The cooler weather that comes with winter puts additional stressors on everyone’s bodies – including those of our pets! Some particular health issues that we see exacerbated with the cooler weather are discussed below.

 

Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition of the joints, and can occur for a variety of different reasons. The most common type of arthritis – osteoarthritis – typically occurs because of joint trauma and degeneration. For this reason we often see it in older animals, or animals that have previously had joint issues. Although arthritis cannot be ‘cured’ (without a joint replacement) we are able to manage this condition with a variety of tools. These include but are not limited to:

Pain relief

  • There are a variety of analgesic options we can use for our exotic pets. We are able to use multiple different pain relief medications to achieve comfort for your pet. These needs may also change over time – arthritis will usually worsen with time.

Other medications:

  • The Good Oil
    • The good oil is a supplement that provides Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, in addition to some vitamins. These have been shown to reduce inflammation
  • Cartrophen injections
    • Cartrophen is classified as a Disease Modifying OsteoArthritis Drug (DMOAD). It works in the following ways:
      • Stopping the enzymes that breakdown joint cartilage
      • Stimulates production of cartilage and joint lubricant
      • Improves blood supply and production of anti-oxidants
  • Joint supplements
    • Oxbow have a joint supplement available for small mammals called “Oxbow Joint Support”
    • These supplements are high fibre (containing timothy hay) and contain glucosamine (known to prevent cartilage degeneration), turmeric and yucca (have anti-inflammatory effects)

Maintain reasonable body condition

  • Overweight animals are far more likely to suffer with osteoarthritis
  • The increased weight results in greater pressure on the joints and further damage to the joints
  • If your pet is overweight, reducing their body condition can be beneficial to manage your pet’s comfort

Environmental Management

  • If your pet has sore joints there are a number of environment modifications that can be made to assist them.
  • Ensuring food and water are easily accessible is the most important thing. This may mean having food and water bowls lower down in the cage, perhaps multiple food and water stations around the enclosure to allow easy access. If your pet has multiple levels to an enclosure it may be best to reduce this, as climbing can become more difficult as arthritis worsens.
  • Birds often benefit from having a shelf made of wood or cardboard within the cage. This is particularly useful if they have leg or foot arthritis as perching can become uncomfortable for prolonged periods of time. It is also useful to have a wide variety of perch sizes as some may be easier to use than others. If you note your bird prefers wider perches – use more of these.
  • Small mammals often benefit from soft substrate at all times but particularly in arthritic animals. The product VetBed is useful as it is fluffy and soft and also wicks away any urine quickly to minimise the risk of urine scald from sitting in the same place.

Doing all of the above often greatly improves your pet’s quality of life living with arthritis. It is a good idea to monitor for changes during the cooler months as the cold weather often exacerbates the inflammation. This sometimes means that additional medical management may be necessary at this time. Feel free to bring your pet in for a visit if you have any concerns or wish to discuss their management plan.

 

Infections

Infections are quite common in avian and exotic creatures and can affect many different body systems. More common infections are bacterial gastroenteritis in birds, stomatitis and oral infections in reptiles and urinary infections in guinea pigs to name a few. Any infection that is brewing can worsen if not dealt with appropriately, particularly over winter, as the body is working harder than usual to maintain body warmth. This can mean that something that was quite mild that an animal was coping with could worsen drastically, resulting in illness. Therefore it is important that we monitor our pets closely and pay particular attention to good cage and bowl hygiene. Read these useful links for more information on our cleaning recommendations:

https://bbevs.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Cage-Hygiene-Avian.pdf

https://bbevs.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Effective-Cleaning.pdf

Although infections and arthritis are commonly flaring during winter, any health issue that your pet may have can worsen with additional stress on the body. It is a good idea with older animals that we see them for health checks every 6 months to ensure that they are coping year-round. Feel free to call the clinic on (07) 3217 3533 with any questions!

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