It’s that time of year again as the nights draw in and temperatures plummet. Many, during winter, experience the bite and misery on their joints associated with the blanket of cold weather.

As anyone with arthritis will testify, as the mercury drops pain and stiffness worsen. This phenomenon is not unique to people. It is well documented that animals with arthritis or joint disease show the same response.

Although the cause is unclear, it is suggested that colder, wetter weather seen in winter may cause changes in barometric pressure. This causes tissues to swell, increasing pressure on nerves which transmit pain signals. Shorter days and worse weather also mean that dogs often get less exercise during winter months which exacerbates joint stiffness. 

Do you think your dog is suffering more as soon as the summer months become a distant memory? This won’t just be age, but could actually be a sign your dog has arthritis. Time to learn more …

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a progressive condition caused by damage to the cartilage lining your dog’s joints. This results in stiffness, swelling and discomfort. It can occur in dogs of any age or breed, but is more common in older dogs. 

How is it diagnosed?

Because arthritis is progressive it will typically worsen with time. Pets with arthritis may become less keen to play or exercise. They may change their activities to avoid discomfort, for example avoiding jumping out of the car or onto furniture. Many dogs with arthritis may be lame. However, if joints in multiple limbs are affected, stiffness rather than lameness may be noted. 

If you are concerned that your dog is exhibiting signs of arthritis, ask your vet for advice. They will assess your dog’s joints for stiffness and discomfort and assess their muscle mass. Further testing including x-rays may be used to confirm signs are due to arthritis and exclude any other conditions that can cause similar clinical signs. 

How is it treated?

Fear not, your dog is not destined to a life of mobility purgatory especially in the cold. There are multiple medication and therapy options available that will improve your dog’s quality of life. Your vet will be best placed to advise you on a specific therapeutic plan that can be tailored to your pooch.

However, there are things you can do to help right away.

  1. Keep your pet at the right weight

The extra weight carried by overweight animals, just like people, impacts on the joints and exacerbates joint pain and stiffness. So, the cheapest and simplest way of assisting is to keep your pet fit and free from excess weight. If you struggle with your pet’s weight, speak to your vet clinic who can provide advice on correct feeding and diets.

  1. Keep them moving

It can be tempting to avoid your pet getting cold while exercising when the cold winter weather arrives. However, regular movement is needed for dogs with arthritis to keep their joints lubricated and retain muscle mass and joint range of movement. In addition, cutting down on your dog’s exercise can cause them to gain weight, worsening joint pain and stiffness. 

But remember when you are out, try to avoid icy areas so that they don’t slip. 

  1. Keep them warm

Avoid them getting cold when out and about. Consider a jacket, particularly for dogs with a short/thin coat. Similarly, consider moving their bed to a warmer area in the house and giving them extra blankets to keep them warm, especially at night. 

  1. Supplements

That’s right, there are joint supplements for dogs too. A doggy version of cod liver oil is available and probably tastes better too. It is recommended to use supplements formulated for animals so speak to your vet for what products are available.

As we head deeper into winter, and you turn on the heating or layer up with another jumper or scarf, take a moment to think about your stiff dog. Perhaps it’s time to give them the gift of comfort and joy by treating that arthritis.

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