This is how cold affects arthritis – veterinarian explains the symptoms

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2024. February 10 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

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Arthritis in dogs, also known as osteoarthritis, usually develops over many years. As a dog ages, the cartilage in its joints breaks down, causing the bones to rub together abnormally. And joint changes cause swelling, inflammation and pain.


Unfortunately, arthritis is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. Although many owners think that it is an illness of ageing dogs, it can also occur in younger animals in case of an injury (e.g. torn knee ligament) or if they have a developmental disorder (e.g. hip dysplasia).

Some people believe that arthritis symptoms may get worse in winter

Does arthritis really get worse with cold?

Although many people have felt that the cold makes their joint symptoms worse, the exact causes are not known. The following explanations are usually given for this phenomenon:

  • Thickening of synovial fluid. The fluid in the joints helps to manage the shock of movement. But at lower temperatures, this fluid thickens and cannot flow as freely, which can lead to joint stiffness.
  • Changes in atmospheric pressure. In winter, the air pressure drops. As a result, the joint tissues stretch. This is thought to play a role in increasing the pain.
  • Decreased activity level. People and animals are less active in winter, which contributes to joint stiffness and pain.

It is important to note that not everyone agrees that joint pain is worse in winter. However, the symptoms of arthritis are the same in all cases, so you need to pay close attention to them.

How to recognise arthritis

According to veterinarian Dr Bodó, the most common symptoms are reduced mobility, painful standing and limping while walking.

Joint pain can get worse in older dogs

“In such cases, the most important thing (before starting medication at home) is a veterinary examination, preferably orthopaedic, consisting of a review of the medical history, a physical examination and possibly an additional X-ray imaging examination,” the expert explained. These may justify the use of arthroscopic drugs in milder cases and anti-inflammatory drugs in more severe cases, depending on the severity of the symptoms.”

Prevention is very important because once chronic arthritis has developed, a lifetime of medication is necessary.

You should also pay attention to the weight of the dog

The vet added that whatever stage the animal is at, weight control is essential. Being overweight increases the likelihood of developing the problem and the severity of symptoms. So if your dog is overweight, dieting is an essential part of the treatment.

The vet may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication

“With an overweight dog, it’s more on the nutritional front that you need to make changes, i.e. reduce the food intake or give him a better quality, lower carbohydrate diet. But for weight loss, the amount of exercise should not be increased if the animal is grossly overweight or has known arthritis. However, it is important to note that exercise itself is beneficial even in cases of arthritis, as it stimulates the production of joint fluid.”

In this case, repeated, shorter walks and then a gradual increase in the workload is recommended.

Dr Andrea Bodó says that for older dogs, joint protection is recommended for life. However, the use of anti-inflammatories should be monitored by a veterinarian.

“In many cases, you can try to reduce or even temporarily or permanently stop taking the medicine. Moreover, the dog should be given a gastrointestinal mucosal protector and occasional laboratory tests. In very severe cases, where the animal is in severe pain, stronger painkillers may be prescribed and surgery may be considered.

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