Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works mostly with dogs and exotic animals.
Why Try Natural Remedies?
Why try a natural treatment for your dog's lameness? Sometimes, the cause of lameness cannot be determined. 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 vet will examine, palpate, and x-ray the dog. The vet may administer a steroid injection and prescribe some anti-inflammatories. 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.
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 Therapies 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.
- 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: The anti-inflammatory effects of apple cider vinegar may be helpful.
- Organic diet: An organic diet, especially one that utilizes collagen meat sources, may be beneficial.
Consult With Your Vet First
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 therapies (i.e., steroids and 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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.