Pain is an unpleasant experience that results from potentially harmful stimuli. Not only is pain uncomfortable, but it can also cause tissue damage and bodily harm without proper treatment. Our pets can experience pain for a variety of reasons, including arthritis, joint disease, injuries, muscle tension, disc problems, and cancer. Pet owners must learn to recognize the signs of pain in their four-legged friends, as subtle changes could indicate discomfort. 

Pain in pets can be addressed with a variety of methods, and no single approach is suitable for all conditions. Technological advancements, new products, and ancient Chinese practices are making pets with a variety of ailments more comfortable. One of the primary ways to address pet pain is through the use of oral and injectable medications, including anti-inflammatories, opioids, and other drug classes, but while pharmaceuticals play an extraordinary role in combating pain, there can be drawbacks. For example, adverse side effects, difficulty administering medications, and cost are provoking veterinarians and pet owners to search for alternative therapies.

Often, medication and complementary therapies combined can provide an optimal, holistic approach to pain. The following are examples of alternative therapies that you and your River Road veterinarian may consider for your pet.


Nutraceuticals or supplements are widely popular in both human and veterinary medicine. They differ from medications in that they are believed to provide physiologic benefits, whereas medications are used primarily for treatment. In other words, nutraceuticals work to prevent, versus treat, disease. Most nutraceuticals are largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), unlike pharmaceuticals. Examples of nutraceuticals that may help reduce pain include:

  • Chondroprotectants, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM — These ingredients help protect the delicate cartilage inside the joint, which degenerates with age and causes diseases like arthritis. 
  • Essential fatty acid supplements (EFAs), such as those found in fish oils — EFAs have anti-inflammatory effects on the joints, skin, nervous system, and internal organs. 


This ancient Chinese method has been around for centuries, but was not commonly used in the veterinary world until the 1970s. Acupuncture is the unique practice of inserting fine needles into the skin at specific points to address a myriad of pet problems, primarily pain. Acupuncture improves blood flow, stimulates nerves, and promotes the release of the body’s own natural pain-relieving substances, such as endorphins and anti-inflammatory hormones. We are proud to offer acupuncture services at River Road Veterinary Hospital. Contact us if you would like to set up a consultation. 

Chiropractic care

By readjusting joint subluxations, chiropractic care helps alleviate pain, muscle tension, nerve discomfort, and more. Many pets can benefit from spinal manipulation, including those with acute injuries and those with chronic issues like hip dysplasia. Veterinary chiropractic care should be performed only by a credentialed professional. Ask our veterinary team for our recommendations. 

Physical rehabilitation

Veterinary physical therapists can help pets with mobility improvement and pain reduction through a variety of approaches. Physical rehabilitation is commonly recommended for pets recovering from orthopedic injuries, surgery, or other musculoskeletal or nerve conditions. Typical therapies include underwater treadmill sessions, swimming, stretching, massage, and range of motion (ROM) exercises.  

Therapeutic laser

Low level or “cold” laser is a great way to stimulate cell regeneration, increase blood flow, and relieve inflammation. This painless method works synergistically with other alternative therapies to improve healing and reduce pain associated with a variety of illnesses, from muscle tension to non-healing wounds. Therapeutic laser is safe, but pets or people should wear special glasses during a laser session to protect their eyes from potentially harmful rays. 

Environmental modifications

Addressing pain in pets can be as simple as taking a close look at your pet and making a few changes at home. is your pet having a hard time rising on slick floors? Ensure that rugs are placed throughout the home or get her some toe grips. Is she hesitant around stairs or jumping into the car? Place sturdy ramps with grippable material to ease her reluctance. Does she have difficulty posturing to relieve herself? A harness like this one can help you help her. 

Pets experience many different types of pain and discomfort that, thankfully, can be addressed with a variety of treatments. Contact our team with further questions or for recommendations.