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How to alleviate your pets’ arthritic pain in winter

Approx. 4 minutes read

The older we get, the more uncomfortable it is to get up on a cold winter’s morning. As we get out of bed, our joints pop and crack, and we need a moment before we start moving into our day. It’s the same for our pets – with age comes a general slowing down, but how much of that is because they are cold and in pain? Here are the common signs of osteoarthritis in pets and what you can do to ease the associated pain during the cold months.

The signs of pet arthritis

Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease (DJD)) is caused when joint cartilage wears away. This causes inflammation and can also result in the bones of the joint making contact, which erodes them. As you can imagine, this is incredibly painful for your dog or cat, who don’t have a voice to tell you they’re in pain.

But if you read their body language, you may see the signs of arthritis or DJD:

  • slow to rise in the mornings, especially in winter
  • slower general movement
  • hesitation when ascending or descending stairs
  • less eagerness to jump up onto the couch (or the kitchen counter for cats)
  • shorter walks with less enthusiasm
  • limping
  • difficulty squatting/lifting a leg when peeing or pooping
  • tendency to growl or snap when touched near the painful joint/s

Causative factors for pet arthritis

  • Many old dogs and cats will develop arthritis or DJD, so age is definitely a determining factor.
  • Because it’s worsened by pressure on the joints, it will not do your dog or cat any favours to be overweight – a heavy body will cause more painful joints.
  • Trauma to the joints may result in degeneration later on in life. Dogs that love to jump up to catch frisbees or jump down from the back of a bakkie can cause trauma over time.
  • There are a few breeds that are more susceptible to developing arthritis – in dogs, this is particularly true for the larger breeds, but includes the retriever breeds, German shepherds, Rottweilers and giant breeds that are prone to tearing ligaments.

What you can do to help your pained pets in winter

Extra heat

One of the best remedies for painful joints is heat. Whatever you do, be careful not to burn your pet. Heating pads, a microwaveable beanbag or an extra blanket at night after Duke or Bessie has been tucked in will help to alleviate some of their arthritic pain. If your pooch or feline is a late riser, making sure they’re warm in the mornings may also help to make their rise-and-shine less painful. On really cold days, protect your pooch with a jersey, but watch out for signs of overheating or discomfort.

Weight management

While we love to treat our pets, sometimes it’s not in their best interests to be getting a whole lot of extra calories. Couple winter weight gain with arthritic joints and your dog or cat won’t want to move around enough to burn off the additional energy. Arthritic pets will do best on a high-quality low-calorie senior diet to manage their weight. If you help your overweight pet to lose the extra kilograms, chances are their joints will be a lot less painful, especially in winter.

Joint medication and supplements

After a diagnosis from your vet, he will be able to recommend the best course of action when it comes to medication. Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and/or a joint supplement. You can buy joint supplements from your vet shop or even in our online store. We have a wide range of highly effective supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate, fish oils/omega 3s, green lipped mussel extract and/or MSM. These supplements support damaged joints and help to alleviate your pets’ joint pain.


As counter-intuitive as it may sound, getting your arthritic pets to do some moderate daily exercise will certainly help to alleviate their joint pain. The exercise will prevent muscle atrophy – strong muscles with good muscle tone help to take pressure off painful joints. While your dog may not want to exercise outdoors in the cold, start him off playing low-impact games indoors until he’s feeling better. Try to take him on a short walk twice a day. For cats, there are any number of cat toys and games to stimulate your cat’s playful side and help ease her joint pain.

Before administering any of the above treatments for arthritis and joint pain, speak to your vet to get a proper diagnosis and professional advice. This will help to rule out any other conditions that may be causing your pet’s pain and discomfort.

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