If your dog has arthritis his exercise should be modified to be low impact, so try things such as slow walks around the park, or even going for a swim.
If your dog is showing signs of suffering badly with arthritis, it’s worth doing some warm-up movements with him, just as you’d do yourself before weight lifting or cardio.
Dog joint pain can make dogs reluctant to get up and run about. However it’s widely believed that, in many cases, dogs that don’t exercise suffer more with the effects of canine arthritis than dogs that remain active despite their condition.
The best exercise for dogs with arthritis
The exercise regime is a little different to standard exercises for dogs. A young, fit, healthy dog will love to race around, to chase balls, or dig in the sand. But 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.
Gently moving your dog’s legs, or encouraging him to stand up and move around the house, helps loosen stiff muscles and make your dog much more responsive to other exercises.
Moderate walking and swimming activities increase blood flow and mobility in the joints without irritating the area causing more pain. Healing is promoted in the areas that are inflammed.
If arthritis is caused by the 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.
Doing what’s best for your dog’s arthritis
As dog owners, we all want what’s best for our pets. It can be very 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 to help lessen the effects of arthritis in the long term.
How does arthritis in dogs occur?
Research shows 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 have very thick cartilage at the joints which rubs together as the muscles move. This eventually wears down through friction.
As the cartilage becomes damaged, the body’s natural response is to create inflammation and swelling in the area to protect against further destruction. 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%*, which reduces the risk of damage by friction in old age.
You may be concerned that medium and high-intensity exercises, especially weight-bearing exercises, could be detrimental to dogs in the long term. We investigated the safety aspects of exercise and older dogs with arthritis and found research confirming 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 one of the best ways of reducing the risk of dog joint pain in the future.
Preventing arthritis in dogs
Unfortunately, there’s no known cure for canine arthritis. However, the good news is that there are a number of measures that you can take while your dog is young, fit, and healthy that can delay the onset of some forms of arthritis, or possibly prevent the condition altogether. These are the recommendations:
- Ensure your dog is fed a good, balanced diet
- Make sure that he remains an acceptable size for his breed
- Establish a regular activity routine that strengthens the muscles which will leave your dog 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.
Note: Be cautious and observant. Watch for signs that your dog is becoming over exerted and know when to stop.
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Always consult your vet before beginning any new exercises so you can be confident your dog is medically well enough to take part in such activities.
So to answer one of the most commonly asked questions, ‘Is it safe to exercise a dog with painful joints?’ The good news is that as long as you encourage exercise that doesn’t aggravate the dog’s painful joints, it’s perfectly safe to allow your dog to exercise. In fact, it’s recommended. Activity for dogs should be fun for them and exciting.
Consider investigating the localized cooling treatment for dogs to help relieve pain and encourage easier joint movement.