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Joint pain may begin as mild discomfort, but it can become increasingly painful over time, especially in pups that are overweight due to the added pressure on joints.
If you find your dog is slowing down, having a tougher time climbing the stairs or showing a preference for shorter walks, they could be suffering with sore joints. These signs may be more prominent as the weather turns cold.
Some scientists think that changes within the body triggered by colder weather amplify pain signals. In the cold, the body’s sympathetic nerves constrict blood vessels in limbs in order to concentrate on keeping the vital organs warm, increasing the pain felt in the joints.
Keeping your dog warm could help prevent the worsening of symptoms, so popping on a doggy jacket for walks could benefit their joints. Even having a sweater or coat at home for indoor wear may help.
Thanks to generally taking less exercise in the winter, the body's circulation is not as good, meaning less oxygen and nutrients get to the joints. Try taking your dog for two shorter walks rather than one longer one to avoid stiffness.
Choosing to take your dog on short walks on a lead rather than long walks with uncontrolled exercise, for example constantly chasing after a ball or stick, will help reduce the stress on their joints.
It's thought that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in people is linked to levels in the body of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is largely responsible for the sleep cycle; levels are lower during the day and higher in the evening, helping us feel sleepy.
During winter, when there are fewer daylight hours, our melatonin levels can be affected – and some research has suggested that dogs could suffer too. Importantly for pets with joint pain, low mood has also been linked to higher levels of perceived pain.
A survey led by People's Dispensary of Sick Animals (PDSA) showed that owners think their pets get depressed during the winter. Half of the owners reported that their pets slept for longer, and a fifth said their dogs were less active during these months.1 Another study showed that dogs can recognise human emotions and, therefore, can mirror them.2
Extra weight places a lot of pressure on already stressed joints, and the longer you allow your dog to be overweight, the worse the joint pain.
We tend to move less in winter, which means our dogs move less, too. Getting out, exercising more, and eating more of a controlled diet could benefit your pup exponentially; shedding those pounds and keeping them off will help keep any unnecessary weight off their joints.
Make sure you consult a vet before altering your pet's diet, as there may be foods that could upset their stomach.
So, this winter, focus on keeping your pets active, ensure they get some natural light every day, and think about investing in a suitable coat to keep them warm outdoors.
For breeds prone to joint issues, older dogs or dogs who are already experiencing joint problems, you might also want to consider a joint health supplement to support their short- and long-term mobility.
Healthspan pet supplements are not intended to replace a well-balanced diet for your pet.