Yes, it’s apparently impossible to see your little mate stretching and not say the words ‘big stretch’. But there’s a fascinating reason why that stretch becomes deeper and longer in the cooler months.
You see, while some dogs and cats use the stretch as a sign of indecision during the day when they’re not entirely sure what to do next, that early morning stretch is an indicator of a different kind.
The ‘big stretch’ is a common sign their joints are feeling the effects of a phenomenon called ‘winter lameness’. Essentially, the cooler temperatures have meant that overnight the blood flow to their joints has reduced. The result is that their joint fluid thickens up and becomes more like glue rather than warm, smooth sticky honey…and their ligaments and tendons are tighter.
These cold, creaky joints are then more difficult to get moving and any early warning signs of arthritis are heightened. You might even notice some limping after that early stretch. These stiff joints are then more likely to be injured when you hit the park for a play session, as like a netballer or footy player, they’re performing high intensity exercise cold and without a warm up.
In fact, injuries like cruciate ligament tears during seemingly routine exercise peak during the winter months.
So how can you help?
Keeping them warm and up off the cold ground at night makes a big difference.
Easing them into exercise and essentially providing a warm-up for those cold, creaky bones also helps reduce the chance of injuries.