffering from any kind of heart ailments of diabetes. 


  • Yucca (Yucca schidigera):
This is a desert plant whose root has been shown to possess multiple medicinal and nutritional properties. The primary components of this herb are steroidal saponins. These compounds have shown to bring effective and safe relief in humans suffering from arthritis. 

How to use:
You can either use a low alcohol tincture (⅛ tsp per 20 lb bodyweight of your dog) or the dried and powdered form of the root (½ tsp per lb of food) daily. If your dog is suffering from arthritis, you can also combine yucca with alfalfa, liquorice and dandelion (after consultation with your holistic vet).

Caution: 
Yucca can cause vomiting and irritation to the digestive system when consumed for a long period of time. You can avoid this potential side effect easily by giving a two-day break to your dog each week from the herb.

If you wish to know about the other home remedies which can be used for treating your dog’s pain, the next article I will release will cover the other 10 herbal remedies for relieving pain in dogs.

One final word of caution: Always make sure to consult a holistic vet before starting any of the above-mentioned home remedies. Your vet will be able to guide you as to which course of therapy and herbal remedy is most suitable for your beloved pooch. So do not hesitate to consult your vet before making any decisions.

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16 herbal remedies for joint pain in dogs
Stay tuned for 10 more herbal remedies for pain management in the next post

PS: If you liked this article, please comment and share it with your friends so that more people can be made aware of the herbal alternatives to strong painkillers.