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What Can I Give My Dog for Inflammation?

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Dog Health By Kelsey Snyder 11 min read December 2, 2021

What to give dog for inflammation

Many maladies can cause inflammation in dogs, and sadly, the result is often pain for our furry companions. Fortunately, there are ways to combat inflammation in dogs, alleviating the associated discomfort. 

Below, we’ll break down what causes canine inflammation and identify the best ways to kick it to the curb.

What Can I Give My Dog for Inflammation: Key Takeaways

  • Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injuries, infections, or illness. It’s part of the way in which your dog’s system attempts to heal and protect itself from further damage. But because inflammation causes pain and discomfort, it shouldn’t be ignored.
  • Both prescription and all-natural anti-inflammatories are potential treatment options. For example, canine NSAIDs may be prescribed to treat acute pain after an injury, while glucosamine and chondroitin can be given long-term to boost joint health.  
  • Always ask your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication or supplement. Many may contain ingredients that interact negatively with your pup’s existing prescriptions or health issues.

What Is Inflammation in Dogs?

what is dog inflammation

Inflammation is your dog’s bodily response to injury or infection

The body rushes blood containing white blood cells to the sight of the problem in an attempt to heal itself. Once there, the white blood cells try to prevent further damage or allow the ailment to spread. While it’s a natural bodily defense that serves an important purpose, it’s important to note that inflammation is typically painful.

Inflammation comes in two forms: acute and chronic. Each is a bit different and occurs in response to different types of stimuli.

  • Acute inflammation is sudden in onset and usually occurs in reaction to an injury, such as a sprain or fracture.
  • Chronic inflammation is ongoing and is the result of disease, toxin, or long-term environmental stress.

Several canine diseases and illnesses cause inflammation, including arthritis, gastritis, and skin (such as a yeast infection). Inflammatory responses may vary from slight to severe, and those involving the eyes, nose, or mouth require immediate veterinary treatment

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What Are the Symptoms of Inflammation in Dogs?

inflammation symptoms in dogs

While many symptoms are hard to spot in dogs, inflammation isn’t always one of them. This is a blessing and a curse for us owners, as we can readily see there is an issue, but it also means witnessing discomfort in our best fur buddies.

The most common signs of inflammation in dogs are:

  • Redness: Inflammation causes increased blood flow to an area, leading to redness most easily seen between your dog’s toes, around her eyes, and on her belly. Redness can also be due to friction or irritation, such as your dog wearing a harness that’s too tight or wearing a material she’s allergic to, like nickel.
  • Swelling: The body swells in response to an injury or infection because blood vessels enlarge as white blood cells rush toward the area to repair it. An example of this is the localized swelling seen after an insect sting.
  • Warmth: Inflamed areas are often warm to the touch, particularly on the extremities. You don’t have to grab or manipulate the site to know it’s hot; just rest your hand on it gently if your dog will allow it. 
  • Pain: Inflammatory responses often cause pain. Some dogs show pain more readily than others by whining, limping, or licking at the area, but others (especially terriers) may mask pain or power through it. Other signs of pain include restlessness, unexplained aggression, and disinterest in play.
  • Loss of function: A dog with inflammation might limp, walk slowly, or refuse to move at all because of the resulting pain. This is especially common in sprains, ligament tears (such as an ACL injury), or chronic conditions, like dog arthritis.
  • Behavioral changes: Dogs experiencing inflammation may spend more time sleeping or even seem restless. Your pup might also be more irritable than usual. This sudden snapping or growling isn’t your dog being a jerk; it’s merely her being grumpy like us humans when we don’t feel good.
  • Change in eating/drinking: Hidden digestive inflammation can upset your dog’s stomach, curbing her appetite. The same is true of dental inflammation that can make eating and drinking painful. 

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pup, make a vet appointment for an exam. An emergency visit is a must for severe reactions, such as those that affect breathing or cause tremendous pain.

What Are Some of the Causes of Inflammation in Dogs? 

causes of inflammation in dogs

Canine inflammation has many potential origins from nose to tail. Some triggering events are sudden, such as a slip and fall, while others develop over time, like illnesses.

The most common causes of inflammation in dogs are:

  • Injury: When a pup takes a tumble, the body reacts with localized swelling at the injury site. An example is a swollen knee after a ligament tear.
  • Overuse: Many dogs work and play hard, which is tough on the body. Overusing a muscle group triggers a repair response, leading to inflammation. The same is true of sudden upticks in exercise after an extended period of inactivity. For example, your dog’s legs may get sore after a long run.
  • Infection: White blood cells combat infection, rushing to the site of an injury or illness to work their magic. The result isn’t always pretty, especially with wounds that may swell or weep. Deep or open sores aren’t anything to treat at home. Infection can set in fast without proper cleaning, and stitches or even surgical drains may be necessary.
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  • Autoimmune disease: These disorders occur when the body attacks itself, triggering an immune response. Some autoimmune diseases in dogs are systemic, such as lupus erythematosus, autoimmune thyroiditis, and discoid lupus erythematosus (AKA collie nose), 
  • Food intolerance: Some ingredients may not sit well with your dog’s tummy, causing digestive upset, like vomiting and diarrhea. As with humans, these food items irritate the stomach or intestines, leading to internal inflammation. You may not be able to see this right away, but your dog will likely let you know with increased potty breaks or accidents inside.
  • Stress: Dogs are just as sensitive to their living arrangements as we are, and a change in routine can negatively impact their health, especially in older, more fragile dogs. This is often seen during kennel stays when sudden, unexplained dog diarrhea can strike. Other environmental stresses like toxins or uncontrolled allergies can trigger inflammation as well.

Sometimes it can be hard to spot inflammation, but you know your dog best. Contact your vet if you notice any changes in her behavior, eating and drinking tendencies, or bathroom habits.

What Should I Do to Help Treat My Dog’s Inflammation?

dog at vets office

Treating your dog’s inflammation starts with a trip to your vet.

After a thorough examination and any relevant tests, you and your vet can develop a treatment plan that works for everyone. This may include management techniques including:

  • Avoiding allergens
  • Initiating an elimination diet to identify problematic ingredients for suspected stomach issues
  • Managing pain and swelling due to injury with prescribed medications or recommended supplements 

Your vet may also recommend solutions to make daily life easier for your pup if she has a chronic condition, like arthritis. This might mean installing a doggy ramp over stairs, using dog joint or knee braces, upgrading her bed to something with more cushioning, or implementing activities that alleviate pain and stiffness, like hydrotherapy or acupuncture.

Great Things to Give Your Dog for Inflammation

supplements for dogs

With your vet’s help, your dog can conquer inflammation and feel better in no time. Treatments vary, from prescription medications to over-the-counter supplements and all-natural remedies. We’ve rounded up the most common and broken them down for you.

Veterinary-Prescribed NSAIDs

There are several canine-safe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) your vet may prescribe. It’s important to note that dog NSAIDs differ from human ones. Never give your dog any human medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as these can be deadly.

Some of the most common canine NSAIDs are:

  • Carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl)
  • Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
  • Firocoxib (Previcox)
  • Meloxicam (Metacam)

Veterinary NSAIDs are most commonly used to treat arthritis, sprains, breaks, or post-surgery pain. Canine NSAIDs may cause stomach upset, so they typically must be given with food unless otherwise noted. Unfortunately, these medications can cause other problems with long-term use, like liver damage, kidney dysfunction, and bleeding issues, but your doctor will likely perform routine tests to check your dog’s overall health if such prolonged usage is necessary.

Aspirin 

aspirin for dog inflammation

Aspirin is sometimes recommended by vets, but only for short-term use. Your vet will recommend the correct aspirin for your dog, as not every over-the-counter option is appropriate for canine use. As with dog NSAIDs, aspirin should be administered with food to protect your pup’s stomach.

Generally, canine NSAIDs are far more effective at treating pain and inflammation and come with fewer risks. Aspirin can cause bleeding, particularly dangerous gastrointestinal bleeding, which is why it’s seldom used in canines today.

Steroids

Also called corticosteroids, these medications are sometimes used to treat inflammation associated with allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, and other uncontrolled immune responses. 

The most common canine steroids are:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone 
  • Methylprednisolone 
  • Dexamethasone

Some side effects can occur with steroid use, including weight gain, increased hunger, and infection. Your vet will monitor your pup periodically during use and adjust accordingly, if needed, as with other medications.

Turmeric 

Can Dogs Have Turmeric

Turmeric is thought by many to have anti-inflammatory properties, but there haven’t been many studies done on dogs to test these claims. Administered via powder or tablet, turmeric is considered safe for canines in small quantities, though it can cause digestive upset.

Glucosamine

This naturally occurring compound helps your dog’s body build new cartilage. Glucosamine is often included in dog food but is also offered in supplement form, usually as chewables or tablets. It’s frequently used to ward off the effects of arthritis as dogs age or help the body heal after orthopedic surgery or injury.

Chondroitin

Frequently used in tandem with glucosamine in supplements, chondroitin is an element that prevents cartilage breakdown in your dog’s body by blocking harmful enzymes. While glucosamine is responsible for building new cartilage, chondroitin plays defense, ensuring it can do its job effectively. Like glucosamine, it’s offered in supplement form, usually as a tasty tablet.

Ginger

ginger for dog inflammation

Ginger is another plant thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits in dogs and people. Unfortunately, the few studies surrounding ginger and dogs link it to reducing nausea rather than stopping inflammation. Available as a powder, pill, or freshly grated, it’s easy to mix into food. Ginger can, however, cause digestive upset or issues with dogs suffering from bleeding disorders. Once again, check with your vet before giving your dog any supplement — including ginger.

Omega-3s 

Balance is key with fatty acids, as omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation, while their cousins, omega-6s, can increase it. Most foods containing omega fatty acids are already balanced for you, but you can accidentally throw this off with supplements, so always ask your vet before trying one out. Most omega-3s can be given via a tasty fish oil supplement

Never try or mix medications or supplements without checking with your vet first. While you may have good intentions, they interfere with one another or existing medical conditions and can put your dog’s health at risk.

CBD

Derived from hemp plants, cannabidiol (CBD) is believed to have antiinflammatory principles and can help alleviate its associated pain. Given as drops, chews, or treats, CBD oil for dogs is picking up steam in the canine world as an all-natural solution to many issues, but use caution in selecting a source to make sure you’re getting a dog-friendly product. That said, relatively few studies have been done on the supplement, so always check with your vet first.

Other Strategies for Fighting Inflammation

dog massage

Medication isn’t your only option for combating your dog’s inflammation. You also don’t need to wait for it to be a problem; you can try to prevent it in the first place, saving your dog from discomfort.

A few drug-free ways to battle inflammation are:

  • Keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Extra weight puts unnecessary stress on your pup’s body, affecting everything from her joints to her digestive health. Make sure you’re feeding her the correct amount, and swap out high-calorie treats for healthier options like green beans.
  • Limiting daily dog stress. As with us humans, stress isn’t healthy for our fur kids. Chaotic living arrangements or situations make it hard for our pups to relax, affecting how well the body recovers during rest. Try to eliminate any unnecessary craziness, like playing soft music to drown out thunder or opting for in-home care over kenneling when you’re away.
  • Providing a high-quality diet. Proper nutrition helps your dog from nose to tail, giving her the nutrients she needs for muscle recovery, growth, and healthy digestion. Inferior foods can stress your pup’s tummy out, causing discomfort and worsening any existing issues. Make sure any food you feed meets AAFCO standards and is approved by your vet for your dog’s unique health needs.
  • Opting for canine massage, hydrotherapy, or acupuncture. Alternative therapies like these can increase blood flow in the affected areas, aiding in healing. These are popular among dogs with arthritis and other joint issues.
  • Address any allergies or underlying conditions. Allergies and other medication issues trigger inflammatory responses. Regular veterinary examinations can help weed this out and help your dog feel her best. 

As with any treatment, always consult with your vet first to make sure you’re choosing the right option for your dog. Never try any supplements or over-the-counter pills without checking with your veterinarian, either, as these can interfere with your dog’s existing medications or health conditions. 

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Inflammation in dogs is a formidable foe, but by consulting your vet and selecting the proper canine anti-inflammatory option, your pup can start moving and feeling better.

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Written by

Kelsey Snyder

Kelsey is a K9 of Mine contributor who has worked with dogs as a shift runner and office manager of a boarding kennel. When she’s not writing, she can be found throwing a ball or losing at tug of war. An animal lover to the max, she lives in South Jersey with her husband, her five dogs Boomer, Taj, Batman, Maya, and Moxie, some kitties, and two grumpy turtles.

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