With winter well and truly on the way, we thought we’d put together some key pointers to help you navigate the winter weather with your pets! Focussing on winter hazards, arthritis, and different ways to help our pets out, we hope it will be useful...
Winter, more than any other season, brings its own challenges and potential hazards to our pets.
Older animals, especially if they are arthritic, will really feel the cold and can be noticeably stiff. If they are already on medication, have a chat to us about increasing or altering their doses to make them more comfortable. If they are not on any treatment, this is often a good time to start.
If you do manage to get out and about on the freezing days, watch out for snow and grit. The grit can cause nasty sores in your dog’s paws and the snow can ball up into painful lumps of ice. So avoid both if at all possible and give their feet a good wash after walks.
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. However, do let them out on the finer days to stretch their legs. Their coats will grow more than thick enough to keep them warm and they will appreciate some fresh air!
The depths of winter are tough for our garden birds. Putting food outside will really help get them through these long months before the Spring arrives.
Different species will prefer to eat from different feeding stations. The little Sparrows and Tits like the hanging feeders, ground feeding is preferred by Blackbirds, Robins and Thrushes but most will enjoy the traditional, flat bird table. A variety of seeds and nuts will be appreciated. Peanuts will be popular in the winter as they are full of fats but only use plain ones. A water bath will also be popular, both for drinking and bathing. Ensure it doesn’t freeze by breaking the ice every morning,
As the weather gets colder and colder, signs of arthritis can become more noticeable in many pets. Arthritis is a painful and debilitating condition caused by inflammation and damage in the joints. The joints most susceptible to arthritis are those permitting limb movements - called synovial joints. The ends of the bones which meet at these joints are covered by smooth articular cartilage and the joints are lubricated by synovial fluid. Arthritis develops when the smooth cartilage that lines the joints becomes roughened and cracked. This can be due to general ageing but poor joint conformation, like hip dysplasia, will exacerbate issues and cause problems earlier in life.
Arthritis is more common in older pets, affects all species and breeds and can strike at any age. Signs of arthritis can be difficult to pick up on at first, because our pets are great at hiding chronic pain and often changes such as resting or sleeping more, slowing down on walks or general grumpiness be easily put down to ‘old age’. Cats especially are solute masters of disguise when it comes to arthritis and despite the fact that a huge 80% will suffer once they are older than twelve years, very few are actually on any treatment.
Arthritis is usually diagnosed with a combination of a clinical examination (looking for stiffness, pain and roughness in the joints), plus a history of changes compatible with the disease. X-rays can be helpful, confirming the degree of bone changes and allow assessment of the joints affected.
There are many different treatments for arthritis and as every patient and their joints are different, there is no set protocol to follow. Pain relieving medications are the mainstay for most pets and these are safe, effective and available in various formulations. Supplements can also be very helpful, as can physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture. It is also vital to keep arthritic pets slim and fit, so their joints don’t have too much weight to carry. If you think your dog or cat may be showing signs of arthritis, please come and see us for a check-up today!
Astonlee opened a new ‘wellbeing and hydrotherapy centre’ for dogs in June 2017. This is really useful to help keep dogs fit, manage their weight, and help manage both acute and chronic musculoskeletal problems (e.g. arthritis). Wear and tear of life sometimes contributes to the development of osteoarthritis, but the hydrotherapy treatment can help to keep the dogs fitter and enjoying life with more supple joints and less pain for longer. The water treadmill at Astonlee enables dogs to exercise while the water takes their bodyweight and helps them to move their legs without so much impact on the ground. This can be dramatically helpful where a dog can move the legs but cannot support the bodyweight.
We also offer laser therapy and acupuncture which we have been using for some years for pain relief and other treatment objectives. Our new laser therapy unit is now available at Astonlee to enable us to treat muscle strains, osteoarthritis, chronic ear disease, painful gums, assist in healing of wounds and a whole lot of other problems. You can read more about it here.
Of course the best thing about winter is Christmas! However, many families’ festivities are curtailed by pet related mishaps! Avoid any dramas by keeping decorations well out of your pet’s reach; baubles and tinsel can be irresistible but extremely problematic if swallowed or smashed. The tasty treats we enjoy are not so good for our pets, so keep them out of reach! Chocolate is very toxic, especially the plain varieties and raisins can cause serious kidney damage so keep the mince pies and Christmas puddings to yourselves!
We’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!