Cold and old: Managing your pet’s arthritis in winter

As your pet gets older, the dog’s joyful run becomes a stiff walk and the cat’s leap onto the bench becomes a three-step process. We expect to see these typical signs of ageing. 

And come winter as the days get colder, we’re also watchful for signs of arthritis as ageing and elderly pets may be suffering with painful joints. 

Arthritis in cats and dogs is similar to arthritis in humans. It’s a degenerative condition of the joints, particularly in the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders. The joint cartilage is damaged and worn with regular movement, making the joint stiff and painful. 

Here’s how you can help your fur-ever friend prance through life, free from pain and mobility restrictions year-round.  

Arthritis symptoms in dogs 

Arthritis is a very common condition in dogs, with 80% of dogs becoming affected by the time they’re eight years old. Overweight dogs and larger breeds (such as Labradors, German Shepherds and Retrievers) are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition due the increased weight and wear on their joints.  

Our pets are great at masking the signs of pain and discomfort from arthritis. Here are some signs to look out for: 

  • Less active or playful 
  • Struggle to rise from a sitting or lying position 
  • Stop jumping or climbing onto things (such as into the car or up stairs) 
  • Show signs of lameness especially after exercise 

Signs of arthritis in cats  

Arthritis is very common in cats over the age of 10. In fact, 90% of cats over the age of 12 will be diagnosed with arthritis.  

Although arthritis has similar effects on cats than dogs, cats present different behavioural changes. Signs your cat has arthritis include: 

  • Sleeping more and less active 
  • Less willing to jump up or down, or hesitating and preparing for the jump 
  • Uses ‘steps’ to get onto higher surfaces (for example, using the chair first before getting onto the bench) 
  • Plays with their toys less 
  • Spends less time grooming and their coat is looking scruff 
  • Urinate outside the litter box 
  • Slow to get up from lying down positions 

What are the treatment options? 

If you suspect your pet has arthritis, make an appointment with your vet. Other diseases can mimic the symptoms of arthritis and need to be ruled out first. 

Arthritis treatments for dogs  

If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, we have four key treatment recommendations: 

  • Dietary supplements containing essential fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin 
  • Pentosan (Zydax) injections are a four-week course of weekly injections designed to slow the progression of arthritis that can be administered every 6 months 
  • Pain relief to keep your dog comfortable 
  • Lifestyle changes to reduce weight 

Arthritis treatments for cats 

No two cats are the same so we recommend a tailored approach to treatment. Options include:  

  • Anti-inflammatory pain relief medications like meloxicam 
  • Dietary changes that consist of natural supplements of Omega 3 and fish oil 

What can I do to help at home? 

If your pet’s a little on the chubby side, consider a weight loss diet or dietary restrictions. Incorporate regular play and gentle exercise, like hydrotherapy, to help maintain muscle and joint strength.  

If you’re caring for a pet who’s sporting silver highlights in their whiskers, then opting for a ramp rather than steps or stairs will help them access all areas of your property with ease. We also recommend placing food and water dishes in easily accessible areas that are a few inches off the ground. 

To make your pet as comfortable as possible during winter when arthritis can be at its worst, get them a comfortable, thick and soft bed to rest on. 

NEVER give medication to your pet that has not prescribed by your vet, especially medication that’s intended for humans as they can be toxic and fatal for pets. 

It’s all going to be OK 

Your cat or dog is more likely to lead a long and comfortable life by having a health care plan in place, and your loving care. An arthritis diagnosis can be managed by making small adjustments and we can help you every step of the way.  

If you’ve noticed signs of arthritis in your pet this winter call us on 4955 6670 to book an appointment with one of our vets or visit our website for more information. 

Meet the Fletcher Vet team

We enjoy a reputation as one of Newcastle’s best vet practices. Dr Paul Robin and his team have been caring for local pets (and their families) since 1998.

Find out why  →