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Arnica for Dogs: A Homeopathic First Aid for Dogs (Vet Answers)

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS (Vet) Profile Picture

By Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS (Vet)

arnica

Arnica montana, also known as Leopard’s Bane, is a bright yellow flowering herb, which for centuries has been used for medicinal purposes as it is thought to have pain-relieving properties. It grows natively in Canada, northern US, central Europe, and Siberia, and is commonly used in homeopathy and western herbalism.

Although the herb itself is poisonous, when used in commercially prepared diluted doses, arnica can be used to help treat a whole host of ailments for your pet. Arnica gets its healing properties from the substances found within the herb itself—helenalin, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. It is said to reduce swelling and inflammation by increasing blood flow to the affected tissue and draining fluid away from it. It does this by encouraging capillaries (tiny blood vessels) to open up, and by increasing lymphatic drainage.

Although scientific studies proving the effectiveness of arnica as a treatment for any medical condition are few and far between, it has been used in homeopathy and western herbal practices for many years to treat both humans and animals. It is best used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and you should always seek advice from your veterinarian before using it to treat your pet.

arnica plant
Image Credit: Pixabay

What is arnica used for?

Arnica is thought to be useful in treating a myriad of conditions that cause swelling, bruising, pain, and inflammation in your pet. These include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bruising/trauma
  • Sprains
  • Abscesses
  • Closed-tissue injuries
  • Hematoma
  • Muscle aches
  • Rheumatism
  • Strokes
  • Emotional trauma
  • Wounds
  • Post-surgical pain and swelling
  • Hair loss
  • Heart conditions

As arnica has anti-inflammatory properties, it is most commonly used to treat pain, as well as bruising (bruising is caused when trauma causes tiny blood vessels in the skin to burst). The effects of arnica on improving blood circulation to the affected area and increasing lymphatic drainage mean that it can speed up the healing process, as well as help manage chronic pain.

Some evidence exists to suggest that when used post-surgery, arnica may enhance the effects of veterinary-prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, or provide suitable alternative post-operative pain relief. So if your dog is due to have surgery, it may be worth considering using arnica to help aid the healing process.

It’s important to remember that arnica is best used as a supplement to conventional veterinary-prescribed medications. If you do want to use arnica to treat your pet, then make sure you seek advice from your veterinarian first.

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How do I give arnica to my dog?

Arnica is available in a variety of forms—topical creams, gels, tablets, pellets, oils, and as a tincture—each useful for different ailments and levels of pain. Sometimes you can combine different forms of arnica to achieve the best results.

The type of arnica that is most suitable for your dog should be decided by your veterinarian, and it’s essential to discuss your dog’s symptoms with them first before beginning any treatment.

arnica
Image Credit: Pixabay

What is the dose of arnica for dogs?

The correct dose and form for your pet will depend on the condition, symptoms, and severity. You will want to make sure you give arnica to your dog in the best form and at the right dose to see its effects, so it’s really important that you always discuss your pet’s condition with your veterinarian before beginning any treatment.

Each form of arnica is useful for treating varying levels of pain, and you can combine different forms to see the most positive results. Generally, pellets are more suitable for chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, and topical forms are useful for acute injury.

Lower doses will be required to treat mild symptoms, but high doses or a combination of forms of arnica might be needed to treat more severe symptoms. Most topical preparations of arnica can be applied 2–3 times daily for up to 3 weeks. Arnica tablets and pellets come in a range of potencies from 6C (being the least potent) to 30C, and 200C (the most potent). Your vet will advise you on a suitable potency for your pet’s symptoms and condition.

Remember that arnica needs to be stored in a cool, dry place, and away from direct sunlight.

Where can I buy arnica?

Arnica can be purchased over the counter from most health stores and from homeopathic pharmacies. Arnica is not a regulated medicine, so take care when shopping online—there are many knock-off versions out there that could either harm your pet, or simply not work. Avoid purchasing any supplement or medicine for your pet from marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay, and ensure you are purchasing from a reputable supplier.

arnica pills
Image Credit: Bjoern Wylezich, Shutterstock

Does arnica have any side effects?

Arnica, like all medicines and supplements, can have some side effects.

When used as a topical treatment, arnica can cause dryness of the skin, itching, a rash, or pain. If you think your dog is having a reaction to topical arnica, contact your veterinarian straight away for advice.

If ingested accidentally, arnica can cause vomiting, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, collapse, and death. If you think your dog may have eaten arnica or is showing any of these signs following treatment, contact your vet straight away.

You should avoid using arnica on any broken skin or open wounds, as it can impair healing and cause unwanted bleeding.

Is arnica safe for dogs?

Yes, arnica is safe for dogs as long as it is given to them in the correct form and at the correct dose.

Make sure that if you are using a topical form of arnica for your dog, that they don’t lick it off, as it can be toxic when ingested. If you do use topical arnica, keep a close eye on your dog, and apply it at mealtime or before a walk to distract them from licking it off. If ingested, arnica can cause vomiting, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, collapse, and death. If you think your dog may have eaten arnica or is showing any of these signs following treatment, contact your vet straight away.

Arnica causes increased blood flow and circulation, so you must never give your dog arnica in the weeks leading up to surgery, as it may cause unwanted bleeding, which could put your pet at risk.

Arnica can slow blood clotting, so it shouldn’t be given to dogs that are taking any medication that thins the blood, or bleeding may result. The safety of arnica in dogs that are in pup (pregnant) or feeding puppies is unclear, so it’s best to speak to your vet for advice before using it in these dogs.

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Dogs & Arnica: Conclusion

There are many health claims surrounding the use of arnica. Few scientific studies exist to back up these claims, although some studies have been carried out that do support its use.

Arnica can be a safe and useful supplementary treatment for pain and bruising in dogs, as well as a range of other conditions and symptoms, when used appropriately. It may be particularly useful for dogs suffering from arthritis, to reduce bruising or local inflammation, to treat hematoma, and to aid healing post-surgery. Arnica is best used in combination with other veterinary-prescribed medications, and when used correctly could prove very beneficial to your pet.

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FAQs

My dog ate arnica tablets, what should I do?

If your dog has eaten arnica tablets, you should contact your veterinarian straight away. If you think your dog has eaten a lot more than the recommended dose, he may show symptoms such as vomiting, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, collapse, and even death.

Can dogs take arnica?

Yes, you can give your dog arnica to treat a variety of ailments. The herb itself is highly toxic, so it should only be given to your pet in a properly prepared form—tablets, pellets, topical cream, tincture, or oil. Arnica is available in a range of potencies, and your vet will advise you on what dosage and potency is appropriate for your pet according to the severity of their symptoms.

Can I use arnica to treat a dog bite?

If you or your dog has been unfortunate enough to be bitten by another dog, then yes, arnica may be useful in helping to treat the wound. You must seek immediate medical or veterinary treatment first, as dogs have a lot of bacteria in their mouths and can cause significant tissue damage and infection. Any wounds will need to be cleaned thoroughly, and medical treatment such as pain relief and antibiotics given. Arnica may be beneficial when used alongside these medicines to aid or speed up the healing process.

arnica cream and oil
Image Credit: franznikon, Shutterstock

Can I give my dog arnica for pain?

Arnica is known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. It works by increasing blood flow to the affected area, and draining fluid away from it. This means it can be beneficial in treating any condition that causes pain such as arthritis, soft tissue injuries, and bruising.

Can I give arnica to my dog after surgery?

Yes, arnica can help to reduce swelling and bruising, as well as ease pain when your dog has had surgery. Arnica may enhance the anti-inflammatory properties of veterinary-prescribed anti-inflammatories, or provide suitable alternative pain relief. Do not apply arnica to the wound itself or to broken skin as it will cause bleeding. You must not give your dog any arnica before they have surgery, however, as it increases circulation and can cause unwanted bleeding during the operation.

Can I use arnica if my dog has a hematoma?

Arnica can be a helpful treatment in dogs that develop an aural hematoma. As arnica opens up capillaries and increases lymphatic drainage from the affected area, it may help to resolve a hematoma more naturally. It is best used in combination with other medical treatments to get the best outcome when treating a hematoma. Speak to your veterinarian to discuss whether arnica might help your dog.

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Featured Image Credit: Bjoern Wylezich, Shutterstock

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