The first question commonly asked, ‘is it safe to exercise dogs with painful joints?’ Yes
The good news for dog owners is that as long as you encourage your dog to do exercise that won’t exacerbate the condition, it’s perfectly safe to allow your dog to exercise. In fact, it’s recommended.
While dog joint pain can make some dogs not so keen on getting up and running about, it’s widely believed that, in many cases, dogs who don’t exercise suffer more with the effects of canine arthritis than dogs who remain active despite their condition. If your dog is displaying signs of suffering badly with arthritis, it’s worth doing some warm-up movements with him, just as you would do yourself before weight lifting or cardio.
Consider investigating a localized cooling treatment for dogs to help relieve pain and allow easier joint movement.
Make sure your dog has a warm, comfortable bed to rest and ease his pain.
Gently moving your dog’s legs, or encouraging him to stand up and move around the house, can loosen stiff muscles and make your dog much more responsive to other exercises.
The best exercise for dogs with arthritis
The exercise regime is a little different to standard exercises for dogs. While a young, fit, healthy dog may love to race around, to chase balls, or dig in the sand, a dog with inflammation should do exercises that are much more low impact. Those that don’t put any additional strain onto the painful joints.
Low impact exercises include slow to moderate walking, and swimming. These types of activities can increase blood flow without exacerbating dog joint pain, and promote healing in the areas suffering from inflammation.
If arthritis is caused by a dog being overweight or obese, these low impact exercises can make a significant difference. They allow the dog to lose weight, strengthen muscles, and get fitter without risking damage to the joints. The more weight that’s lost, the less a dog should be affected by obesity-related arthritis.
The key is to encourage exercise at regular intervals, but at a much lower level of intensity, and for a limited time.
It’s about keeping up with a routine and not allowing for long periods of inactivity when the muscles have an opportunity to stiffen. Although a dog with arthritis may not seem keen on going for a walk, short yet frequent exercises really can make a huge difference to the level of pain and discomfort.
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for canine arthritis, but researchers believe that there are a number of measures that dog owners can take while their pets are young, fit, and healthy that could delay the onset of some forms of arthritis, or possibly prevent the condition altogether. You should
- ensure your dog is fed a good, balanced diet
- make sure that he remains an acceptable size for his breed
- ensure he undertakes regular activity that can help strengthen the muscles and leave them much less susceptible to the effects of arthritis.
Exercise isn’t just important if your dog has arthritis, it’s also important to reduce the risk of healthy dogs developing the problems as they age.
How does arthritis occur?
Researchers claim that ‘moderate running exercise locally alters the biological properties of young articular cartilage’, which means that medium intensity exercises can affect the status of a dog’s cartilage. Arthritic dogs typically display very thick cartilage at the joints which rubs together as the muscles move, eventually wearing down through friction. As the cartilage becomes damaged, the body naturally responds by creating inflammation and swelling in the area to protect against further destruction, and it’s this inflammation that creates dog joint pain.
Studies have found that regular and moderate running exercises in young dogs can reduce cartilage thickness by an estimated 6%, reducing the risk of damage by friction in old age.
Some dog owners may be concerned that medium and high-intensity exercises, especially weight-bearing exercises, could be detrimental to dogs in the long term, but research shows that these types of activities don’t lead to premature damage to the joints or muscles, or accelerate cartilage degeneration.
Keeping your dog active is considered to be one of the best ways of reducing the risk of dog joint pain in the future.
Doing what’s best for your dog’s arthritis
As dog owners, we all want what’s best for our pets. It can be difficult to encourage a dog in pain to exercise. But it’s important to remember that exercise is one of the best things we can do for our canine friends to relieve them of any pain and discomfort. We need to help them build up and straighten their muscles which helps to alleviate the effects of arthritis in the long term.
Note: Be cautious and observant. Watch for signs that your dog is becoming over exerted and know when to stop.
Always consult your vet before beginning any new exercises to ensure your dog is considered medically well enough to partake in such activities.
Exercise for dogs with arthritis should be fun for them, exciting, and low impact, so try things such as slow walks around the park, or even going for a swim.Further reading resources: