When the weather gets cold outside, you notice that your dog or cat isn't moving around as well as they normally do. You're not quite certain, but you think you may have an arthritic dog or cat.
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As a pet parent, you're concerned about your pet's health in the winter months, and you want to learn how you can care for them. It's best to look into arthritis and discover why your pet has it in the first place.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is joint inflammation, and it's a rheumatic condition. This means that your dog or cat is experiencing joint pain, swelling, stiffness, or aches around one or more of their joints. They can come on gradually—old age is a cause —or suddenly appear out of nowhere. Cancer, an infection, an injury, or an immune disease can cause it as well.
Both arthritis and osteoarthritis cause joint pain. The difference is that osteoarthritis is caused by the gradual wear and tear of cartilage in the joints, usually due to aging. Arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammation. An arthritic dog or cat is hesitant to walk, lags behind when you go outside with them, lick their joints, or yelp when you touch them. They have trouble getting onto chairs and pet furniture, and they are limping. Arthritis pain, unfortunately, cannot be cured, but it can be managed, even in the winter months.
Arthritis and cold weather
Your pet may have a flare-up of arthritis in cold temperature because of a drop in barometric pressure (a measure of the weight of the air). If there is a cold front or warm front coming out, the joints may react and cause your pet to feel more achy than usual. However, once the air pressure evens out and the weather stays the same for a bit, your arthritic dogs or cats should get some relief.
If you think you can't help your pet in the winter months, think again. There are a number of things you can do to assist your arthritic dog or cat in the cold weather, including the following.
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Make sure your cat or dog is active
Even though you don't want to go outside in the winter months, your dog still needs exercise. Make sure you're taking him on daily walks, going to the dog park when it's nicer out, and playing fetch with him in the yard. If the weather is too bad to go outside for long periods of time, try playing some indoor games or setting up an indoor obstacle course to help your dog get some exercise.
If you have a strictly indoor cat, get your cat to play with a laser or cat toys around the house. If your cat is willing to go outside, you can get a cat leash and take him on a walk. Just be aware that salt, ice, and snow can hurt your pet's paws, so it's best to invest in some warm booties for the walk. Weight gain puts more pressure on joints, which can make the condition worse.
Warm temperatures help dog's joints
Keeping your arthritic dog or cat warm inside and outside is key to managing arthritis in the winter months. If you live in a cold climate, you'll want to get your dog a coat. You'll also want to invest in a nice dog or cat sweater for inside and outside, as well as comfy blankets or even a heating pad for your pet to sleep on. Make sure your house is warm at all times, and that if you give your pet a bath, the water is warm, too.
Put your pet on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Pets can take Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, also known as NSAIDs, which are known to treat pain from arthritis. Some of these pain medications include Novox and Deramaxx. Upon taking NSAIDs, your dog or cat can move more easily and feel better in no time. You can't get these over the counter; your veterinarian will have to write you a prescription. You should never give your pet any drugs without a veterinarian's recommendation.
Invest in steps and comfortable bedding
Since your pet's joints are hurting and they are having trouble going up on furniture, you'll want to buy some steps they can climb. Then, they won't be struggling to go up and down. Soft, comfortable bedding is also going to eliminate some of the aches and pains of arthritis. Arthritic older dogs can benefit from memory foam pet beds, or at the very least, an extra padded bed.
READ MORE: All About Hip Dysplasia in Cats
Get your pet physical therapy
If your pet's arthritis is bad, you may have to take them to physical therapy. A pet physical therapist will do certain exercises with your arthritic dog or cat to increase blood flow and make them feel better. These may include strength-training exercises and light stretches. They may also use massage, acupuncture, and hot and cold packs to relieve some of the pain. You can ask your veterinarian for a referral to a good pet physical therapist in your area.
Joint supplements for pet arthritis
You can improve your pet's quality of life with joint supplements that are geared toward helping with arthritic pain. Canine arthritis and general joint stiffness is often helped with supplements of chondroitin and glucosamine — for both humans and animals — says the AKC.
Though there is no cure for your arthritic pet, you can help your dog or cat manage their pain in the winter months, as well as year round. Keep your pet warm and active and at a healthy weight. Putting on extra weight puts more pressure on already achy joints. During the cold winter months, provide them with sweaters and comfortable bedding. You may also consider treating your dog's arthritis with medication, for pain relief, supplements, or getting them physical therapy. Remember to always call the veterinarian if you think your pet is not reacting well to the treatment plan or needs additional care.
- AKC: How Joint Supplements Help Dogs with Arthritis
- Medical News Today: What are the causes and types of arthritis?
- VetWest: Arthritis In Dogs
- Arthritis.org: Weather and Arthritis Pain
- Orvis: Arthritis and Cold Weather: Winter Comfort for your Arthritic Dog
- 1800 Pet Meds: Arthritis Treatment for Dogs and Cats