Does cold weather affect dog's joints?

Emma Frain 21 December 2021
Written by Veterinary Surgeon. Dr Linda Simon

 

During cold weather, dogs suffer a lot more with their joint disease. As a vet, winter is when I diagnose most dogs as arthritic and when I see a large number of my patients struggle with their mobility and even experience collapsing episodes.

 

While we cannot always prevent joint disease, there are things we can do to help manage it when it does affect our dog’s quality of life. Read on to learn how you can help keep your dog healthy and happy when the temperature drops down low.

 

The affect cold has on joints

 

Most people with chronic osteoarthritis will tell you that they notice changes in their pain levels and stiffness when it gets wet and cold. Some people even find they can predict weather changes as their joints begin to ache.

 

As the evenings darken and the weather worsens, most find we exercise our dogs less. This can be detrimental to those with arthritis as they will inevitably stiffen up.

 

It is theorised that a reduction in barometric pressure can create pain in joints and muscle and tendons expand and contract. It is also possible that the nerves are more sensitized to changes in pressure. Finally, cold weather may thicken joint fluid, causing increased pain.

 

Can anything be done to help?

 

Thankfully, there are many things we can do to support our beloved pets during cold weather.

 

  • Starting a Joint Care diet such as Pooch & Mutt’s Joint Care is one of the best things you can do for your furry friend. This diet contains 45% salmon, a fish rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, that can help to minimise inflammation and pain in affected joints. These fatty acids may also improve blood supply during exercise, easing swelling. I generally advise a joint care food is started in those who are predicted to suffer with joint disease as well as in patients with established issues.

 

  • Offering daily joint care supplements like Pooch & Mutt’s Mobile Bones or Joint Daily Care Tablets is a no-brainer when it comes to arthritic dogs. Ingredients like Glucosamine helps to minimise clinical pain and prevent cartilage from breaking down, ensuring there is a ‘cushion’ for joints each time they move. The methylsulphonylmethane (MSM) is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant that further aids in inflammation reduction.

 

  • Keeping our dogs warm. Where possible, it is important we keep our dogs warm. This can mean having the central heating on and minimising time spent outdoors. For some, heated beds and mats are a useful tool.

 

  • Consistent exercise. Some owners are classed as a ‘weekend warrior’. They bring their dog for a 10-mile hike on the weekend, only for them to walk around the block on week days. This is the worst thing we can do for joint health. Rather, we need exercise to be consistent. Stick with a moderate length walk once or twice a day every day. Ideally, dogs should be walked off lead and on soft surfaces, to prevent any ‘jarring’ of their joints.

 

  • Consider alternate exercise. Swimming is an excellent form of exercise as it is low impact and burns a lot of calories. On top of this, dogs tend to love it! Avoid cold bodies of water in the winter, instead going to your local heated dog pool.

 

  • Orthopaedic beds are a great purchase, especially for older dogs who spend more time asleep. The firm ‘mattress’ is easier for them to get up on and keeps their skeleton well supported.

 

 

Tips for all of our Dogs 

 

Even those who don’t suffer with their joints need a little extra support in the winter.  

 

For short-furred and thin-skinned breeds like Whippets and Greyhounds, a winter coat is a must have. They provide much needed insulation as well as a barrier from the rain. When it comes to dogs with thick coats, such as Huskies and Akitas, coats are not needed. 

 

You may have seen some dogs walking around with little winter booties on their feet. These can be useful to prevent snow from getting stuck between toes and from keeping pads warm and dry. They are useful if walking in very harsh weather for long periods of time. For most urban walks, they won’t be needed, as long as we avoid icy paths and keep walks brisk. Leaving booties on for too long can lead to yeast overgrowth and infections as the local ventilation will be limited. 

 

Some owners place a thin layer of Vaseline on their dog’s nose and pads before a walk. This can be useful if they are prone to cracked and dry skin.