I’ve been nursing a neck sprain with back and arm muscle spasms since Christmas, making it next to impossible to write (let alone sleep). As usual, researching the condition had me automatically applying what I’d learned to pets. I can’t imagine going through such discomfort without being able to express to a doctor or therapist where the problem is, so I hope the following information about animal sprains, strains and muscle spasms will help you provide relief.
Muscle spasms and irritated nerves are the most painful part of a muscle strain or sprain in dogs, cats, horses and other animals. These spasms begin as the body’s attempt to stabilize the area around the injury so it can heal. Unfortunately, once muscles start to spasm they can continue long after the initial problem has been resolved. Combine that with inflammation and the pain can be excruciating and relentless.
A professional should diagnose suspected muscle strains, sprains and spasms. During the assessment and diagnosis, ask your veterinarian to show you specifically where the injury and spasms are located so you can effectively treat and provide therapy at home.
Initially your pet’s muscles may be inflamed, which can cause pain and spasms by putting pressure on nearby muscles and nerves. You should be able to feel heat and swelling if this is the case. Applying ice to the site for about 15 minutes, three times/day is the usual course of action. Ice is also suggested after deep tissue massage. However, scientists have recently begun to debate the use of ice, with some saying it relieves pain but may make do more harm than good. If you choose to use it, make sure it’s wrapped in a cloth so the ice never directly lays on the skin/fur. Once the inflammation is reduced, you can administer heat for 20 minutes, three times/day to increase the blood flow and relax the muscles.
Nutritional Healing and Support of Your Pet’s Muscular System
The nutritional requirements of the muscular system is quite involved, but simple enough to provide with a little knowledge.
Macronutrients: Vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins, A, B complex, C, iron and zinc.
Micronutrients: Carbohydrates and protein (amino acids).
Electrolytes: Calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride.
Interestingly, the one plant group that meets all of the above requirements is seaweed. While the tolerable amount will vary between species, virtually all pets can enjoy the benefits of seaweed because it doesn’t have the binding and high-carbohydrate issues that terrestrial plants have.
Herbal Healing & Natural Supplements for Your Pet’s Muscular System
Herbs, natural supplements and functional foods can assist in healing with anti-inflammatory properties and the removal of toxins from the connective tissues. For a list of anti-inflammatory foods, have a look at our article, Pet Arthritis: Holistic Prevention and Natural Treatment.
Turmeric powder can be used as an effective external treatment of muscle strain, sprains and bruising. Mix powder with a bit of hot water to make a poultice and apply to the affected area. Cover to prevent licking.
Calcium Montmorillonite Clay expels toxins so effectively, it has been used to treat people exposed to high levels of radiation. It also provides mineral support to the muscular and skeletal system.
Krill offers a wide range of amino acids and a host of other benefits that support healing, along with support for every system in the body.
Pet Massage for Muscle Strain and Spasms
The easiest, safest, and most effective therapy that you can provide at home for your dog, cat, horse or other animals, is massage. In fact, I’d still be whining on the couch were it not for the talented folks at Legacies Massage. Pet massage relaxes the muscles and tendons, loosens muscle spasms, assists the lymphatic system, moves toxins through release, improves blood flow, and increases oxygen flow to the area.
There are several pet massage techniques that may be used alone or combined:
Effleurage: Use long strokes, slowly over the full length of your pet. This technique is often used at the beginning and end of a massage.
Circles: Gently press down with your fingers and rotate in small circles.
Rissage: If it isn’t too painful, gently wrap your fingers around muscles that are not over bones and knead.
Trigger: If you feel a ‘knot’ or spasm, gently press on it, hold for 5-10 seconds and release.
There are some excellent guides available for healing pet massage, including the recently published Beyond Horse Massage: A Breakthrough Interactive Method for Alleviating Soreness, Strain, and Tension, The Complete Dog Massage Manual: Gentle Dog Care, and The Healing Touch for Cats: The Proven Massage Program
Acupressure therapy has proven to be very effective in the treatment of musculoskeletal issues, especially in dogs, horses, and small animals such as rabbits. It can be used to relieve pain and/or address the muscular issue directly. There are several books on the topic that you’ll find yourself referring to repeatedly, including Animal Acupressure Illustrated, The Well-Connected Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure, and Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual.
Pet magnet therapy that utilizes pressure points has been proven effective in animal treatment as well, although care must be taken to prevent swallowing or choking. You can place a bandage over the magnet, or purchase a magnetic dog collar, magnetic pet bed, or a magnetic horse cuff.
Aromatherapy for Pets
The calming benefits of aromatherapy on pets is well documented, especially with dogs and horses (extreme caution should be used around other pets, including cats and birds). Stress compromises the immune system, inviting illness, parasites and muscular maladies. Additionally, when an animal is already suffering from muscle irritation, it’s important to relax their muscles as much as possible.
Calming oils include Lavandula angustifolia, Valeriana officinalis, Anthemis nobilis, Ocimum basilicum, Origanum marjorana, Salvia sclarea, Vetivera zizanoides, Citrus aurantium, Citrus sinensis, Citrus bergamia, and Citrus odorata.
In her book, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals Kristen Leigh Bell provides several calming essential oil remedy recipes for pets, along with unsurpassed information on the topic.
Bach Flower Remedies (Herbs Pro has a huge selection) are often recommended as the safest form of aromatherapy for pets. They are so effective they’re often used to calm animals in shelters and in veterinarian offices (Rescue Remedy).
What worked for me?
- Massage therapy
- Heating pad
- Increased Calcium Montmorillonite Clay supplement from twice/week to daily.
- Added a variety of seaweed & algae species to practically everything I ate.
- Increased Omega supplements (Krill oil and a combo Omega 3-6-9 with flax seed oil, borage seed oil and fish oil).
- Avoided inflammatory foods
Have you ever nursed your pet back to health from a muscle issue? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Photo credit – dog: Montana Pets (with permission)
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