Brrrrr, it is COLD!!!!! When Jack Frost comes nipping, spare a thought for our four legged friends. Winter cold is particularly difficult for elderly animals. Like us, our pets are very prone to arthritis resulting in back and joint pain. You can not turn back the hands of time, but you may be able to put a little bit of the old spring back into your best friend by making a few simple changes.

Firstly, shelter from the cold and a warm comfortable bed. The beds need to be soft and easy for the dog to step in and out of them. Suspension beds are great ideas but I find older dogs often have difficulty getting out of them especially first thing in the morning. A good coat to warm up those cold stiff joints also helps a lot.

Diet is very important in slowing down the ageing process. I usually advise clients to ‘buy the best food for your pets that your budget will allow’. However, the best is not always the most expensive. If you have the time, dogs thrive on a homemade diet of meat, vegetables and grains. It is important to balance the portions of protein, carbohydrates and fats so if unsure, especially for young or pregnant animals, check with your veterinarian.

There are other dietary supplements that may benefit your old dog that you may already have in the cupboard for yourself; fish oil, sardines, multivitamins, and glucosamine and chondroitin. Current research has shown that these dietary supplements can decrease arthritic pain.

In my opinion, one of the most effective and fairly inexpensive treatments you could give your arthritic dog and cat is a series of pentosan polysulfate injections. It is usually four injections one week apart. The effects usually last up to nine months. Pentosan is a semi-synthetic polysaccharide polymer that has great anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic and cartilage protecting properties. Pain experience in arthritic animals is caused by a wearing away of the cartilage resulting in bones rubbing against each other. The most common sites are the hips and knees. Pentosan virtually ‘plumbs up’ the cartilage in these weight-bearing joints and decreases the pain.

It is lovely to see an old dog moving around more freely who previously was struggling to do even the most basic things like standing up in the morning or climbing stairs.

A pet asks so little of us but gives us so much. I feel it is a privilege for us to help these loyal companions find comfort in their golden years.

If you are concerned about your ageing pet, please seek veterinary advice.

By Dr Ruby K Petersen