Winter Blues

Late February can be one of the hardest times of the year. The days are getting longer, yes, but it’s still cold, and wet (and stormy - thanks Ciara and Dennis) and in many ways, still very much winter! So here are some of the key things to watch out for this month…

Sore joints: With 80% of older dogs and cats suffering from arthritis, it is important that we as pet owners and carers know the signs to watch out for. And as anyone with arthritis will tell you, the chills can get in your joints - the same is true of our pets.

Arthritis develops when the cartilage (the “teflon” non-stick surface in moving joints) becomes pitted and cracked. These changes are commonly due to age-related wear and tear, but can also be secondary to joint trauma and also conformational issues such as hip dysplasia.

Signs of arthritis may be as subtle as just sleeping more! In dogs, we often see difficulty in getting up after rest, slowing down on walks and a reluctance to jump into the car. Cats may take extra time or effort to jump onto surfaces, or show signs of toileting issues such as incontinence or missing the litter tray.

Arthritis is usually diagnosed with a combination of clinical examination (examining the joints for swelling, thickening, pain and range of movement), plus a history suggestive of changes compatible with the disease. X-rays can also be helpful to confirm the degree of bone change.

Although arthritis cannot be cured, most pets will benefit from a wide range of treatment options. A key consideration is weight loss (see below!), and many pets will also benefit from anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the soreness and pain. Dietary supplements (such as glucosamine and chondroitin) are often beneficial as well. Many arthritic pets struggle with longer walks, so little and often is the key!

We offer arthritis clinics at Astonlee, so telephone to see if your pet could benefit from pain killers, glucosamine, laser therapy, acupuncture or hydrotherapy!


Can you pinch an inch? With many pets spending more time indoors during the winter months, they are getting less exercise and need correspondingly less food. Following Christmas and New Year, a lot of dogs and cats actually put on weight! Keep an eye out for any weight gain, since excess weight can cause a range of health problems including heart disease, diabetes and can also significantly worsen arthritis.


Frostbite: the cold can affect our pets’ feet, as can the salt and grit used to treat roads and pavements. On snowy or icy days remember to check your pet’s paws after walks and give them a good wipe down. Snow balls up painfully between toes, especially on fluffy feet, and grit and salt can be very caustic, potentially even causing chemical burns between the pads.


Outdoor pets: Also, don’t forget about smaller pets who live outdoors. Make sure rabbits and guinea pigs have well insulated hutches, plenty of bedding to snuggle down in, and check their water twice daily to ensure it hasn’t frozen.


Alabama Rot: a disease that has been hitting the headlines recently. It has gained attention because it is hard to diagnose but is often fatal. However, it is important to remember that it is also extremely rare.

At the moment, the cause of the condition is unknown. It is often seen in dogs who have recently been walked in muddy or wet weather and there are certain ‘hot spots’ in the UK and Ireland where it is more frequently found, but there are no hard and fast rules.
Typical presenting signs include ulcerated and abnormal lesions on dogs’ skin, especially the lower legs, paws and face. It can, in rare cases, cause acute kidney failure by producing multiple small blood clots within the tissue, leading to kidney cell death, which is of course very serious. Fortunately, it is still very rare and additionally, most skin lesions will not be related to Alabama Rot; however, if you notice any unusual skin patterns on your dog’s skin and need any advice please contact us straight away at the surgery.

For further information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please speak to a member of our team.