Dog Arthritis and Cold Weather: Understanding the Connection

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Dogs everywhere can suffer from arthritis, but those who live in cold-weather climates often suffer even more than dogs living in warmer places.

What is it about dog arthritis and cold weather that don’t mix well?

As your dog’s owner, you should learn more about how cold weather can cause additional arthritis issues for your dog.

It’s commonly known that cold weather can increase pain and discomfort for your pet.

What can you do as an owner to help them get relief from that pain?

Dog Arthritis and Cold Weather: The Connection

Does arthritis get worse in cold weather for dogs, or is this a common misconception brought over from that happening to humans?

Actually, cold weather can affect dog arthritis for essentially the same reasons that it does human arthritis.

Before we get into the specifics, let’s talk about what dog arthritis is.

Canine arthritis is a type of disease in which the joint cartilage begins to degenerate.

As the joints become less and less protected, the condition will cause pain, swelling, and discomfort because of the bones rubbing together.

The joints that are most likely to suffer as a result of dog arthritis are:

  • Shoulder joints
  • Hip joints
  • Ankle joints
  • Knee joints
  • Spine

Dogs of any age might suffer from arthritis for various reasons.

However, older dogs are the most likely to face this condition.

Why Does Cold Weather Bother Arthritis?

So, what's the connection between dog arthritis and cold weather?

It is believed that cold weather makes arthritis more painful for a few reasons:

  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Increased sensitivity of the body’s nerves
  • Lower activity levels

Essentially, the change in weather causes the joints to be more sensitive and more likely to inflame or be in pain.

Cold weather in humid climates, in particular, is known to cause a significant effect.

This is likely because the barometric changes in these regions are more severe, so the body takes longer to adjust.

Regardless, dogs that suffer from arthritis are likely to exhibit additional symptoms during fall and winter because of the cold weather.

What Helps Arthritis in Cold Weather?

Now that you know that your dog might suffer from arthritis more during cold months, what can you do to help them?

There are a variety of things you can try doing, from changing their diet to buying new sleeping beds.

To decide what will work best for your pet, it is important to learn more about arthritis in dogs and how to treat it.

Let’s cover a few different ways you can help to make your dog feel more comfortable even during the colder months.

Keep Them Warm

Many dogs, especially those that do not have longer coats, will be more comfortable if they are kept warm with dog clothing.

Things like dog jackets, sweaters, and coats can make a huge difference even if your dog is indoors.

The floor areas where your dog often lays may be draftier than you realize.

If your dog is comfortable wearing a sweater, consider getting them a few.

Otherwise, make sure the areas where your dog spends their time the most are kept as warm as possible.

Upgrade Their Bed

This is a year-round improvement, but one that needs extra attention during winter.

Make sure your dog has a bed that will support their arthritic joints as much as possible.

In fact, consider putting beds in each room where your dog usually spends their time.

This way, they always have somewhere supportive to lie down on.

Adding a blanket to their bed can help ensure they are warm while resting, which will benefit their joints.

Dreamy dog arthritis and cold weather

Help Them Exercise

Many dogs do not get as much regular exercise during winter because of the weather.

While that is normal, it is important your dog continues to get some type of low-impact activity.

If walking outside is not an option because of the weather, find a way to walk them inside your house.

Dogs with joint issues should not be walked on icy or dangerous paths because they could injure themselves easily.

Your dog’s joints must remain lubricated, and they need to keep moving for this to happen.

Add Joint Supplements

If your dog seems to be in more pain during the winter months, it might be a great time to start giving them joint supplements.

Joint supplements are not going to specifically help with cold weather-related issues, but they will be generally beneficial.

Joint health supplements help your dog’s joints stay well-lubricated.

In turn, that will help them feel better throughout the cold months as well as the warm ones.

Consider Adding Ramps and Stairs

If your dog struggles to get to their favorite spots in the house because of joint pain, it might be time to invest in dog ramps or stairs.

Dog ramps and stairs are great for helping dogs climb without suffering from joint pain.

Joint pain increases in winter, so you may notice your dog’s reluctance to go to certain areas during these months.

Physical Therapy

If your dog’s suffering from arthritis becomes extreme in the winter, it might be time to consider adding some physical therapy.

Your vet can recommend if this treatment is the right choice or not, but it's something worth considering.

Specifically, water therapy can be a great choice.

Not only does this low-impact exercise get your dog moving, but it can also allow joints to lubricate without putting too much weight on them.

Is Heat or Cold Better for Arthritis in Dogs?

When it comes to weather conditions, most dogs that suffer from arthritis will be more comfortable in warm weather.

Cold weather can cause their joints to become stiff and painful, but warm weather doesn’t have this type of effect.

When it comes to treating your dog’s arthritis, however, both heat and cold can help your dog out.

There are heat and ice packs made for dogs to ease arthritic pain in specific joints.

If you are working with a vet or physical therapist to help manage your dog’s arthritis, talk to them about using heat or ice wraps to better support them.

Preventing Arthritis in Dogs

When it comes to arthritis, there are not a lot of solutions out there that can reverse the condition.

There are, however, a number of ways you can ensure your dog doesn’t develop severe arthritis.

Nothing has yet been proven to prevent the condition altogether, but many things can slow down the risk of joint degradation.

Set up the Right Diet

Make sure your dog is eating a well-rounded and joint-healthy diet from a young age.

It is actually crucial that your dog does not develop too quickly when they are a puppy.

When dogs grow too fast, their skeletal and muscular systems cannot support their bones appropriately.

Dogs that grow at a slow, steady rate have a lower risk of developing arthritis later in life.

Puppies should eat a well-rounded diet with enough calories, but their diet should not be overly rich.

This is why many owners choose to feed their dog puppy food.

These foods have the appropriate levels of nutrients that promote balanced growth.

As your dog gets older, you will want to consider adding a joint supplement to their diet.

Joint supplements work best when used long-term, so starting these before joints start to degrade is a good idea.

See the Vet Often

Owners are often in the habit of only taking their dogs to the vet whenever they notice an ongoing issue.

Really, your dog should be getting regular checkups.

Regular visits can help you and your vet track your dog’s growth, growing pains, joint problems, and other potential issues.

The more often your dog sees their vet, the more likely it is that conditions will be caught for treatment early on.

Exercise Your Dog Safely

Dogs need to exercise, but some exercises are going to be harder on their joints than others.

If your puppy runs a lot on very hard surfaces, this can lead to problems with the hip joints later in life.

Make sure your puppy is getting enough rest and not running in dangerous situations.

Additionally, you might also want to consider teaching your dog how to swim and use swimming as a form of exercise.

Swimming is great for joints because it keeps them moving without a lot of weight or impact.

If dogs are exposed to swimming safely early on, they will be adaptive to water therapy later in life if they need it.

Helping a Dog With Arthritis

Does arthritis get worse in cold weather for dogs? Yes.

But does that mean your dog is doomed to suffer more during winter? No.

As your dog’s owner, you can actually do many different things to ensure your pet feels as safe and comfortable as possible during wintertime.

Trying things like medication, massages, a more comfortable bed, and other treatment plans are sure to help.

As time goes on, you’ll be able to see which types of treatment make your dog feel the most comfortable.

Once you have identified those things, create a simple arthritis routine to do regularly.

Your dog will be much happier with this.