Does your arthritic pet still struggle with stairs, despite taking their daily pain medication? Do they no longer show interest in their favorite games, or simply look at you when you suggest going for a walk? While pharmaceutical pain management plays a major role in keeping pets with arthritis comfortable, many other modalities can be beneficial. Oftentimes, pairing traditional pharmaceutical treatment with weight loss and alternative therapies provides the best outcome, and can be most effective for keeping your furry pal mobile and enjoying life. Read on to learn more about some of the most common alternative treatment modalities that can reduce your pet’s pain and stiffness.

#1: Acupuncture for pets in pain

Acupuncture, which dates back thousands of years, is becoming a more widespread therapy in veterinary cases today. Hair-thin needles are used to stimulate key spots on the body (i.e., acupoints), to induce natural healing responses. The acupoints are areas where nerve bundles, tissues, and vessels are located, and, once stimulated, create a physiological response through neural signaling. 

Acupuncture works by:

  •  Stimulating the release of the body’s own pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory substances
  • Improving circulation, allowing for better metabolic waste and toxin removal
  • Relaxing muscles
  • Improving nerve function

In addition to general acute or chronic pain management, acupuncture can be used to treat:

  • Neurological diseases (e.g., spinal cord injuries, degenerative myelopathy, intervertebral disc disease, back pain)
  • Musculoskeletal conditions (e.g., elbow or hip dysplasia, tendon and ligament issues)
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal conditions
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Cancer and chemotherapy side effects

#2: Chiropractic manipulation for pets with arthritis

Veterinary chiropractic care is the practice of manipulating the spine to treat a disease. Spine manipulation assists the nervous system in re-establishing nerve communication to encourage full healing.

Neurological or biomechanical conditions are commonly treated with chiropractic care, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cervical instability
  • Incontinence
  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Musculoskeletal weakness
  • Chronic pain 

Reduced pain and an improved gait are often seen immediately. Following an adjustment, geriatric dogs and cats usually seem less stiff and more comfortable. 

Depending on the condition, the pet may need multiple adjustments for continued improvement. To start, pets will likely need weekly sessions for two to four weeks, and then their schedule will depend on their treatment response.

#3: Laser therapy for stiff pets

A therapeutic laser operates differently from a surgical cutting laser, and is designed to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and alleviate pain. The light used at a specific wavelength for laser therapy causes a physiological change at the cellular level. Essentially, laser therapy jump starts cells to heal and perform other body processes. Other laser therapy benefits include scar tissue reduction, immunoregulation, nerve regeneration, and faster healing of infections.

With the exception of cancerous tumors, eye problems, or pregnant pets, laser therapy can be used in almost all conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Lick granulomas
  • Cellulitis
  • Gingivitis
  • Incision sites
  • Hot spots
  • Impacted anal glands

#4: Herbal supplements and nutraceuticals for sore pets

A wide range of natural products is available to help combat arthritis in pets. However, keep in mind that herbal supplements and nutraceuticals may still interact with pharmaceutical medications, despite their more natural ingredients. Always consult with your Animal Rehabilitation Center veterinarian before adding a supplement to your pet’s diet.

Common herbs and ingredients known to help reduce pain and inflammation include:

  • Yucca
  • Boswellia
  • Turmeric
  • Bromelain
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  • Green-lipped mussels
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Avocado unsaponifiables 

While many human joint health nutraceuticals contain these ingredients, products specifically formulated for pets tend to be more effective, so ask for veterinarian-approved recommendations before sharing your joint supplement.

#5: Hydrotherapy for pets with muscle atrophy

Hydrotherapy is an excellent alternative therapy for pets with arthritis pain. The warm water soothes aching joints, and boosts a pet with natural buoyancy. This low-impact exercise helps keep muscles strong and joints lubricated, while reducing the stress on overloaded, painful joints. Whether your pet is walking on an underwater treadmill or swimming laps around the pool, a few hydrotherapy sessions will help rebuild lost muscle mass.

Is your pet on a pharmaceutical pain management regimen that no longer seems as effective? Determine if your furry pal is an ideal candidate for alternative pain management therapies by scheduling an appointment with our Animal Rehabilitation Center team.