Reducing pain and inflammation
This is a big topic and I can't possibly cover everything, but this should give an overview.
How we, and our pets, suffer pain is a highly complex issue, there are a lot of individual factors involved. Where and how the pain happens can affect how much pain that is perceived, there are differences in response between species and even breeds. There are also differences between species as to how pain is shown and in what circumstances. Territorial animals will avoid showing weakness for fear of losing their domain, whilst pack animals responses can be altered depending on their position in that society.
For most pets pain comes from injuries, surgery and also from the degenerations caused by aging. The latter can be reduced as a risk by not neutering at all, or waiting to neuter until fully mature (see my previous blog).
Pain sensation can be attributed to something called a nociceptor. A nociceptor is a type of sensory receptor at the end of a sensory neuron's axon that responds to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli by sending signals of pain to the spinal cord and brain. This process is called nociception.
Pain can be useful – as examples of this; it can stop animals from moving around too much and worsening injuries; it creates learning experiences benefitting survival, and arguably it also facilitates and stimulates the body to recover.
However, too much pain leads to stress and can cause other associated issues that can affect recovery. When considering treatment therefore one must balance up the clinical pro’s and con’s and consider welfare issues as well.
One has to also consider an unwelcome aspect to pain that is termed "wind-up". This is where regular stimulation of pain receptors leads to a chronic state of pain which can be over and above that expected by the original stimulus; in other words, something that you wouldn't expect to be particularly painful that ends up being very painful indeed to the animal affected.
In human and animal anaesthesia, drugs are given prior to operations to prevent wind-up and very useful they can be too.
It is also a significant argument for considering pain issues with age, such as arthritis, earlier on in the process of the disease rather than waiting until matters get too bad
But what if we don't want to live on drug pain-killers and prefer a more natural approach? Well, firstly of course, we can look to herbal medicine. Herbs have been used for centuries as medicine for pain, and those such as white willow bark, from which aspirin is derived and which has led to a range of modern drugs, can be very helpful in pain relief without resorting to the strong medicines with all their associated side effects. Although more medicine than food, the active ingredients are in their natural state and are in synergy with the other compounds found in the tree bark.
Cat's claw is a Peruvian vine which has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for a long time in South America for relief from arthritic pain. Another bark product with anti-inflammatory properties is Pau d'Arco which, like cat's claw, is taken as a tea. However, it is recommended to contact an experienced herbalist (we have Dr Vicky Simon specializing in herbal medicines at the practice) if considering these remedies, since there can be interactions with other medicines.
Ginger and turmeric are excellent anti-inflammatory spices, and can be taken in relatively large quantities since they are also foods. We have found a really useful mix of these combined with Boswellia gum extract and Celery Seed which is well tolerated and proving very effective in many cases. It can be given safely to dogs who cannot tolerate the commonly given prescription drugs for pain relief.
Homoeopathic remedies can help with pain and inflammation too - Arnica is perhaps the best known of these for reducing bruising of tissues. We give Arnica as a routine for all surgical cases at the practice alongside specific remedies for the surgery happening. We also use Arnica with Rhus tox and Ruta grav in combination for arthritic pain, with probably as many of our patient’s arthritic owners taking it as well having first seen the benefits for their pets.
For rebuilding muscles, skin, cartilage, tendons and ligaments, a good dietary source of vitamin C is necessary, together with an organic form of Sulphur. Sulphur is important because it is a component of collagen. For sports injuries, which we see more of with since Fly-Ball and Agility cIasses have got popular we use MSM (methyl sulphonyl-methane) to provide this.
It's also important to mention the things which create inflammation in the body, and therefore can lead to a stimulation of the pain response. Number one things to avoid - sugar and grains. Acid-forming grains are pro-inflammatory as well as being an unnatural food for dogs and cats. Biologically Appropriate Raw Food proves itself yet again best for pets
Finally, consider mindset. Anger is pro-inflammatory, as is negativity in general. Happy, positive people heal faster! The same is true for Animals. Well fed, well exercised, well trained and happy pets suffer less.
If you need further help and input, why not book a consultation with a Holistic Vet.