General, Joint disorders | June 29, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Winter blues, aches and pains, colds and flus – there are plenty of natural therapies to help us humans through these cold weather complaints, but what about our animal companions?
We've got you and your furry friends covered.
Here are some sure-fire natural therapies and home remedies to help your pets through winter:
Cold weather brings out the aches and pains in the best of us, pets included. Winter can increase soreness and stiffness, and cats and dogs often suffer from osteoarthritis quietly. Cats avoid showing their pain, so be on the look-out for changes to their behaviour such as stiffness in their walk, avoiding jumping or not jumping as high as normal, avoiding contact with humans or other pets, or refusing to walk up or down stairs. Dogs are a little more communicative, and will often lick an affected joint, or clearly favour the other side while walking, and possibly limp.
Humans have been using omega-3s, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to relieve our arthritic pains, and these nutrients could be a solution for our animal friends as well. There is plenty of evidence backing the use of omega-3 supplements to reduce pain in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis   . One study suggested that fish oil and krill oil gave superior results to green-lipped muscle extract , but any omega-3 sources seems to have positive results .
CAUTION : Some human food sources of omega-3 are toxic to dogs! Never give walnuts and avocado to your pup. Stick to commercially prepared, veterinarian-approved supplements.
Cats aren't so easy. There has been little research done on the effectiveness of omega-3 for feline arthritis, but what exists is very positive.
One study showed that supplementing with glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate significantly improved pain levels of two Scottish folds with joint conditions.
Another study showed that giving arthritic cats a dose of omega-3 fatty acids for 10-weeks improved activity levels, walking up and down stairs, less stiffness when walking, more interaction and higher jumping .
The combination could be the most effective treatment – one study combined both green-lipped muscle extract (high in omega-3s) and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements to improve pain and movement in cats with degenerative joint disease .
Be sure to use supplements that are specially formulated for cats or dogs, as human and pets need different forms and ratios of nutrients. There are potential negative side-effects of omega-3 supplementation in cats and dogs – consult your vet before prescribing to your pets, especially if your pet has a gastrointestinal condition, is overweight, or is taking any medications .
Jumping up onto the bed or couch, climbing stairs, and even making it up a couple of steps can be challenging for arthritic pets. Consider installing ramps for stiff and sore pets to travel to their favourite places through winter.
Warm, snuggly and safe bedding is a good way to care for your pets during winter. Many winter-related illnesses can be avoided with adequate bedding that protects your pet from cold air and rain.
Heated mats are a huge hit with both cats and dogs, but hot water bottles can do the trick for less picky pets. Be sure to provide ample blankets and a safe space away from draughts. Enclosed, felted cat and dog “caves” work for some pets.
Dogs who sleep outside require a sheltered kennel that is well-protected from the wind. Ideally, place the kennel in a garage out of the cold air. Don't put the dog in the garage or shed without a kennel – cold air circulates easily around large spaces, so the kennel creates a small space for a warm, safe environment.
Outdoor dogs also need more insulation and moisture-resistance for their bedding. Make sure bedding is elevated off the ground, and create layers with wood chips on the bottom to allow for drainage, followed by a large amount of fresh, clean hay or grasses for insulation, and then a blanket on top for additional warmth.
Birds require extra nesting materials, and would be grateful for flannel or cotton strips. To keep birds warm, try cage covers to trap heat within the cage, and keep the cage away from draughts.Heat lamps, heat perches and insulated tents are good options too.
With their thicker coats, furry pets may need extra grooming over winter, but avoid cutting or shaving their hair during the colder months. It's best to avoid bathing animals during winter, but mud-puddles and rainstorms can be too hard for some pups to resist – and a warm bath can be very soothing for aching joints of arthritic dogs.If you need to bathe your animals during winter, it's especially important to ensure they are completely dry afterwards, including their undercoats.
Consider taking your dog to a salon or a pet-store with a good blow-dryer
Cats & dogs are susceptible to species-specific versions of cold-weather conditions like the cold. Keep an eye out for running eyes, sneezing, coughing and blocked or runny noses. Always check with your vet to rule out serious conditions like kennel cough, influenza or parasites – these conditions need immediate treatment beyond natural therapies!
If it's a simple cold, the best way to boost your pet's immune system is to make sure their diet is healthy and nutritionally complete, that they get adequate exercise, and live a low-stress lifestyle.
If that doesn't cut it, supplements may give them the extra boost they need. L-arginine and omega-3 fish oils may be beneficial in supporting your dog's immune system by boosting their white blood cell count . Cats could benefit from these supplements too, but check with your vet first as feline nutritional needs are very particular!
If your cat or dog sneezes from cold weather but doesn't show any other signs of infection, they could be reacting to low humidity that is drying out the mucosal layers of their respiratory system. Bring them into the bathroom after you've had a hot shower to help relieve their symptoms.
The winter blues can make the cold weather even worse, and it affects our pets too. The same things that boost our moods can also work for animals – be sure to give your pets regular exercise, time outdoors or near bright windows, and brain-stimulating games. Depression in pets looks like excessive sleep and disinterest in games, food and interaction.
“Winter weight” is real. Animals (including humans) eat more during the colder months and for good reason: our metabolisms are the best way to stay warm from the inside-out. Make sure that your pet has plenty to eat during winter, and monitor their weight. Small pets like birds, rabbits and guinea pigs particularly need regular meals throughout the day.
Consider giving your pet a small, calorie-dense meal right before bed to help them stay warm overnight but consult with your vet first if your pet is overweight!
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