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Cold Weather and Arthritis: Keeping Your Pet Comfortable

November 27, 2019
Cold Weather and Arthritis: Keeping Your Pet Comfortable

Fall is quickly turning into winter, and snow will be falling before we know it. For pets with arthritis, winter can present challenges and discomforts as their joints become stiffer and more inflamed. Whether your pet is already on an arthritis treatment plan, or you suspect he may be showing early signs of joint disease, you must remember that he will need special consideration during the winter months. 


Arthritis Signs in Pets

Arthritis is a common ailment of older pets that frequently presents with signs of pain affecting inflamed joints. Although arthritis can develop in any joint, dogs often experience arthritis in their hip joints, whereas cats often develop arthritis in their spinal column. Clinical arthritis signs may include:

  • Limping, or lameness
  • Decreased activity
  • Inability to walk up stairs or jump onto furniture
  • Reluctance to be touched or petted

If you think your pet may have arthritis, schedule a visit with our veterinary team so we can help you keep your pet comfortable all year long, and particularly through winter’s coldest months.  


Arthritis Diagnosis in Pets

An arthritis diagnosis can typically be made with a routine physical exam and X-rays. During your pet’s office visit, our veterinarians will evaluate his gait and joint range of motion to identify the affected joints, and then take X-rays to evaluate inflamed joint surfaces. Your pet often will require sedation to take X-rays, since the positioning may be painful for his stiff joints. If our team observes changes consistent with arthritis, they will design a treatment plan to manage your pet’s inflammation and pain.


Ways to Keep Pets with Arthritis Comfortable During Dold Weather

Arthritis requires year-round management, but additional measures can be taken to keep your pet comfortable during the winter when inflammation is often at its worst. Follow these tips to keep your pet feeling his best:

  • Provide thick, soft bedding — Lying on a cold, hard floor can worsen arthritis symptoms. Purchase a thick, supportive bed for your pet so he wakes up feeling rested instead of painful.
  • Keep your pet warm and cozy — Since cold temperatures irritate painful joints, ensure your house is warm and cozy. If you are gone during the day, resist the urge to program your thermostat to a cooler temperature—consider your pet and keep the heat at a comfortable level all day long. 
  • Help your pet navigate slippery surfaces — Arthritic pets often slip on non-carpeted floors, and risk falling and hurting themselves. Your pet can become so fearful of slippery floors that he avoids them altogether, and will walk only on carpeted areas. You can lay down rugs or try traction devices, such as toe grips, to help your pet walk across slippery floors more confidently.
  • Shovel a path for your pet — Snow and ice can make for a slippery walk outside, so don’t forget to shovel a path for your pet to get to his favorite spots.
  • Give your pet a boost — Pets who enjoy cuddling on the couch or sharing your bed may miss out on these activities if they cannot jump onto elevated surfaces. Pet ramps can be placed beside furniture so your pet can snuggle with you during television time.
  • Ask our veterinary team about medical treatment for your pet — Your pet does not need to suffer when many arthritis treatments are available that could help make him more comfortable. Medications are available that can reduce inflammation and pain in arthritic joints, and alternative therapies, including acupuncture, cold laser therapy, and therapeutic exercises, may also help make your pet more comfortable.

If you think your pet may have arthritis, or you have questions about keeping him comfortable in cold weather, contact us