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Cold Weather Arthritis Pain in Dogs & Cats: How You Can Help

old dog with arthritis pain on walk in winterIf you have ever experienced arthritis pain being worse in the winter or before a cold, rainy day, then you know exactly what dogs and cats are feeling this time of year. Or maybe you are skeptical—after all, human studies on the topic are largely inconclusive. The anecdotal evidence, however, is consistent. Grandmas everywhere seem to agree that cold weather, especially damp, cold weather, increases arthritis and other musculoskeletal pain. It stands to reason that the same is also true for our pets.

Interestingly, as much as we tend to think of these types of pain as only being the problems of senior citizens, there is medical evidence that the changes associated with osteoarthritis actually begin years earlier, sometimes even during youth! (Check out this video by UC Davis veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little as he debunks the myth of arthritis being just for the old.) Similarly, injuries at any age often contribute to aches and pains at the injury site for years to come.

With this knowledge, we must consider that any dog or cat (any species, really), might be experiencing pain that is heightened by winter weather regardless of their age. It’s not just an “old dog” or “old cat” problem.

Animals are less likely than humans to show their pain, and cats show it least. This means we need to keep a close eye on any subtle signs they might give us. Look for changes in gait, stiffness or lessened range of movement, slower movement especially when getting up, or less enthusiasm about playing or walking.

How You Can Help Reduce Winter Arthritis Pain

As doctors, we want nothing more than to heal, to remove the source of pain. Unfortunately, when it comes to arthritis and some types of musculoskeletal pain, we can’t reverse the condition, but we can help you to improve and manage pain levels in your furry family member. Here are our top recommendations.

Always Bring Pets in From the Cold

Many people tend to think that dogs and cats are tougher than we are in extreme weather. That’s not really true. Some might be equipped with thick furry coats, but pets can still experience significant discomfort. Their bodies, like ours, also have to work harder in winter to keep their temperatures up. Add damp or very cold temperatures, and it can also be dangerous.

Our pets love us so much, so let’s be kind and bring them into a warm, safe space in our homes.

Cold Laser Therapy for Pain Management is Amazing

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Our sweet patient gets a laser therapy session for spinal pain.

We love cold laser therapy for improving pain levels! This kind of laser therapy creates no heat (hence, cold), is painless, has no side-effects, and works with the body to reduce pain and inflammation by stimulating natural processes in the body at the cellular level. It’s effects are cumulative, so it typically takes several treatments to begin seeing the benefits in your pet.

Pain Medications

Medications can be used either separately or in combination with laser therapy to reduce pain and improve quality of life. There are several different types of drugs that your veterinarian can choose from depending on your pet’s needs, health status, and species. Just remember that cats and dogs have very different physiologies; cats often cannot have the same medications that dogs can.

Always seek your veterinarian’s advice on what pain medications are safe for your pup or kitty.

How are you keeping your pets toasty and comfortable this winter?