Do you have a dog who is getting on in years? If you do, then you are likely familiar with the challenges arthritis poses to pets. Osteoarthritis affects almost 70% of dogs over the age of 7 years. Small breeds can succumb to hip, back, and knee problems, while their larger counterparts struggle with arthritis from chronic hip and elbow dysplasia.
Armed with the knowledge that standard therapies for canine osteoarthritis have variable effectiveness and potential side effects, many pet owners turn to alternative treatments. Nutritional supplementation with glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid has become mainstream. Acupuncture and chiropractic sessions are now a large part of the conversation. What about essential oils for arthritis in dogs? They, too, are becoming viable options for canine osteoarthritis.
What are essential oils?
Specific oils give eucalyptus its distinctive scent, peppermint its refreshing and delicious flavor, and lavender its soothing properties. They are called essential oils because they capture the essence or soul of the flower, fruit or plant.
Ancient cultures from India, China, and Egypt used essential oils as aromatics and topical creams for beauty, medicinal purposes, and perfumes. Their primary use today remains as aromatics. Rarely they may be ingested, but always consult with your veterinarian about any oral administration of essential oils to your dog.
- Aromatic – essential oil diffuser
- Aromatic – spritz or perfume
- Topical – cream, drops or spritz
Topically applied essential oils can absorb simultaneously via skin contact and as aromatics through the nose.
How can essential oils help dogs with arthritis?
As scientists and medical professionals learn more about the effects of essential oils on different conditions in dogs, these wonder drops are gradually making their way into arthritis treatment protocols. They treat two major components of arthritis, pain and inflammation. Their quick absorption into the bloodstream through the skin and nasal mucous membranes adds to their appeal.
Researchers believe essential oils have their greatest influences on the limbic system, a bundle of nerves responsible for circulatory and respiratory processes as well as emotions, memories, and mood. Therefore, essential oils work on the musculoskeletal system by increasing circulation and reducing inflammation. Some even have a direct correlation with pain management.
Which specific essential oils work for arthritis?
When choosing an essential oil regimen for your dog, you must consider both its efficacy for your pet’s condition and its safety. Dogs are generally more sensitive to essential oils than you, but several herbs are outright toxic to canids.
You can find several essential oils that seem to help alleviate pain and stiffness associated with canine arthritis.
- Lavender – well-known for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Cedarwood – stimulates circulation
- Roman or German Chamomile – may relieve muscle tightness and joint pain
- Peppermint – a natural pain-reliever
- Copaiba – Its chemical behavior is similar to that of aspirin. This essential oil also has high levels of β-Caryophyllene, a major compound in CBD oil.
- Frankincense – A potent anti-inflammatory, it helps with stiffness and lameness in arthritis. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory effects on the respiratory system such as in asthma and on digestion.
- Sweet Marjoram – This is a safer alternative to tea tree oil. Marjoram has antispasmodic effects that may help with muscle tightness.
- Myrrh – similar anti-inflammatory effects as Frankincense.
- Rosemary – good for circulation and helps with muscle and joint pain.
- Ginger – Its use in arthritis is relatively new, and its efficacy is unknown. Ginger may work synergistically with other essential oils. It is better studied for its digestive effects, especially in the possible prevention of the serious condition bloat in dogs.
- CBD – Often in a category of its own, CBD oil is very similar to essential oil and is classified as one by proponents. Either way, it has pain-relieving properties and is gaining momentum as a viable alternative for the treatment of canine arthritis.
Always consult with a veterinarian before bounding to grab the nearest essential oil and diffuser. Some herbs, like thyme and wintergreen, are purported as suitable essential oils for arthritis in dogs by some sources and toxic by others.
Essential oils, like many nutrients, perform better in compounds of multiple ingredients rather than one herb. An example of one such blend is a recipe that incorporates rosemary, ginger, birch, juniper, and lavender in a base of arnica and jojoba. Another combines lemon, lavender, ginger, helichrysum, peppermint and valerian.