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Natural Awakenings National

Pain-Free Pets: Natural Ways to Provide Relief

Dec 31, 2010 02:18AM ● By Dr. Matthew J. Heller

Providing pain relief for pets is important, whether they are recovering from an injury, surgery or suffering from a chronic problem. But recognizing signs of pain in animals is tricky because it’s subjective and its expression varies with each animal. Some pets are stoic when faced with horrible injuries, while others howl over minor ailments.

Humans complain, grumble and often self-medicate to alleviate their aches. A pet may need help and be communicating, “I hurt!” if any of the following signs are evident.

●    Being unusually withdrawn, inactive, restless or exceptionally clingy
●    Refusing to walk stairs or not rising quickly when called
●    Avoiding physical contact, such as being lifted or carried
●    Whining, whimpering, howling or meowing constantly
●    Biting or continually licking a particular part of the body
●    Flattening ears against the head
●    Loss of appetite

Changes in behavior may be the only way a cat or dog will communicate its plea for relief from pain. Keep in mind that in nature, predators seek out animals that display signs of pain or injury as a preferred target, so it’s natural to hide pain as a protective measure. In the event of a trauma, illness or surgery, seek diagnosis and assistance from a trusted veterinarian.

Mounting evidence from institutions such as the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture supports the use of alternative modalities to effectively manage pain and provide relief. Some of the most common include the following approaches.


These non-drug nutrients play a significant role in strengthening normal body tissues, repairing damaged tissues and improving efficient body metabolism. Pet guardians may use vet-recommended nutraceuticals for up to six to eight weeks to manage low levels of pain.

Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies, sometimes referred to as homotoxicology, comprise the use of plant and animal materials to stimulate the body into action; homeopathy is often explained as, “like heals like.” Specifically, exposure to a large amount of a toxin (e.g., poison ivy or arsenic or anthrax) would likely cause specific physical problems, but in a small, controlled dose, it may stimulate the body to heal similar problems.

We regularly apply Traumeel, manufactured by Heel, a blend of 12 homeopathic remedies for temporary relief of minor aches and pains associated with bruises, sprains and injuries such as dislocations, trauma and fractures. It can also ease pain associated with inflammation and arthritis. Forms include dissolvable tablets, ointments and drops.

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is a holistic approach that considers the each being as a whole—body, mind and spirit—and takes into account both diet and environment. For the practitioner, disease is the result of an imbalance of the body’s energy flow, which needs to be redirected, rebalanced and restored.

Herbal formulas are prepared for pets suffering from musculoskeletal injuries due to an acute trauma, like a sprain or back injury, or a chronic discomfort, such as arthritis. They are available in capsules, powders and tea pills.

In decades past, veterinarians were taught that some feeling of pain could help an injured or post-operative pet stay to quiet enough, long enough to heal. More recent studies, to the contrary, show that minimizing any pain generally aids the recovery process.
Primary source: Purina Pet Institute

In medical terms, acupuncture can assist the body to heal itself by affecting certain physiological changes, such as increasing blood circulation and relieving muscle spasms. General conditions treated by acupuncture include arthritis; back pain; muscle pain and spasms; and stroke. A simple acute problem like a sprain may require only one treatment, where more severe or chronic ailments may require multiple sessions.

Animal Chiropractic

Veterinary Spinal Manipulation Therapy, also referred to as animal chiropractic, is applied to correct common misalignments in the spine, restoring motion to the spine, as well as proper nerve and muscle function. Misalignment may be caused by trauma, overexertion or the normal wear and tear of everyday life. Proper adjustment allows the body to fully function and better heal itself. The number of adjustments required to alleviate pain varies based on the severity of the disease or injury.

Pain management requires a team effort, but the result—a pain-free pet that feels happier and healthier — is worth it.

Dr. Matthew J. Heller is a holistic veterinarian and owner of All About PetCare, in Middletown, OH. For more information, call 513-424-1626 or 866-YOUR-VET, or visit

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