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Frigid temperatures and wet weather can make cause our joints to ache or cause them to stiffen; the same thing happens to dogs. Cold weather can have a significant impact on a dog’s movements. The impact can be even more drastic on an arthritic dog. A dog with arthritis already experiences joint inflammation, and the cold temperatures can exacerbate the symptoms even further.
Read on to learn more about why the winter weather can make it more difficult for an older dog to walk and move:
How Cold Weather Impacts a Dog’s Movement
Joint inflammation and stiffness:
In wintertime, the cold can cause a dog’s joints to become stiffer, making it more difficult and painful for them to move. Your dog may even move differently. The discomfort may cause them to walk more slowly and carefully, and their gait may change as well. Dogs with arthritis may experience a more noticeable impact on their mobility, as arthritic joints are particularly sensitive to temperature changes. This stiffness can be particularly pronounced in the morning or after a period of inactivity.
Changes in movement:
Your dog’s posture and how they walk can change with extreme temperature drops. Older dogs may alter how they stand or move to make themselves more comfortable. This could mean shifting their weight away from a joint that hurts to bear more weight on a “healthy joint.” This can place additional strain on a healthy leg.
When a dog’s muscles and joints are cold and stiff, they may have a reduced range of motion. As a response to the cold, dogs may tense their muscles causing the muscles to be less flexible and may lead to a stiff, rigid gait. This muscle tension is often a protective response to cold, as it helps prevent heat loss, but it can negatively affect a dog’s mobility. This can lead to a shuffling or stilted gait, with shorter steps and less fluid movement. Other physical signs of joint pain may include stiffer, slower movements or an overall decrease in activity levels.
Wheelchair dogs can also feel the impact of the cold. Since they may be less inclined to go for walks or engage in outdoor activities, prolonged periods of downtime may cause muscle atrophy and further limit their mobility.
Reduced blood flow:
Cold temperatures can decrease blood flow to the extremities, including the joints. This reduced blood flow can make arthritis-related inflammation and discomfort worse. In cold weather, the blood vessels (capillaries) in a dog’s extremities, including their legs and paws, tend to constrict or narrow. This natural response is called vasoconstriction and is the body’s way of conserving heat. However, it also means less blood flows to these areas, which can lead to reduced warmth and flexibility in the muscles and joints.
How to Improve Your Dog’s Mobility in Cold Weather
Special needs and senior pet parents need to pay close attention to any signs of mobility change. Keeping your dog’s joints healthy year-round is an important part of their overall health and quality of life. Here are a few ways to help keep your dog active all winter long:
Consult with your veterinarian:
If the cold weather is impacting your dog’s ability to move freely, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian. Only your vet can offer personalized advice and tailored treatment plans for your dog, especially for a dog with mobility issues.
Every dog’s needs are different, and solutions may include medication, dietary modification, structured exercise through rehabilitation therapy, and even joint support. Always speak with your veterinarian before starting your dog on any course of treatment.
Daily joint supplements:
For dogs facing mobility challenges, joint health is of the utmost importance, especially in cold weather. Joint stiffness can be aggravated by the dropping temperatures, making it essential to provide the right support. A high-quality joint supplement is designed to support your dog’s joint health, ease stiff joints, support joint structure, and help support a dog’s mobility to help your canine companion stay active and comfortable during the winter months.
Year-round mobility support:
Dogs that show any signs of mobility change when the temperature drops most likely benefit from mobility support year-round. Your dog doesn’t have to struggle. Mobility aids like dog wheelchairs and lifting harnesses can help dogs with mobility issues, making it easier for them to stay active without straining themselves. Here are a few ways they can help:
Difficulty standing – a rear support leash can be used to support your dog’s hind end and help them to get up off the ground to stand.
Climbing stairs – a lifting harness is a great way to stabilize and support your dog as they climb up or down stairs.
Slipping on tile or hardwood floors – wearing dog boots or traction socks with a rubber sole can help a senior dog to better grip the floor, helping them to keep their paws in place as they stand.
Dog favors one leg and can’t bear weight evenly – a dog wheelchair provides pets