Winter is finally here! The nights are colder and it’s time to start thinking about helping our pets cope with the winter chills and the sore joints and aching bones that come with it.
There are many things which can be done to help our elderly pets.
- Soft Bedding – arthritis symptoms are always worse in the winter months so make sure your dog has a nice comfortable bed in a warm and easy to access place. Use ramps in place of stairs. Cats may need their bed in a less elevated position and consider a larger litter tray with low sides or cut out at the front so it can enter easily.
- Diet – obesity is a strong contributory factor, so weight reduction is essential to reduce stress on the joints.
- Exercise modification – gentle on-lead exercise without periods of free running. Swimming is also a good exercise for dogs with arthritis as it strengthens the muscles and ligaments surrounding joints without the stresses of weight-bearing exercise.
- Analgesic anti-inflammatories – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief. There are several safe, very effective NSAIDs formulated for animals that can be prescribed by your vet. Please do not give your pet human NSAID medications such as panadol, aspirin or nurofen as they are potentially toxic with side effects including gastrointestinal upsets and ulcers, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, blood abnormalities, kidney and liver failure.
- Joint protective agents – medications that both stimulate cartilage repair and inhibit ongoing cartilage damage by inhibiting various destructive enzymes and prostaglandins found in arthritic joints. These drugs may also help by increasing the production of normal compounds within the joint which act as lubricants and protectants/strengtheners for the cartilage surface. Chondroitin and glucosamine are two common nutritional supplements that are useful in arthritis as they assist in rebuilding the cartilage of the joint surface and can be found in a variety of products, as well as in ‘joint formula’ commercial pet foods.