Brrr....Is your pet affected by the cold, damp weather?

Senior Vet, Tim Hutchinson, writes:

The weather forecasters promise us that, after a mild dry start to autumn, it is going to turn significantly more cold and damp. This forecast is hardly the work of genius: it is the UK and winter is only 6 weeks away! However, whenever we think about cold and damp we often associate it with stiffness – and this is as true for our dogs as it is for us.

In my spare time I play the cello – an instrument I started learning 39 years ago – and on 20th November I will be performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Wantage Orchestra.

You may well ask what this has to do with old stiff dogs! The relevance is in the differences that the intervening 25 years has had since I last performed the work in 1991:

In the thirty minutes that the piece lasts there are a lot of notes to play. This takes stamina and dexterity – both of which have been much harder to regenerate than they were quarter of a century ago.
If Sunday 20th November is a cold damp day, and if the heating is not on in the concert hall I know very well that my fingers will feel very stiff indeed and will require some considerable work to warm them up for the performance.

Now, I hope I am not an over-the-hill old dog (just yet) and whilst no athlete I am in reasonable physical shape, but the reality is that middle-age is a burden that takes its physical toll.

The lifespan of a dog is considerably less than that of a human – the bodies of our canine friends age and deteriorate at a significantly faster rate than our own. It is also true that a significant number of dogs have arthritis in one or more joints by the time they are 6 or 7 years old. An arthritic joint feels the effects of cold and damp more so than a normal joint and the muscular exertion required to support a diseased joint is far greater than normal.

As dog owners we need to be aware of the effects of age and arthritis on our pets and be attentive to:

  • The types of exercise that are beneficial
  • The types of exercise that can be damaging
  • The benefits of warm-up and wind-down when exercising
  • What to look for to be able to spot the subtle signs of pain and discomfort
  • What we can do at home and when we need to turn to our vets for help

And simply, when the weather forecast says cold and damp, keep in the back of our minds what the significance of this really is.

Why not come along to our Cholsey surgery on Monday 28th November at 7.30pm when I will be holding a talk on "How to keep your old dog moving"
Please phone 01491 651379 or 01235 814991 to reserve a place.