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Cold Weather Tips for Pets with Arthritis

06 January 2015

UK - Despite our current mild winter, a sudden cold snap can be tough for people and pets alike, and can affect health, writes Caroline Reay, Blue Cross Chief Vet.

Arthritis is more painful in cold weather, particularly in the chilly damp conditions so typical to the UK, and other conditions can be worse too.

Cold air irritates the sensitive lining of the airways, making coughs worse and triggering asthma attacks.

Extreme cold can also trigger skin reactions with itchy spots, and there’s a rare immune condition called Cold Agglutination Disease that affects the tips of the ears and tail, which shrivel and may drop off.

Commoner than this, though, are skin problems caused by fleas surviving in heated homes so keep up flea control even in cold weather.

Cold weather hits the very young or old, and the thin, particularly hard.

Dogs and snow

Snowy conditions particularly affect little dogs, who struggle to walk through snow and quickly get cold and wet.

Snow can form into balls on hairy feet, making walking uncomfortable, so watch for this.

Sudden weather changes don’t allow acclimatisation so a coat becomes more than a fashion accessory.

Be careful on long walks and watch for shivering or lethargy – your pet could be developing hypothermia.

Provide a litter tray or use puppy pads for dogs and cats who don’t want to go out to toilet in nasty weather.

Winter hazards to pets

Winter brings other hazards such as rock salt off gritted pavements. It can irritate feet, sometimes requiring veterinary treatment, and can be toxic if licked off or consumed outside.

It’s best to wash feet and other areas that could have been in contact after walks using warm water. Contact your vet if your pet seems unwell or you are worried.

Antifreeze is another winter danger. Highly toxic - often fatal - and it tastes nice to pets.

Keep containers away from pets and watch for spillages when topping up car radiators or screen wash. Phone your vet immediately if you think your pet has drunk any. Remember that cats can lick it off their paws.

Pets, arthritis and the cold

If your pet suffers from arthritis aggravated by the cold, there are things you can do to help.

Rest them when they are limping or sore, keep exercise constant from day to day with shorter more frequent walks, offer ramps for stairs or getting into the car, and provide a warm soft bed.

Thermostatically-controlled heater pads are safer than hot water bottles.

Consult your vet if your pet is limping or stiff as painkillers work better when used early in arthritis.

Arthritis in cats results in reduced activity, grooming less and no longer jumping up onto high objects. Reducing pain helps maintain muscle mass for support.

Above all, weight control is vital. The real health risks of the holiday season are overeating and weight gain. There are better Christmas presents for pets than a stocking stuffed with treats. At a time of year when there are lots of distractions, some fuss, a walk or a game will be what your pet wants most.

ThePetSite News Desk

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