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How to Help Your Pet with Arthritis this Winter

The winter is here, and it’s only just begun in the Twin Cities! But with the cold, snow, and ice, how can you help your pet with arthritis be comfortable this long winter?

Your veterinarian has probably already told you about painkillers, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, nutritional supplements, diet and weight information, and low-impact exercises for your pet. So how else can you help your pet?

• Do NOT give your pet human medications. Ibuprofen, aspirin, etc… can be harmful to your pet instead of helpful. Human medications are for humans and are toxic to pets. Make sure to only give your pet what the veterinarian prescribes.

• If you have other pets, monitor playtime or interactions. Younger pets might want to play or irritate older pets. Watch for signs that the older pet can’t keep up or is done playing.

• Provide warm and soft bedding. Consider investing in a firm, orthopedic foam bed. There are also a variety of heated ped beds that might help your arthritic pet’s sore joints feel better. Some are electric and actually have a thermostat you can set; others warm up from your pet’s contact with the bed.

• Keep food and water in easy-to-reach locations. Set food and water dishes on a low table so your pet won’t have to strain his/her neck or spine.

• For cats, keep the litter box in a convenient location. If your house has multiple levels and your cat likes to travel to each level, make sure there is a litter box on each level. This way, your cat won’t have to try to go up or down stairs to make it to the litter box on time. Also, make sure the litter box has low sides so it’s easier for your cat to get in and out of.

• Make your yard accessible for your dog. If he/she needs to go outside in the cold, have an area that’s shoveled and cleared of snow. This way your dog doesn’t have to try to move through the snow to use the bathroom.

• Help your pet get up and down the stairs, especially outside. With ice and snow, the steps are going to be slippery. Prevent your pet from falling by carrying him/her up and down the steps or by keeping your hands on your pet’s torso to steady him/her.

• Consider investing in a portable ramp or a step stool that will help your dog get in and out of the car. This can also help your pets get up and down from furniture.

• Help your pet by grooming areas of his/her body that might be hard for your pet to reach.

• Give your pet gentle massages and consider physical therapy. Indoor pools or pet playgrounds are a great way to help your pet work on low-impact exercises during the cold season. Did you know that AERC’s Oakdale location has an underwater treadmill? It’s a great tool for helping arthritic dogs; the warm water provides relief and gentle resistance to build strength.

If you want to find out more information about how you can help your pet, talk to your veterinarian. If you’re interested in our physical therapy program, ask your veterinarian for a referral today! We hope you and your pets have a safe winter!

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