Alternative Therapies for Pain Control in Dogs and Cats

Dog wearing a splint and an Elizabethan collarDogs and cats feel pain for a number of reasons, just like humans. Pain can be caused by many acute and chronic conditions, as well as by injury.  Fortunately for us, we can ask for help and often treat ourselves when we are hurting.  The sad fact about pain in canines is that they can’t tell us exactly how they are feeling or where they are feeling discomfort.  This is one of the most frustrating things about pet ownership and veterinary care alike.

As many holistic practitioners will tell you, conventional dog pain medications typically come with a long list of possible side effects, so pet owners and veterinarians have long been exploring safer alternative methods for treating their pets’ pain.  Two little-known natural remedies for pain are capsaicin and yucca.

Chili Peppers, for Pain?

While you most likely know of cayenne or other peppers as ingredients used for cooking, many societies have a history of using cayenne peppers in medicinal applications.  All chili peppers are rich in a substance called capsaicin, which is the active ingredient that causes that burning sensation you feel when the pepper hits your tongue.

Capsaicin is used widely as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic for people and dogs, and is found in many herbal topical ointments.  A lot of people use this ointment on their joints to relieve various types of arthritis.  You can also find it in very low concentrations in some nasal sprays and dermal pain relief patches.

This compound has the ability to block pain and increase blood flow to the area where it’s applied.  The way capsaicin blocks pain is quite interesting: it actually overwhelms the nerves so that they cannot report pain for a period of time.

There is some concern over ingestion of capsaicin by canines, so be diligent about preventing ingestion of any topical application. We always tell our clients that besides working the ointment in thoroughly they should stay with the pet for a minimum of five minutes to prevent licking while the ointment soaks in.

Yucca for Dogs

The root of yucca plants, native to the dry and hot areas of the Americas and Caribbean, is truly a natural wonder for canines.  This incredible plant soothes aches and pains with its astounding anti-inflammatory properties.

The important component in yucca is saponin, a natural anti-inflammatory that boosts the body’s production of corticosteroids.  When yucca root is steeped into liquid or ground into a powder and added to your dog’s food, it can relieve pain from arthritis, hip dysplasia, or other orthopedic and musculoskeletal pain.

Studies have shown that arthritic symptoms – such as pain and stiffness – can be caused by the buildup of toxins in the body, called free radicals. Yucca root helps promote the growth of flora in the intestines, which greatly reduces toxins within the body.  Alfalfa and dandelion also share similarities in the aid of joint pain.

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