Old Dogs With Arthritis: Help Them Be Comfortable In The Cold Months

Published: 27th January 2012
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On these cold winter mornings we always have to spend more time with the dogs. We have older dogs and a few of them do not get along well enough (females) to leave them alone. So we have some dogs in the house, two dogs outside and one dog in the studio for the night.

Mornings are hectic as we get everyone out to use the bathroom, etc. A few of them (the older dogs inside) are in the habit of a morning snack so we have to get them satisfied. Once everyone is relieved and has a snack, things settle down to "normal". The outside dogs are loving the cool, crisp weather and are playing full bore outside. The two oldest dogs have had a snack, been outside to potty and are now ready for a nap already.

In cold weather it is important to remember that dogs need just as much, if not more, water in the cold weather than even in the summer months. We always have to supply the water differently because of the freezing temperatures. In nature, canines do not have access to water 24/7. Therefore, we don't attempt that either, we supply our outside dogs with water in the morning, sometime in the mid day and at evening. We don't try to have water in front of them at all times because off the freezing weather.

As for the keeping the outside dogs warm, we give them a good shelter and fill it with straw and/or leaves. They do quite well with that arrangement. We've seen the Arctic sled dogs sleeping in the blowing snow with sub zero temps, so I think dogs have a much better ability to fend off the cold than humans do.

Most dogs with arthritis begin showing the symptoms in their later years of life. On some occasions, the signs of the joint disease will begin showing up earlier. Usually, the first indicator or symptoms for dogs with arthritis are limping or having trouble rising from a sitting or lying position. Of course all dogs can come up limping from time to time for various reasons, but if the animal's limping is persistent and without a specific known reason, it is quite likely a sign of canine osteoarthritis. When this is suspected, it is important to take your pet to the vet for an examination and diagnosis.

Another symptom often observed is when the dog rises from a lying down position or attempts to rises from a sitting position. They may be very slow and demonstrate great effort in doing so. They may even grunt or slightly wimper during the action. Although dogs do not exhibit pain as humans do, close observation can show signs of pain in the animal. Additionally, climbing up or down stairs may become difficult for dogs with arthritis. It seems, at least with our dogs anyway, going down the steps can be as much of an issue as going up the stairs. We've often, in fact, had to build temporary ramps for our older dogs so they could get up onto and off the porch of our home.

Although there is no cure for dog arthritis, there are ways to minimize its effects. First and foremost make sure to keep the dog's weight in check. If he or she has to carry around any extra weight, this only adds to the stress placed upon the diseased joints. It can make a big difference whether or not the dog is at his or her proper weight. Keeping the pounds off may be easier said than done however. Just like with older humans, older canines have a tendency to add weight. One reason is because if they have arthritis, they probably are getting less exercise than they used to before the disease. If this is the case, it's important for the owner to monitor this and ensure that their daily food intake goes down so as to even out their decreased need for calories. This can be very difficult to do because the dog will continue acting hungry of course. But some tough love is needed here by the owner since the dog will be much healthier for many reasons with the added pounds.

Be sure too that the older dogs with arthritis have a warm and cozy place to sleep. The older they get, the more sleep they will require. Old bones with arthritis appreciate soft and warm places to sleep. If an older dog with arthritis is made to sleep outside when it is cold, this only aggravates his or her symptoms. Additionally, make sure the dog gets plenty of exercise. This will really help minimize the disease's effects. Do not allow older canines with arthritis to become sedentary! On the other hand, do not let them or force them to get too much exercise either as this will also irritate the diseased joints. You will know if your dog is getting too much exercise if he comes up limping on a regular basis after exercise.


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