Keeping Your Dog Comfortable in Winter
Has your dog seemed a little slower than usual lately? Do they seem to have more trouble getting to their feet after laying down? They could have osteoarthritis in their knees or spine. Additional signs of osteoarthritis include:
- Appearing sore first thing in the morning
- Having problems with stairs
- Jumping from the bed or couch with less ease or energy
- Preferring shorter walks than normal
Osteoarthritis is common, especially in older dogs. However, this degenerative joint disease can start in dogs as young as two years of age. And, when temperatures drop, it can make their symptoms worse. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep them comfortable, even when the cold winters blow.
First, schedule an appointment with your vet to confirm that arthritis is to blame for your dog’s symptoms. After receiving a diagnosis, they can offer customized recommendations based on your dog’s individual needs – like prescription medications, joint injections, or complementary therapies.
In addition to veterinary care, you can also add these at-home therapies to keep them spry and limber all year long.
Colder weather can be hard on all of us, but it’s especially tough when you have arthritis. To keep your dog toasty warm, make sweaters, blankets, or heated dog beds available. These options are some of the safest and easiest ways to keep arthritic joints comfortable.
Providing the right level of accessible support is essential when your dog has arthritis. Make sure your dog doesn’t have to jump to reach their favorite sleeping spot. When choosing a bed, keep their painful joints in mind. A soft cushion will be more comfortable, but gentle support can make it easier for them to get back on their feet again.
Supplements are a great way to keep joints healthy, and many can even reduce pain and discomfort. Common dietary supplements include:
- Glucosamine and chondroitin
- Fish oil
- Coconut oil
Talk to your vet about which could be beneficial for your dog and if you should increase their dosage during winter.
As Minnesotans, we often make jokes about needing extra padding to stay warm during winter. But the most important thing you can do to manage arthritis symptoms involves healthy weight management. Carrying extra weight puts unnecessary strain on joints and muscles, worsening arthritis symptoms, and increasing wear-and-tear on the body.
If your dog is overweight or obese, talk to your vet about a safe weight-loss strategy.
We know, we know… it doesn’t seem right to make our dogs exercise when they’re uncomfortable. However, gentle and low-impact exercise can actually improve arthritis symptoms – and it’s good for their mind, too! And you don’t have to train for a triathlon, either. Instead, take short, slow walks and avoid icy patches or sudden movements on slippery sidewalks.
Even if your dog doesn’t seem excited to exercise, regular activity – even for five minutes – will help reduce joint stiffness, inflammation, and mental boredom.
Help Them Out!
Joint degeneration is a chronic and progressive condition, so it can continue to worsen with time. Be mindful that your dog has challenges and give them a helping hand, whether it’s assisting them on the stairs, lifting them onto the couch, or adding ramps to limit jumping.
Remember, your dog can still have a happy, fulfilling life, even with arthritis. If you suspect they have this degenerative joint disease, start taking steps now to slow the progression and schedule an appointment with your vet today.