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The Caring Vet: Helping Arthritic Dogs Cope with the Cold

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12578947_sIn cold weather, joints stiffen up and are less prone to movement. As people with arthritis know, joints feel stiffer in the morning and during cold weather. When it’s cold, we’re more reluctant to get up and get moving, the one thing that will help! That’s the double whammy of arthritis in the winter, the actual cold makes it worse, and we and our pets are less inclined to get out and exercise. Below, in “The Caring Vet Column,” Dr. Jeff Werber offers strategic advice for keeping arthritic dogs comfortable and active during the winter months as well as precautions to take during those wintertime walks.

caring-vet-dr-jeffArthritis, otherwise known as degenerative joint disease, or DJD, affects joints, making them stiff and painful to move. DJD can affect any dog at almost any joint including spine.

Different breeds and different sized dogs may often have different joints that are implicated. With a smaller dog we may see degeneration in the spine or knees, whereas in a larger breed the knees can also be involved, but we often also see DJD in the hips or shoulders. Depending on the joint involved and the dog’s genetic predisposition, the onset of the DJD could be as early as two years.

Sadly, DJD is a chronically progressive disease; meaning left untreated it can continually get worse as the pet ages. In some cases, DJD can be extremely debilitating, leaving some dogs in advance stages with compromised mobility.

One of the ways to combat the effects of arthritis is movement. Activity helps the joints begin to lose stiffness, which in turn reduces pain.

You have to combat your own unwillingness to get out to walk your dog, and force yourselves to do so at least twice a day. You’ll both feel better for it. The movement will help your pooch maintain good muscle tone, which is crucial to combating some of the effects of arthritis. The less we push them to exercise, the more we give in to the pain and stiffness, and the more their muscles will atrophy. Then they’ll have less strength to perform those very activities that will help them improve.

Natural supplements, such as ProSense Glucosamine Joint Support with MSM and chondroitin, as well as a multivitamin (ProSense Adult or ProSense Senior) will help provide joint support in addition to system support.

Be sure your pet is well groomed; a well-groomed coat is the dog’s first defense to the cold, providing insulation.

If your pet has sensitive pads or if your municipality spreads salt over the ice where you walk, you might consider pad protectors, or booties. Small dogs, whose greater body surface area relative to their body weight results in loss of heat more so than in larger breeds, really do benefit from that cute sweater

If your dog is outdoors, be sure s/he has adequate structural protection from the cold and wind, as well as bedding to shield from the harsh cold of the ground or concrete. Be sure any water you leave for him or her will not freeze.

If your dog’s symptoms persist or are severe, see your veterinarian. There are effective medications that can help decrease inflammation and reduce associated pain. This will help keep your dog mobile, which will in turn help combat the disease’s progression.

So, if you thought your aging, arthritic dog would provide you with a good excuse to stay indoors (and eat chips on the couch), au contraire!! Up and at ’em!

-Dr. Jeff Werber, Pro-Sense Premium Pet Products

About the Author: To learn more about Dr. Jeff, visit www.drjeff.com and www.prosensepet.com. Follow along with what’s new with Dr. Jeff on his Facebook page and @drwerber Twitter account, too!

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