Have you heard people complain more of arthritis pain on cold, wet days and less on warm, dry days? I suspect, like me, you have. Well, could this also be true for our four-legged companions? What’s more, if owners do notice more stiffness and lameness in their pet during colder, wetter weather, then is it a real, measurable difference?
I’ve always been a bit skeptical but, over the years, a significant number of pet owners have related this observation to me unprompted and so I have developed a more open mind. In fact, I have started to think there may well be something in it. Well, probably the first place to start is to look for objective evidence that weather can affect our own arthritis symptoms.
What is the evidence?
Well there is very little scientific work to look at specific to dogs. So, what’s the evidence in man? Is this a real effect or not?
Studies into the effects of climate on joint pain in people have yielded conflicting results. One early study in the 1960′s showed that, in a small group of patients, low barometric pressure combined with high humidity seemed to cause increased pain and stiffness in arthritic joints. The theory was that the lower external pressure allowed the soft tissues around arthritic joints to swell more so they felt stiffer. Some studies have shown a trend towards increased joint discomfort in colder, wet weather. However, other studies have not demonstrated any climate effect and no firm conclusions have been reached. Even in those studies where some effect was described, the difference did not appear to be statistically significant and there is no definitive study that shows symptoms in people with arthritis worsen in cold damp weather.
If there is an effect, it would appear to be on the symptoms of arthritis rather than the progression of the disease. This is an important distinction and one we take up more in the arthritis video series where we talk about medical treatment for arthritis in dogs.
As an arthritis sufferer myself, I do think that my awareness of joint discomfort is more pronounced on cold, wet days. I suppose, clinical trials aside, it stands to reason that our joints might feel a bit stiffer in colder weather and our tissue a bit more supple in warmer weather. After all, why do we ‘warm up’ before exercise? My personal view…I think there is often no smoke without fire and there may be some subtle effect. However, definitive evidence is not available. Also, we have to accept that there could be a psychological effect rather than a genuine physiological effect. Let’s face it, the weather does affect out mood.
So, the bottom line..don’t emigrate to warmer climes (with your pet) just yet!