Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
Why try a natural cure for your dog´s lameness? At times the cause of lameness cannot be figured out. You´ll notice the problem, wait a few days and expect it to go away, and finally take your dog in to the veterinarian. The dog is examined, the dog is palpated, the dog is x-rayed, and finally, a steroid injection may be given and some anti-inflammatories are prescribed. Maybe they will work, but sometimes they do not. What if they do not help, or help for only a short period of time? This article should give you some alternatives if your dog is lame.
Symptoms of Lameness
Besides the obvious symptom (refusing to put weight on her leg when walking), your dog might also be reluctant to play fetch or roughhouse like she normally does, or just be hesitant about climbing the steps in your house. She may cry out in pain when the lame leg is touched, but since dogs are stoic she can be in a lot of pain before she shows you any symptoms.
The Causes of Lameness in Dogs:
- Trauma: This may seem like it can happen easily, but usually dogs put up with a lot more stress than we would be able to. If your dog has any genetic predisposition to joint problems it may happen for no apparent reason.
- Cancer that affects a joint: A joint or nervous cancer can cause problems, but lameness can also be from osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the bones. All of these situations need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
- Arthritis: The symptoms of arthritis are usually mild at first and should be picked up before they develop into lameness. You should notice a reluctance to play and bear weight on a limb, then notice a change in attitude before your dog finally starts licking his arthritic joint or going lame.
Conventional Therapy for Dog Lameness:
- Steroids: If the cause of lameness cannot be determined your veterinarian may suggest a steroid injection. This is a powerful anti-inflammatory and may be effective. Side effects (weight gain, damage to the cartilage) are most often seen with continued therapy.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): This drug therapy will most likely be prescribed at the first visit for lameness. NSAIDs can be effective in masking symptoms but may have serious side effects, like stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage.
Natural Home Treatments for Lameness
- Herbs: The herbal therapy your try will be based on what you are trying to do. If you are trying to treat your dog with an anti-inflammatory that is mostly for her pain (like a muscle injury from being hit by a car), St. John´s Wort may be used as a tincture or applied locally to a sore joint. Cayenne topical cream can be used the same way, and it may even increase circulation to a painful area. Yucca is another possibility, and according to holistic veterinarians, it even produces hormones similar to the artificial steroids. If you are trying to decrease the inflammation throughout the body, as with chronic arthritis, you might want to use bromelain, parsley, or garlic.
- Massage: This is most effective if used with a massage gel, such as an essential oil in a neutral base. One source recommends letting the dog choose the best oil by sniffing, another source recommends selecting a warm oil like cinnamon or peppermint. There are several massage gels that cause the joint to become warm, so in cases of lameness in your dog they may be beneficial.
- Acupuncture: If your dog is not responding to other forms of therapy you might want to consult a veterinary acupuncturist through the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. There are several forms of accupressure that you can do at home though and I do recommend you read and learn more about this subject if your dog is not responding to some of the other home treatments.
- Supplements: Omega fatty acids (like salmon oil) may help if an inflammatory condition is involved. Vitamin C may also be helpful, both as an anti-inflammatory and as a collagen protector, but no studies have been done to determine the exact doses in dogs. The only way to find the dose for your dog is to give him enough to cause loose bowels, and then give him a little less. Try to use a natural source if you have it available.
- Apple cider vinegar: May help because of its anti-inflammatory effects.
- An organic diet: Especially one that utilizes collagen meat sources.
If your dog does have symptoms of lameness I recommend that you first consult your regular veterinarian. It may be something quite simple that can be cured easily; it may be something that will respond to heating pads and conventional therapy. If the condition continues, however, you might want to search for alternatives. The alternative, natural therapies, will take a lot longer to start showing effects than conventional therapy, (steroids, NSAIDS) so do not expect a quick cure.
If you are not able to consult your vet, or the home therapies for lameness are not making your dog feed better, you should consider finding a holistic veterinarian to make other suggestions.
You may need to try another natural cure for your dog´s lameness.
Questions & Answers
Question: What should I do when my dog is injured by twisting his leg and he can’t walk?
Answer: The best thing in all cases is rest. If the dog is in pain, if the condition continues, or if it does not get better, he should be seen by your regular vet.
© 2012 Dr Mark
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 01, 2013:
Katie I wish you would tell us why you believe that. According to a study by Araya and Ford there is no evidence that this herb causes changes in the liver´s ability to function. The only evidence of any damage is long term overdose. A lot of things cause damage if you subject your body to long term overdoses. In fact almost everything causes damage if you subject your body to long term overdoses.
Katie on April 01, 2013:
Please use St. John's Wort carefully as it can cause severe liver damage....even more severe than NSAIDs
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 14, 2012:
Thanks for your kind comments. I´m glad this can be of help, as there are so many alternatives out there to be explored, and so much that we do not know much about that may be helpful. I´ll add updates to this when I find something new.
Sasha Kim on August 13, 2012:
This is wonderful and so helpful. We have a senior dog who has arthritis and yet he can't help jumping on the fence and barking (he's a grumpy old dog.. ) occasionally he comes in with a lame foot. You've given great advise to help us hopefully speed up the healing process when this happens. Thank you.
Judith C Evans from Boise, ID on August 13, 2012:
More and more pet owners are learning about the benefits of holistic pet care, particularly for arthritis. Thanks for including alternative medicine in this hub. Voted up and useful...and sharing!
Michelle Liew from Singapore on August 13, 2012:
Have a dog, Mark, that died from cancer and he was limping away. Thanks for alerting dog owners to a condition too many do not know the cause of.
20 Of The Best Uses Of Homeopathy For Dogs
(TIP: you can find all of these remedies in a handy-dandy infographic at the end of this post)
1. Cut Nails
Have you ever cut your dog’s nails and they’re now bleeding all over your carpets? Give him Hypericum!
It’s a great remedy for wounds to the nerves, especially in the toes and nails.
2. Garbage Gut
Did your dog raid the garbage can and now he’s not feeling so well? He’s vomiting and straining to poop it all out? Nux vomica will rescue him!
Nux vomica is the perfect remedy to use after binging or exposure to toxic substances (think about giving it after drugs or surgery too).
3. Tick Bites
Every dog owner fears tick bites! But did you know there’s a remedy that can actually help prevent tick borne illness?
Give your dog Ledum palustre (Ledum) twice a day for two days after the bite.
4. Bumps And Bruises
Arnica is your go-to remedy for any physical injury! If your dog has twisted or sprained himself, give him Arnica. It works great for bruised tissue and initiates faster healing.
5. Foreign Bodies
Has your dog stepped on a hawthorn or does he have a foxtail in his ear?
Silica (also called Silicea) is a fantastic remedy for pushing things that don’t belong out of the body. It can even help empty anal glands!
Does your dog have a smelly oozing abscess that’s about to erupt? Hepar sulphuris can help the abscess to mature and start draining pus.
7. Cuts and scrapes
Has your dog ever had a battle with a wire fence? Is the cut or scrape jagged, ragged and painful? Calendula has a great affinity for the skin and is an amazing wound healer.
8. Sudden Vomiting and Diarrhea
Is your dog suddenly under the weather? If he’s vomiting and has foul-smelling diarrhea (especially if there’s undigested food in it), then Arsenicum album will get him feeling better fast!
9. Sudden Fever
If your dog has a sudden fever and he’s panting with pain and has redness in his skin or ears, then Belladonna can bring his temperature down fast!
Bloat can be a life-threatening condition for dogs. If your dog has colic, painful gas or torsion, take Carbo vegetabilis with you on the way to the emergency vet clinic … you might find by the time you get there, your dog is doing much better!
11. Broken bones
Of course, you need to take your dog to his vet if you suspect he has a broken bone, but you can speed the healing in fractured bones, non or delayed union fractures, and pain from fractures with Symphytum.
12. Red, Watery Eyes
Has your dog been running in tall grass and now his eyes are red? Conjunctivitis and irritated eyes respond very well to Euphrasia.
13. Urinary Tract Infections
Dogs that have burning and urging in the bladder respond very well to Cantharis. Another great use for this remedy is blistered burns to the skin.
[Related: Want to treat UTIs naturally? Learn how here]
Dogs can quickly suffer from frostbite to their feet or unprotected areas in the winter months. Agaricus works great for frostbite, especially to the tail, feet and ears.
A dog owner’s worst nightmare is having their dog hit by a car. Nobody wants this to happen, but you can be prepared for the worst … Aconite is the go-to remedy for sudden and overwhelming trauma … give it on the way to the emergency vet! And bring Carbo vegetabilis (also known as the corpse reviver) if he becomes cold and lifeless.
16. Head Or Spine Injury
Once again, dogs can get into trouble fast, and it’s a good idea to be prepared! If your dog is hit by a car or suffers a serious fall or kick (think dogs who hang around horses), then Natrum sulphuricum (Nat sulph) is the go-to remedy for serious head and spinal injury.
17. Over-Doing It
Dogs like to play hard and sometimes it shows the next morning! If your dog is stiff getting up after an active day, then Rhus toxicodendron (Rhus tox) is a great remedy to put the spring back in his step. If there is injury to the joints, then Ruta graveolens (Ruta grav) might be a better choice. Start with Arnica then move on to one of these two remedies to finish.
Minor burns and sunburn will respond well to Urtica urens. If the burns are more severe or the skin is broken, then use Cantharis.
19. Puppy Teething Pain
Just like infant babies, puppies can suffer the discomfort of new teeth. Chamomilla will soothe those symptoms, especially if there is greenish diarrhea.
20. Puncture Wounds
Dogs are prime candidates for bite wounds and insect stings. For any type of puncture wound, Ledum (Ledum palustre) can help heal and prevent later problems. Historically Ledum has proven effective in preventing or stopping tetanus after puncture wounds.
Common Types Of Anxiety In Dogs
There are 2 types of dog anxiety … behavioral and situational.
1. Behavioral Anxiety
Behavioral anxiety is when your dog has ongoing anxiety about something.
Separation anxiety is a perfect example. And it’s the most common anxiety in dogs. Some experts estimate that about 14% of dogs suffer from it. These dogs are afraid of being at home alone or separated from you in any way. They’ll show signs of stress when you pick up your keys or leave the house.
But separation anxiety is just one example … there are lots of other causes of behavioral anxiety, including:
- Past trauma
- Many homes
- The loss of someone close
2. Situational Anxiety
Situational anxiety is when your dog is afraid of something specific. Common triggers of situational anxiety in dogs include:
- Storms or other loud noises
- Car rides
- Going to the vet or groomer
Many dogs also suffer chronic fear or anxiety as a side effect of over-vaccination, especially with rabies. If you think this is your dog’s case, it’s best to consult a homeopathic vet to help treat her condition. Find one at theavh.org. Most will do phone consults.
Anxiety can also get start showing or get worse as your dog ages. This is usually associated with cognitive dysfunction and disorders.
9 Natural Remedies Vets Use On Their Own Pets
Photo by Jillian Lukiwski/Getty Images
You take glucosamine for your achy joints and sip chamomile tea for your jangled nerves. But who knew remedies like these could work the same magic on dogs and cats as they do on humans? It's all about choosing the right stuff, so we asked holistic vets which products they've found work best on their own pets.
FOR EASING ACHY, AGING JOINTS
Glucosamine/chondroitin. This combo can help protect and repair cartilage around joints and, unlike the prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that vets often use to treat pets' arthritis, poses a low risk of side effects. Be patient—it takes about 30 days for the supplements to start working, says veterinarian Patrick Mahaney, founder of California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness in Los Angeles. Tips: Choose products formulated only for pets and made solely with US- or Canada-sourced ingredients, and follow label directions for dosing.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 supplements keep pets' joints healthy and ease inflammation, says Nancy Soares, medical director of Macungie Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania. Follow label directions.
Traumeel for pets. This side effect-free homeopathic blend of arnica, belladonna, and other substances is a natural anti-inflammatory. It comes in gel, tablets, or drops. Follow label directions.
Elk velvet antler. Weird yes, but this Chinese medicine made from antlers of farm-raised elk, was studied and proven to relieve arthritis in dogs. Holistic vets say it soothes away joint pain as quickly as aspirin does. "My patients tell me that they give their dogs the formula and 20 to 30 minutes later, their dogs are up and moving again," says Cathy Alinovi, a holistic veterinarian in Pine Village, IN. For best results, use this along with omega-3 fatty acids.
FOR SOOTHING STRESSED-OUT PETS
Lavender essential oil. This natural sedative soothes your pet during stressful experiences, says Jeffery Levy, a veterinarian in New York City. In one study, dogs that whiffed the scent of lavender spent more time resting and less time pacing and whining than dogs not exposed to its aroma. Put a few drops on a clean rag for your pet to sniff, but keep it out of his reach. (Avoid these 4 ways you're driving your pet absolutely nuts.)
Pheromones. The chemical "love potions" that animals secrete to attract other animals seem to exert a calming effect. As relaxation remedies, pheromone products are sold as sprays, plug-ins, and collars that waft either dog- or cat-friendly synthetic chemicals into the air. Though research on their effectiveness is limited, Mahaney and Levy say they can reduce your pet's need for prescription drugs such as (yes, we're serious) Prozac.
Shen calmer. According to traditional Chinese medicine, human anxiety is a disorder of Shen (spirit). And according to holistic vets, anxious pets can have disordered Shen, too. This product, which contains a blend of 16 Chinese herbs, is designed to correct the Shen imbalance. Sounds woo-woo, but both Alinovi and Mahaney have used it with great success in combination with behavior modification (exercise, training, etc.), especially on pets with restless, anxious personalities. Find it on amazon.com.
NATURAL DETOX REMEDY
Vaccines are lifesaving, but some pets suffer adverse reactions. "Every immune system is different, and you just don't know how your animal will respond," says Soares. That's why she and Alinovi recommend the following products after your pet's annual shots.
Milk Thistle. This herb can help counteract any toxicity of vaccines or prescription medications that treat heartworm, says Alinovi. Buy it in health food stores as a tincture (a liquid) see below for specific dosing information.
Photo by David Trood/Getty Images
There's one nondrug solution that can help you soothe away your pet's pain and anxiety, as well as boost her immunity. It also happens to be free and in abundant supply: TLC. "People undervalue the power of touch," says Levy. "Especially for elderly animals whose eyesight and hearing might be going, a soothing touch might be the most important natural remedy you can offer."
Sedentary dogs are more prone to constipation and other health issues than dogs who exercise regularly.
Exercise is important for your pet, as it helps increase intestinal motility and promote healthy elimination of waste products. Exercise even promotes blood circulation.
- For young dogs, moderate 30-minute walks twice daily is considered good exercise.
- For older dogs, try two short walks of 15 minutes each day. Avoid long, tiring walks for older dogs.
Along with walking, make sure to spend some time at home playing with your dog.
- You can give your dog a stool softener or other laxative agent after consulting your vet.
- Increase fiber in your pet’s diet by feeding your dog fresh grated or boiled vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes peas and green beans. Always consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet or administering medications.
- Do not give human laxatives to your dog. It can be very dangerous for animals.
- If a dog has long hair that tangles at the anus, make sure to cut them. Hair at the anus can make a dog avoid defecating.
- Allow your dog frequent opportunities to defecate.
- If constipation is accompanied by vomiting, consult your vet right away.