Winter’s rain, snow, and chills have arrived, and many of us feel the change of weather in our bones. Whether your friend has an old injury that occasionally acts up, or is simply feeling the effects of age in her joints, you might find her a little more stiff or sore as outdoor temperatures drop. What can you do to ease those minor aches and pains? First, rule out serious injury or illness. If your loved one is unwilling to put weight on a limb, or shows signs of severe pain such as depression, loss of appetite, trembling, or unwillingness to be touched, a visit to your veterinarian may be warranted. These symptoms can signal a new injury or a potentially serious illness that needs prompt treatment. But if you notice he’s a just little stiff when he gets out of bed in the morning, or seems reluctant to make that jump into your car, a little extra TLC might help put that spring back in his step. Some minor changes in diet or adding homeopathy, herbs, bodywork, or an extra bit of luxury to his lifestyle might make both of you feel much better.
- Review your friend’s diet to make sure he’s getting plenty of fresh, wholesome foods with no artificial additives. Joint inflammation can be an allergic reaction or a response to internal toxins, both of which can be triggered by chemical additives in the diet. Avoid processed foods whenever possible, whether they’re made for humans and for other animals. If you do feed packaged foods read the labels carefully to be sure ingredients are all natural. If you can, switch to home-prepared meals to avoid harmful additives entirely, and reap the benefits of optimum nutrition.
- Make sure the diet includes omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation. Flax seed oil and hemp seed oil are good choices. Many health food stores contain hemp- based protein powders that are a good source of essential fatty acids.
- Supplement the diet with antioxidants vitamins A, C, and E, and SOD (super oxide< dismutase), as well as the minerals zinc, selenium, and manganese to help the body assimilate antioxidants.
- Check your health food store for a vegetarian glucosamine supplement to reduce inflammation in the joints and help rebuild cartilage.
- Add a dose of bromelain, an enzyme from pineapple, once or twice a day to reduce inflammation and ease soreness.
- Begin with Arnica to reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing. Use as needed. (As with all homeopathic remedies, do not use as a daily supplement on an ongoing basis.)
- If your companion shows signs of pain or stiffness after a rest, but symptoms diminish after she moves around a while, try Rhus tox.
- If joints are slightly swollen but there is no heat in the area, Ledum may be helpful.
- Consider working with an experienced veterinary homeopath to find a constitutional remedy that will ease pain of arthritis and address any other physical or emotional imbalance.
- Add dandelion root tea or tincture to the diet for two to three weeks to help detoxify the body by supporting liver and kidney function. To make a tea, simmer the root for fifteen to twenty minutes; leave herbs in the tea to steep, and add them to the meal along with the liquid. Chances are your animal friend will enjoy the tea as it is; if not, try adding a bit of sweetener like barley malt, agave, or maple syrup.
- Add boswellia, yucca, turmeric, or ginger to the diet to decrease inflammation
- Add alfalfa or parsley to provide valuable minerals.
- Add gingko to help increase circulation, particularly important for aging animals.
- A micro dose of CBD can help ease inflammation.
- A gentle massage in front of the fire on a chilly winter night will make both of you feel cozy and well loved. It also might do more to ease your sweetheart’s discomfort than most anything else in your wellness arsenal. Start with the feet and work your way up each limb, gently kneading the soft tissue and moving each joint. Work the larger muscles of the hips and shoulders, then carefully move on the smaller, more sensitive muscles around the face, head, and ears. Continue on down the neck and spine, and don’t forget the tail. All the while, watch carefully for your friend’s responses. If she becomes tense or flinches, work more gently. If she gets up and walks away, accept her choice to decline your ministrations, and try again another day. If she licks her lips, sighs a deep sigh, or falls asleep, you’ll know your loving touch is healing her body, mind, and soul.
- For a change of pace, or if your loved one is very sensitive, try Therapeutic Touch as an alternative to massage. For detailed instructions see the article “A Warm Touch on a Cold Winter’s Eve”.
- When your companion is very relaxed, try some simple range of motion exercises. Very gently move each joint—don’t forget the toes. Work your way down the tail, too, and oh-so softly make a circular motion between each vertebra. Never force a movement. If he resists, never, ever force him. Meet any tension with relaxation and release, and soon he’ll trust your gentleness and allow you to bring new freedom to his movements.
- Acupuncture can go a long way to ease pain and inflammation. Ask your veterinarian to refer you to a veterinary acupuncturist, or find one at the website for the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at www.ahvma.org. Ask your practitioner to suggest some acupressure points you can use at home, or refer to the recommendations in The Complete Holistic Dog Book: Home Health Care for Our Canine Companions.
A Life of Luxury—of Course
- Nothing makes a body ache like sleeping on a cold, hard floor. On the other hand, nothing eases aches like a warm, soft place to relax. If your friend’s bed has lost its fluff, or if aging joints could use an orthopedic mattress, maybe it’s time to splurge on a nice cushy new bed. Make sure it’s thick enough to support her weight and keep her hips and elbows off the floor.
- Go out of your way to make sure he stays warm. A cold body is likely to be tense, and tight muscles can lead to achy joints. If he’s curled up in a little ball, or his ears are cold, chances are he’s feeling chilly. Make sure his bed is out of drafts. Consider moving it away from the window to a cozy inside corner.
- Tuck a hot water bottle under the pad in her bed, or pick up a gel-filled pad you can warm in the microwave. Make sure it’s not hot enough to cause a burn—if it’s not comfortable resting against your bare skin, let it cool a bit before you let her lie on it.
- On those really frigid nights, share your blanket. Or provide him with one of his own, to drape over him wherever he curls up for a nap.
- Don’t overdo exercise if he’s stiff or sore, but keep do him moving on a regular basis. A short walk two or three or even four times a day is better than one long one to keep him limber.
- What about a nice warm sweater for those brisk morning walks, or some soft pajamas to make sure her dreams are sweet?
Most important of all, your special love and attention is the best medicine to warm his heart, give comfort to his spirit, and keep his body moving more easily through another winter season. While the two of you curl up in front of the fire, you’ll enjoy the treasure of each other’s company, and all your cares will melt away.