Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents: Our Top 15 Choices for Dogs

By Jennifer Dempsey / November 14, 2018

Pet parents will go to the ends of the Earth when it comes to preventing their beloved fur baby from experiencing any kind of pain. It’s no surprise as to why. Knowing that Fido is not feeling well is one of the worst feelings in the world. Therefore, many dog owners find themselves wondering if they are doing all that they can in order to ensure their pet’s happiness and wellbeing. 

In this article, we will cover all there is to know about natural anti-inflammatory agents that pet parents can implement into their dog’s life. In so many cases, we find out about Fido’s distress once they are already experiencing it… which is far too late in our opinion. Here at Honest Paws, we believe that prevention is the best medicine. When it comes to pain in dogs, there are countless ways to ensure you’re doing all that you can to prevent your dog from not feeling their best. Let’s get started!

What is Inflammation

Inflammation… the silent killer. Pet parents may not realize just how horrific inflammation can truly be, for both Fido and for themselves. Let us explain. 

Technically speaking, inflammation is a localized swelling of a specific body part. It is most often due to injury or infection. The inflamed part of the body will often be reddened and painful. This is likely not new information for many pet parents. However, what some people may not fully realize is that the trouble truly begins when the inflammation isn’t managed and thus becomes chronic inflammation. 

When experts trace the vast majority of health conditions back to their root cause, they often find they have one major thing in common: chronic inflammation. Everything from allergies to cancer has inflammation as the root source. It is extremely worrisome when you stop to think about it. Especially when you consider that many forms of inflammation don’t become apparent to the dog owner until it has fully developed and often spread throughout the body.

In fact, the following health conditions are all linked to chronic inflammation: 

  • Arthritis 
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Diabetes
  • Periodontal disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Kidney failure
  • Dementia
  • Overall chronic pain 
  • A shortened lifespan

Luckily there are ways that pet parents can help to not only lessen current inflammation but actually prevent it from developing in the first place. But first, let’s discuss what typically happens when pet parents realize their dog is in pain and why conventional methods of treating pain aren’t always the best means of doing so. 

The Dangers of Conventional Anti-Inflammatory Medications

When your dog’s inflammation starts to become a serious issue, it is usually accompanied by a substantial amount of pain. In many cases, veterinarians will prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (also known as an NSAID) in order to alleviate the source of your dog’s distress. Common NSAIDs include medications like Rimadyl, Metacam, and Deramaxx. 

However, these drugs (along with other conventional medications) come with many potential adverse reactions that pet parents should be implicitly aware of. Trust us, once you look at the possible side effects, you’ll want to think twice before giving your precious furry friend the vast majority of commonly prescribed NSAIDs. 

The Importance of An Anti Inflammatory Diet & Supplements

Thankfully, with constant advancements in the world of holistic medicine, dog owners have options when it comes to treating their fur baby’s inflammation and associated pain. It all starts with an anti-inflammatory diet. 

We cannot stress the importance of diet enough. Your dog’s diet can truly be a game changer when it comes to preventing the development of a large number of ailments, including inflammation. Choosing anti-inflammatory foods can also prevent conditions such as obesity, which in turn, also prevents inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet, or simply a diet that contains anti-inflammatory agents, can also prevent deadly health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes (both of which often stem from chronic inflammation). 

Preventing Pain & Distress

Additionally, by choosing an anti-inflammatory diet and implementing anti-inflammatory supplements, pet parents can also prevent or slow the progression of arthritis in dogs and therefore the associated joint pain. 

Avoiding Foods That Cause Inflammation

Before we dive into all of the available anti-inflammatory agents for Fido, it is important for dog owners to know which foods to avoid. Many times, a homemade diet may involve foods that promote inflammation. These foods don’t need to be avoided altogether, but it is imperative that dog owners balance the inflammatory foods with anti-inflammatory counterparts. 

Dog owners should be aware that the following foods are known to cause inflammation in dogs (and their owners): 

Processed meat (more specific meats to follow):

  • Hotdogs (pork, beef, chicken, and turkey hotdogs all cause inflammation!)
  • Sausage
  • Ham 
  • Bacon
  • Bologna
  • Meat that comes from animals raised in commercial conditions* (resulting in meat which is high in saturated fat and omega 6. Too much omega 6 and too little omega 3 causes inflammation) 
  • Many hard kinds of cheese**
  • Egg yolk
  • Refined grains (including white flour and white rice)
  • Potatoes
  • Polyunsaturated vegetable oils (including sunflower, corn oil, and soybean oil) 
  • Margarine 
  • Shortening

inflammatory foods

*Stick to organic, grass-fed meats! 

** This excludes some hard cheeses including romano, feta, and parmesan.

Again, for dogs who are healthy and not experiencing inflammation, some of these foods don’t necessarily need to be completely and entirely avoided. However, they must be balanced with the appropriate amount of anti-inflammatory agents. For dogs who are experiencing inflammation, pet owners should do their best to keep inflammatory foods reduced to the bare minimum when making homemade dog food. 

Awesome Anti-Inflammatory Options for Dogs

Now, for the part of the article that you’ve been waiting for… our top 15 anti-inflammatory choices for your beloved four-legged friend! Many pet parents may not realize just how many anti-inflammatory herbs and foods have powerful effects on their dogs. In fact, many all natural anti-inflammatory agents that people use in their day to day life can also benefit Fido. (Of course, always do your research before giving your dog a supplement that you take yourself. Some anti-inflammatory supplements formulated for human consumption can cause dogs great harm!) 

Always consult with a holistic veterinarian prior to beginning any new therapies for your pet. Many of these supplements can also be found in combination products. Your veterinarian can give you recommendations on reputable brands since these supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The following are some of our favorite anti-inflammatory agents for dogs.

Spirulina for Dogs

If you haven’t heard of Spirulina, both you and Fido are in for quite the treat. This remarkable microscopic alga has incredible volumes of nutrients that can benefit your dog in more ways that you may have ever thought possible. Of course, on topic with this article, Spirulina has incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory properties. 

Spirulina Benefits

Previous studies on spirulina show that it can have the following benefits: 

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Promoting gastrointestinal tract health
  • Aiding in detoxification of the kidney and liver
  • Decreasing the rate of cancer
  • Alleviating allergies

spirulina for dogs

Again, everything mentioned above, from a weakened immune response to environmental allergies, has one major thing in common: inflammation. In other words, spirulina’s anti-inflammatory properties work to promote total wellness of the body, making it a top choice as far as our favorite anti-inflammatory agents for dogs. In fact, we highly recommend it for both you and for your furry friend.

Keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so always make sure to purchase from a reputable manufacturer. Poor quality spirulina products may contain toxic by-products and contaminants. A reputable product should be screened at a lab for heavy metals and makes sure that the algae is grown under proper conditions.

Comfrey for Dogs

We love anti-inflammatory herbs and comfrey is up on our list of favorites. Nicknamed “knit bone” due to its effective source of allantoin (a cell-growth stimulator), comfrey’s anti-inflammatory properties are known to promote healing. It is important to note that comfrey should only be used externally, as oral consumption may cause liver damage. If there is any concern that your dog may lick the ointment, please do not use this product. However, as a topical ointment, comfrey proves to be a highly effective anti-inflammatory that can significantly reduce pain and distress in dogs. 

Arnica (Arnica Montana)

Many holistic experts feel that one of the best natural anti-inflammatories is arnica montana. As a topical cream, arnica plant extract can safely be used to ease Fido’s inflammation and associated pain. Arnica should not be used on open wounds, as it stimulates dilation and circulation of blood vessels, which can cause further bleeding. The whole herb can be toxic when ingested but it can be used as an oral homeopathic remedy (which contains very minute amounts of arnica). It is important to note that the oral arnica montana remedies should be given separately from meals. 

Ginger

Many pet parents are familiar with ginger for its ability to relieve nausea and gas in dogs. However, you may not realize it’s ability to also ease arthritis pain. How exactly does ginger alleviate arthritis pain? Well, ginger inhibits your dog’s immune system from making leukotrienes, which produce inflammation. Therefore, ginger proves to be a powerful anti-inflammatory. Ginger can also help promote circulation in aging dogs. 

ginger is natural anti inflammatory

It is important to note that ginger can cause the blood to thin. Therefore, it should not be given prior to surgery. Ginger can also affect dogs who have certain heart problems or diabetes. As always, we recommend consulting with your holistic veterinarian to make sure that ginger is the right natural anti-inflammatory agent for your dog’s individual needs.

Devil’s Claw Root

Another great natural anti-inflammatory agent is devil’s claw root. Many pet owners have seen a substantial improvement when this African plant is used for dogs suffering from arthritic pain. This is the powerful result of devil’s claw’s main ingredient, harpagoside. Harpagoside has shown to be incredibly effective when it comes to reducing pain and inflammation. 

Devil’s claw root may have a negative reaction with some conventional medications. As always, consult with your veterinarian prior to implementing the anti-inflammatory into your dog’s diet. 

Turmeric for Dogs

Our next favorite anti-inflammatory agent for dogs is none other than turmeric. The active ingredient of turmeric is a compound called curcumin. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties, all of which can benefit Fido in countless ways. Funny enough, one study at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas nicknamed curcumin, “cure-cumin” for all of its powerful effects on the body.

turmeric is natural anti inflammatory

Pet owners are blown away about turmeric’s anti-inflammatory response on their dog’s aching bodies. Additionally, turmeric root can help combat the following ailments: 

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Gastrointestinal conditions

A word of caution! The yellow-orange coloring of turmeric will stain just about anything it touches, so we recommend keeping it away from carpet and furniture. 

Yucca

The next supplement that we recommend to reduce inflammation is called yucca root. Yucca contains steroidal saponins, which act as precursors to naturally occurring corticosteroids in the body. By stimulating the production of corticosteroids in the body, yucca has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation. Yucca has also been used as a natural appetite stimulant and may decrease unpleasant odors in urine and feces by reducing the production of urease. 

Yucca is also beneficial when combined with other herbs, particularly when treating arthritis. Too much yucca by itself can be irritating to your dog’s GI tract. Many holistic veterinarians recommend combining the anti-inflammatory agent with herbs such as alfalfa, licorice, and dandelion. 

Licorice for Dogs

Speaking of which, let’s go ahead and dive into licorice for dogs. Interestingly enough licorice is a member of the pea family. The root of licorice contains its medicinal properties, many of which are highly beneficial for dogs suffering from arthritis pain. The primary component of licorice (a compound called glycyrrhizin) resembles the chemical structure of corticosteroids. However, luckily, licorice root doesn’t come with all of the associated adverse reactions of conventional corticosteroids. (*If your dog is prescribed conventional corticosteroids, be sure to be incredibly aware of the potential adverse reactions as some can be quite severe).  

Alfalfa for Dogs

Another wonderful anti-inflammatory supplement is alfalfa for dogs. In fact, alfalfa has an extensive range of medicinal benefits, one of them being an effective way to treat arthritis pain and inflammation. It contains antioxidants to prevent cellular damage and is rich in many nutrients and vitamins. Do not use alfalfa seeds as they contain a toxic amino acid (l-canavanine). Alfalfa should also not be used in dogs with anemia since it contains an anticoagulant compound.

Meadowsweet for Dogs

Our next recommended natural anti-inflammatory agent is meadowsweet for dogs. Meadowsweet is yet another herb which contains anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, and analgesic properties, making it highly effective for dogs suffering from arthritis. Holistic experts compare it to an herbal aspirin, as it contains salicylates. These compounds form salicylic acid in the GI tract, which is very similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).

Horsetail for Dogs

Additionally, horsetail for dogs is another great anti-inflammatory herb. In fact, horsetail may be best known for the ways in which it can promote bone healing and alleviate connective tissue injuries.  Horsetail for dogs also proves to be effective in post-surgical trauma as it aids in rebuilding cartilage, bone, and tissues. 

When using horsetail to treat arthritis pain, many holistic experts recommend combining it with comfrey or glucosamine chondroitin supplements.

Glucosamine for Dogs

Speaking of glucosamine for dogs, it may very well be the anti-inflammatory supplement that you didn’t know your dog needed. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound made of glucose and glutamine. While your dog’s body already naturally produces the compound, increasing the amount of glucosamine in their body can significantly help their overall joint health. Additionally, glucosamine can also serve as a preventative for aging dogs whose joints don’t repair themselves as quickly as they once did.

glucosamine is natural anti inflammatory

Cayenne for Dogs

It may surprise some readers to learn that cayenne is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that can benefit our four-legged friends in a big way. The main compound in cayenne is capsaicin and it can provide a substantial amount of pain relief for dogs and people alike. Another interesting fact is that cayenne can be used topically on external sources of pain and inflammation. Cayenne is also a vasodilator and helps with circulation throughout the body. 

When used in the appropriate dosage (typically a small pinch of the herb is all you need), cayenne doesn’t cause digestive upset, contrary to what many might assume. With that being said, if your dog has a sensitive tummy, approach implementing cayenne with caution.

Green Lipped Mussel for Dogs

As the name implies, this is a species of mussel found in New Zealand and the edges (or lips) of the shell is green. They include many nutrients and compounds including omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that help with joint inflammation and pain. Another important compound found in the mussel is eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), which binds cyclooxygenase, an enzyme that causes inflammation. Green lipped mussels also provide polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGs), which are building blocks for cartilage and joint fluid.

 

Boswellia for Dogs

Finally, our last recommended anti-inflammatory agent for dogs is the herb boswellia. Also known as frankincense, boswellia is extracted from tree bark and proves to be extremely effective at alleviating inflammation and associated pain in our furry friends. Like ginger, boswellia inhibits the production of leukotrienes, therefore preventing inflammation from developing in the first place. Since there are no known interactions with other medications, boswellia can also be combined with supplements like turmeric and glucosamine for an even greater amount of benefit. Additionally, many studies prove that boswellia can be a game-changer for dogs suffering from arthritis.

Additional Natural Pain Relief Options

Of course, the aforementioned 15 anti-inflammatory agents are our top choices, but they are by no means the only ones available. We recommend for our readers to talk to their holistic veterinarian regarding which anti-inflammatory agent best suits their individual dog. Perhaps implementing a fish oil supplement will be best. All dogs are different and it is important for pet parents to recognize that there certainly isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ supplement when it comes to alleviating and preventing inflammation. 

How to Tell Your Dog Has Inflammation

Before we wrap up, we want to cover a few quick ways to recognize that your dog is suffering from inflammation. Since inflammation can occur just about anywhere in the body, symptoms can certainly vary. However, the following symptoms are nearly always present. 

  • Swelling of a particular part of the body
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Physical heat coming off of the body
  • Pain at the inflammation source
  • Lethargy
  • Disinterest in exercise 
  • Increased sleep
  • Difficulty getting up from rest 
  • Panting
  • Behavioral changes 

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Agents: A Final Thought

When it comes to Fido’s health and happiness, we know that you’ll do just about anything. Trust us, we get it. Here at Honest Paws, we are all dogs owners. Therefore, we understand how heart-wrenching it can be knowing that your furry companion isn’t feeling their best.

Again, we believe that prevention is the best medicine. When it comes to the vast majority of ailments, inflammation is generally always present. Therefore, preventing inflammation from occurring in the first place is paramount. By making a few simple changes in your dog’s life, you can ensure that you are doing all you can to promote them living the best life possible.

Sources

https://www.honestpaws.com/blogs/pet-care/arthritis-in-dogs

https://www.honestpaws.com/blogs/pet-care/glucosamine-for-dogs

https://www.honestpaws.com/blogs/pet-care/turmeric-for-dogs

https://www.animalwised.com/best-natural-anti-inflammatories-for-dogs-489.html

https://peterdobias.com/blogs/blog/is-spirulina-good-for-dogs

https://www.nhvnaturalpetproducts.com/natural-pet-remedies/yucca/

https://pettao.com/use-natural-yucca-for-dog-pain/

https://pettao.com/everything-need-know-meadowsweet-dog-pain-relief/

https://farmdognaturals.com/blogs/news/the-careful-use-of-herbal-arnica-for-muscle-inury-in-dogs

 

About the author

Jennifer Dempsey

Dr. Jennifer Dempsey is a small animal veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She received her Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) She has resided in the Orlando area since graduation and has gained years of experience helping cats and dogs live happier and longer lives. As a general practitioner, she has found client education to be one of the most important aspects of day to day life in veterinary medicine. Medical writing has helped her to connect with a larger audience and make sure that pet owners are fully aware of their loved one’s medical condition. She currently shares her home with two rescued mixed breed dogs named Primo and Morgan.


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