What are some natural and safe pain relief alternatives for pets?

What are some natural and safe pain relief alternatives for pets?

No one wants to leave their fur kids suffering pain! Pain relief is necessary after injuries or surgery. It’s also very important for elderly animals with arthritis or other painful conditions.

BUT – and it’s a big fat hairy but – the veterinary industry in general depends upon and prescribes a range of pharmaceutical pain relief drugs willy-nilly with small regard for the risks. My experience when I was in training at vet school was that the risk of harm was minimised.

What drugs will vets prescribe for pain relief?

The most commonly prescribed family of drugs for pain relief (especially for chronic pain relief) in your pets are NSAIDS – Non Steroidal Ant-Inflammatories. One of the most popular is Meloxicam, and other brand names include Previcox, Galliprant, Carprofen, Rimadyl, Deramaxx and others. Aspirin is also an NSAID.

NSAIDS can cause a range of side effects due to harm from the drug.  The most common side effects are gastrointestinal. At any signs of being off their food, diarrhea, vomiting, or tarry black poos, you should stop giving the drug IMMEDIATELY.

NSAIDS may also damage the liver or kidneys. Other signs to look for are behavioural changes, skin redness or scabs, and drinking/urinating excessively. If your pet is unlucky enough to suffer kidney or liver damage, this may cause lifelong harm or death.

Never give human drugs to your pets!

However, prescription pain relief drugs do have their place. I would never give them unless as a last resort, for instance for palliative care. And I have had a lot of older dogs on these drugs for extended periods with no side effects. If you do have an animal on them long term, you absolutely should have regular blood tests. Unfortunately, you simply can’t tell which dog these drugs will harm until it’s too late.

The other main class of pain drugs that vets will prescribe are opiates. These are more generally used acutely after injury or surgery. One opiate that is often used for chronic treatment of pets is tramadol. This is great for some animals and useless for others. It can cause sleepiness and constipation.

Gabapentin is commonly prescribed for nerve pain – but many vets will use this for arthritis too. Another drug sometimes used to treat arthritis in older pets is Amantadine. Some dogs at end of life may require polypharmacy for quality of life.

Please be aware that cats are much more sensitive to the harmful effects of NSAIDS and many other prescription drugs. And NEVER give a cat Panadol, as it will kill them.

Natural pain relief options

In my opinion, you should explore and use all of these natural pain relief options before considering prescription drugs:

  • CBD – find an organic, whole plant CBD-rich, low-THC extract. Indivita and Charlotte’s Web are great brands or The Spirit of Hemp in the UK. This is a very safe, highly effective anti-inflammatory and pain relief herb. I have had a lot of clients use it alongside prescription drugs. It has multiple other benefits.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) – research has shown that at high doses (three times recommended supplement dose) these are as effective as NSAIDS for pain relief. I recommend Dr Dobais’ calamari oil. If you can’t get that, then look for the best quality calamari oil you can find.
  • Turmeric is a great herbal medicine that can help relieve pain.
  • Green-lipped Mussel Extract (GME) is a supplement I give to every animal I see with arthritis. I like the lovely health brand. It takes about a month to take full effect.
  • A strict diet (keep your dog lean) – this is the best pain relief available for fat arthritic dogs!
  • Heat packs are an affordable, effective way to ease aches and pains in older pets.
  • Bodywork can make a MASSIVE difference in quality of life and relieve pain very effectively. See my signature healing bodywork modality for pets- the Whole Energy Body Balance method online trainings – learn how to help your pets with loving touch!
  • Acupuncture and acupressure can help a lot.
  • Hydrotherapy is another great option.

And when pain is severe…

You’ll want to roll in the prescription drugs – especially for older animals with severe chronic pain. At some point, palliation becomes the most important consideration.

However – after surgery, consider replacing the NSAID option with high dose EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids). They are proven to be as effective as NSAIDS. Short term opiate treatment is safe, too. Avoid CBD for 3 days before and after surgery as it may slow clotting and cause excessive bleeding.


For more questions, please contact Dr Edward Bassingthwaite @ The Healing Vet


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  1. Tracey A Young

    September 9, 2021 at 1:24 am

    I found the information really interesting. I’m looking at finding natural remedies for a dog with itching paws and skin. I have read that Apple cider vinegar watered down by half can provide relief. He just went through a nasty ear infection that comprised of both yeast and bacteria. It was so hard to get rid of the yeast infection and $400 vet costs. I hear that yeast can be controlled by ACV so I’m going to try this as a weekly topical and if anyone out there knows anything else natural to try that would be great. Thanks.
    Tracey &Dakota Dave

  2. Mal and Maddi (Border Terrier) Lynch

    September 9, 2021 at 3:29 am

    I am a BIG believer in natural therapies for both animals and myself. And I am a bigger believer in The Healing Vet’s healing. A long time fan of his. Would it be possible for Dr Bassingthwaite to do some articles on CBD supplementation please; especially advising us non-vets what CBD Oil does and how it interacts within the animals body. I would appreciate that. thank you.

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