5 Ways to Support Your Senior Pet Through Winter
While many of our animals welcome the cooler weather, some animals struggle a little more during the colder months. The freezing temperatures and icy ground can be particularly hard for our senior animals.
Below are five tips that we often recommend to our own clients, to help their animals through winter. These tips can be hugely helpful in supporting your animals through this season.
TIP #1 – YOGA MATS:
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is!
Yoga mats provide excellent support, giving animals additional traction if they are normally walking on hardwood floors, tiles, linoleum or other slippery surfaces. You can order a large, bulk roll on Amazon here. They come in different colors as well (so you can attempt to match your house!). Cut the roll based off your own home’s design. Line hallways and rooms that your dog walks through regularly. This additional traction will help reduce slipping or falling, that may otherwise occur.
TIP #2 – SUPPLEMENTS & HERBS:
Winter can be hard on our animal’s joints. We also tend to walk our dogs less, or they go on shorter walks, during this time of the year. This can create increased stiffness, and also decreases overall muscle health.
Supplements like fish oils, glucosamine and chondroitin can be extremely helpful for promoting joint health in our pets. You can also ask your veterinary team about injectable options, like Adequan. Herbs such as CBD and turmeric have incredible and natural anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD is hitting the pet industry quick and hard, and we are happily embracing this! CBD is excellent for so many conditions, including arthritis. It’s an incredible anti-inflammatory, and has natural pain control properties as well. For our senior animals that have compromised liver or kidneys, and therefore are limited in their pharmaceutical options, this powerful herb is often the perfect option.
TIP #3 – BODYWORK:
Bodywork is literally life changing for pets! When we talk about bodywork, we are speaking primarily of massage therapy, laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field therapy). Have any of these modalities helped you, whether with relaxation or body pain? If they have, then it should come as no surprise to hear that your animals may benefit from them too!
Winter weather often increases overall stiffness in our already arthritic animals. Since their walks are likely reduced, they are moving less. This reduced movement can also cause muscle atrophy (wasting), as well as potentially some level of depression.
Massage therapy, for example, is an aerobic activity. It increases oxygen and blood supply to muscles, and removes toxins. This helps reduce muscle atrophy, and is extremely detoxifying. Massage greatly stimulates the lymphatic system (which is directly linked to the immune system). Our lymphatic system does not have a pump (like blood has the heart), and therefore without movement, this system is functioning at a low level. This is extremely important for our immunocompromised or sedentary animals.
TIP #4 – HEATED BEDS & BLANKETS:
Heated beds and blankets are a HUGE win for our pets during the cold months! Whether you have a senior cat, small dog, or senior large breed, they will likely love this option!
There are plenty of heated pet beds on the market. You can also use a heated blanket (great for large dogs) or a heating pad, however please use caution. If you are using a heating pad, place it on the “low” setting; wrap the heating pad in a towel or blanket (so that it is not making direct contact with your pet’s skin).
For all options available, please ensure that your pet always has the ability to freely move from the heat source, and be cautious that this may be a fire hazard if left unattended.
TIP #5 – COMFORT FOOD:
Food is energy, it is also medicine. What are you feeding your pet, and how might it change during the winter?
For one, if you are walking and exercising less, it may be important to cut back on your pet’s daily food intake, to avoid unwanted weight gain (which has a direct impact on their overall joint health).
Consider warming your pet’s food during the extra cold days. Add healing foods like bone broths into your pet’s diet – just ensure you are using a pet friendly broth or recipe, and consult with your integrative veterinarian if your pet has a history of gastrointestinal upset or pancreatitis. The Honest Kitchen even makes a pet friendly bone broth with turmeric, check it out here. Add warmed whole foods (avoiding chocolate, raisins, grapes, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, xylitol) as often as you can.
So what do you think? Have you tried any of these before? If so, how did your pet respond? Are you totally psyched for the winter months or already counting down the days for Spring to arrive again?