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10 Effective Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Dogs With Joint Pain

If you're reading this article, there's a good chance a dog you love is struggling with joint pain. Whether you're looking for alternatives to surgery or proactive steps to prevent or delay a surgery later in your dog's life, know that you're not alone.

Joint pain affects one in every 5 adult dogs and 90% of all seniors. But just like people, every dog is different. The cause of the pain, severity, and response to treatment will all be unique to your pup.

That's why it's important to work with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that's right for your dog. In this article, we'll discuss 10 effective non-surgical treatments for joint pain in dogs.

Senior dog resting next to a window after taking WagWorthy Naturals Hip and Joint Supplement that combats a dog’s hip and joint pain and stiffness

1. Using Water Therapy to Ease Canine Joint Pain

One of the simplest and most effective ways to ease your dog's joint pain is also one of the most fun!

Water therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, can help to reduce swelling and inflammation in your dog's joints while also improving their range of motion and conditioning. The buoyancy of the water takes the weight off of your dog's joints and allows them to move more freely without pain.

Most dogs love the chance to splash around and play in water, so hydrotherapy can be a great way to keep your pup active and engaged while also helping them heal.

Grey senior pitbull playing joyfully in the pool and enjoying a swim thanks to WagWorthy Naturals Hip and Joint Supplement that sooths achy joints

2. Taking Advantage of Canine Massage Therapy

Just like people, dogs can benefit from regular massage therapy.

Canine massage therapy can help to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and swelling, and release muscle tension. It can also improve your dog's range of motion and flexibility. You can easily learn canine massage techniques to perform at home. And, giving your dog a gentle, healing massage can be a wonderful bonding experience for you both.

3. Acupuncture for Easing Joint Pain

Acupuncture is a popular treatment option for all sorts of health issues in people, and it can be helpful for dogs too.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles into specific points on the body. It's thought to help relieve pain by stimulating the nervous system and releasing endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. Acupuncture can promote overall wellness, vitality, and help reduce pain and inflammation. 

Although acupuncture is an ancient practice, modern veterinarians routinely recommend the treatment. Today, it’s not uncommon for licensed veterinarians to also be trained acupuncturists, with many providing it in their own offices. 

4. Using Lasers to Treat Your Dog's Pain

Laser therapy is a newer treatment option that's becoming increasingly popular for treating joint pain in dogs.

Also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT) or cold laser light therapy, this treatment involves the use of a handheld device that emits low-level lasers or light energy onto the affected area. The laser energy helps to reduce inflammation and pain while also stimulating the healing process. Laser therapy is often done in conjunction with physical therapy, chiropractic care and massage.

5. Exploring PEMF Therapy

PEMF therapy is another treatment option that's showing promise for treating joint pain in dogs.

PEMF stands for pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. It involves the use of a special device that emits pulsing magnetic waves—but don't worry, your dog won't feel a thing. PEMF waves help to stimulate cell proliferation and the production of collagen, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation. Best of all, PEMF is super easy to administer. Depending on which joints are affected, your dog can receive their therapy at home, while laying on a PEMF mat or wearing a special vest or loop collar.

6. Canine Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a treatment option that's often used to treat joint pain and other musculoskeletal issues in people. But did you know that some chiropractors can also treat dogs?

Canine chiropractic care involves the use of gentle, hands-on adjustments to correct any misalignments in your dog's spine or other joints. This can help to relieve pain and improve mobility.

Two black and brown german shepherds carrying a stick and walking in the woods that use WagWorthy Naturals Hip and Joint Supplement, the best glucosamine chondroitin for dogs hips and joints

7. Supplements for Joint Pain

If you aren't already giving your dog a targeted joint supplement, your veterinarian will likely recommend that you do.

The best joint supplements for dogs contain some combination of glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, omega 3, omega 6, vitamin C, and vitamin E.These ingredients work together to help reduce inflammation, improve joint function, and protect against further damage.

8. Adequan Injections to Slow Joint Degeneration

Adequan is a prescription medicationfor dogs that can actively block the harmful enzymes responsible for breaking down cartilage in their joints.

Adequan injections help to slow the progression of joint degeneration and can also help to reduce pain and improve mobility. The injections are typically given once or twice weekly for four to eight weeks, and many dogs see significant improvements within just a few weeks of treatment.

9. Steroids Can Help Your Dog's Joint Pain, But Use Them Sparingly

Steroids are a powerful medication that can help to reduce inflammation and pain in your dog's joints. However, they should only be used under the careful observation of your veterinarian and on a limited basis, as they can have serious side effects if used long-term.

This is because steroids can have some serious side effects, including weight gain, increased thirst and urination, panting, restlessness, and gastrointestinal issues. If you think your dog might benefit from a short course of steroids, talk to your veterinarian about the potential risks and benefits.

10. NSAIDS for Easing Canine Joint Pain

Your vet may prescribe NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like carprofen, previcox, or metacam for pain. These medications can help to relieve some of the pain your dog is experiencing, but we highly recommend making sure this is not the only treatment you're using. While NSAIDS may mask some of the symptoms of arthritis, they don't do anything to solve the root problem.

An important note about NSAIDS: Never give your dog prescription or over-the-counter medications without the express direction from your veterinarian. Many dogs have died tragically and avoidably after being given human pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen which are highly toxic to pets.

As dog parents ourselves, we understand how overwhelming, even heartbreaking, it can feel to know your dog is in pain. In addition to the therapy options above, new advancements in the treatment of canine joint dysfunction are made every day.

It is possible for your dog to maintain a full, happy, healthy life by making a few lifestyle changes and implementing one or several of the options above.

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