Dogs And Cats Get Winter Aches Just Like Us

Dogs And Cats Get Winter Aches Just Like Us

This article will appear in the January issue of QVNA Magazine and is printed here with the kind permission of the author, Dr. Christina Fuoco who is the owner and medical director of WAG: Whole Animal Gym.  WAG, located in Queen Village, is Philadelphia's premier veterinary rehabilitation facility focusing on pain management and post-operative rehabilitation.

As the winter weather bears down on us, we often experience achy joints, stiff backs and general malaise in the cold and damp. Your pets could be experiencing some of the same achy joints or stiff backs. And if they do – how would they tell their humans they are hurting?  Since our companion pets don’t have the words to tell us, they often choose other ways to get our attention.
Maybe it’s a look that says, “Do I have to?” when you grab the leash to go outside, or the quiet meow for help getting onto your lap.  Or, in extreme cases, it’s an unexpected nip or bite when we grab a collar to try get them out the door or to pick them up to put them in the car.  Whatever it is, it might be the only way your pet knows how to let you know they are painful.    
Recognizing pain in our companion animals doesn’t take a super sleuth, but it takes some careful observation.  Pay attention to how a pet is standing or sitting – are they in a position that looks comfortable for them?  Watch how they move up and down stairs – do they do it smoothly? Awkwardly? Slowly, one step at a time?   Are they restless at nighttime?  Perhaps your cat or dog who has always picked one spot to sleep in is now up pacing the house, trying new areas to see if one spot is more comfortable than another.  And finally, are they eating normally?  Many times pain and discomfort have a significant affect on appetite. Wanting only people food counts as a change in appetite; just think, when we feel crummy, we often want comfort foods to make us feel better, too!           
So if you think your cat or dog is showing signs of pain, what can you do about it?  Sometimes it is as simple as warming them up!  A coat for walks outside can protect against the biting cold for some of the canine breeds with short hair coats (think Greyhounds and Pit Bulls).  Leaving pets out in the cold, in addition to being dangerous in extreme temperatures, can aggravate achy joints.  Booties for their feet can really help when snow, ice and rock salt irritate the pads.  And a warm corn or rice sack that has been heated in the microwave is good to lie across a creaky knee or just to snuggle up with at nighttime.  
But what about pain in our pets that is more significant, what then?  That’s when you’ll want to bring your pet to the veterinarian to evaluate exactly what hurts and why.  Arthritic patients (dogs, cats and even rabbits!) can find relief with acupuncture, physical therapy, laser treatments, massage, and a variety of oral medications.  Strained muscles (from a slip and fall on the ice, or stairs) can respond nicely to laser and physical therapy. Bulging disks may need a combination of therapies such as medications, acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. Regardless of the diagnosis, it is important to know there are a variety of options available for our companion animals – sometimes you just have to think outside the box to find what is going to be best for your pet.  

Brigit Brust Headshot
Phone: 267-235-7516
Dated: December 12th 2014
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