When you exercises your arthritis dog you probably think of old dogs. But the truth is, arthritis doesn’t just affect old dogs. It’s estimated that one in five dogs will show signs of arthritis by the time they’re one, and that number increases to 80% by the time they’re eight.
The Symptoms of Canine Arthritis
Do you suspect your dog might have arthritis? The most common symptoms of canine arthritis are:
- Limping (especially after exercise & at night)
- Difficulty getting up
- Lameness in legs
- Muscle atrophy (losing muscle mass)
Dogs with arthritis also tend to lick their affected limbs more often, and some can develop spinal issues that can lead to a hunched posture. If you suspect your dog may have arthritis make an appointment with your veterinarian.
So How To Exercises Your Arthritis Dog?
Exercising with arthritis is a balancing act; too much can cause pain, and too little makes the condition worse. Staying active will help keep your dog’s muscles healthy and improve circulation to those achy joints. Lack of activity leads to the condition worsening, causing joints to become even more achy and stiff.
So how do you figure out what exercises you can still enjoy with your dog? Mias and I have been trying various routines to come up with one that doesn’t cause her discomfort or pain. There’s been a lot of trial and error, but I’m finally confident enough to say we’ve come up with a pretty good (and fun) exercise routine that doesn’t leave her sore afterward. Here’s how we did it.
So, unfortunately, most of our dogs will experience arthritis during their lifetime.
That doesn’t mean they can’t play or exercise anymore; keeping your arthritic dog fit is the most crucial part of keeping them comfortable.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to exercise a dog with arthritis, it’s essential to keep them mobile. The trick is finding what exercise works well for your dog. Regular low impact exercises your arthritis dog will help maintain muscle, reduce stiffness, and improve flexibility.
Dogs with arthritis also need to sleep in a bed that keeps them comfortable. Any extra weight adds more pressure and pain to your dogs’ achy joints, which makes getting regular exercise more of a challenge.
The key to the medical management of arthritis is weight control and exercise management. – Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for arthritis, but there are ways to manage it and keep your dog fit. In this article, we’ll go over ways to help keep your arthritic dog fit and healthy. Here are 10 tips to help keep your arthritic dog comfortable.
- Consult Your Veterinarian For the Correct Diagnosis
While this may seem like a no brainer, you’d be surprised at the amount of self-diagnosing that goes on when it comes to our pets.
If your dog is limping or getting stiff, it’s reasonable to assume it may be arthritis, but it’s vital to get the correct diagnosis from a professional. Many conditions cause stiffness & limping, and each of them requires a different management plan. The exercises that are recommended for arthritis can cause more problems for a dog with an ACL injury.
My dog was showing signs of arthritis long before she got the official diagnosis. Since it’s a progressive disease, it’s easy to write off a little stiffness now and then as healthy aging. It’s not something that suddenly appears one day, and it’s not always easy to notice the subtle changes.
It’s not just arthritis that can cause limping & lameness, many conditions have similar symptoms. Consult your veterinarian if your dog shows any signs of lameness, pain, limping, jumping, or difficulty getting up. Your veterinarian will be able to rule out any injuries or other conditions that may be contributing to your dog’s discomfort.
When my dog Mias began showing signs of lameness, we took her in for a checkup. Because she’s an English Bulldog, our veterinarian ruled out a couple of genetic disorders & diseases such as hip dysplasia & degenerative myelopathy before making the official diagnosis of arthritis.
Because arthritis symptoms mimic those of many other conditions, it’s not always easy to diagnose. Your veterinarian will do a physical examination, often including a neurological assessment to rule out other joint problems. They may do a series of blood tests and run x-rays. Your dog’s age, breed, and complete history will be taken into consideration.
Managing arthritis includes maintaining a healthy weight, staying fit with low impact exercises, and managing pain. That regimen can make other conditions worse, so it’s essential to consult your veterinarian for the right diagnosis before starting any treatment plan.
Once your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, your veterinarian will help you come up with a management plan that’s right for your dog.
Arthritis symptoms mimic those of many other conditions. Consult your veterinarian for the correct diagnosis and develop a management plan that’s right for your dog. The veterinarian usually recommends
Maintaining a Healthy Weight Helps With Exercises Your Arthritis Dog
If your dog is overweight, those extra pounds are causing additional stress on his already achy joints. Proper weight management through exercise & diet changes can help ease many arthritis symptoms.
Numerous studies have been done that show reducing weight leads to significant improvement in the quality of life. Ease of activities such as climbing stairs, jumping into a car or truck, and even getting up from a sitting position can dramatically improve weight loss. – Lawrence Veterinary Hospital
Start With a Warm-Up
Many arthritic dogs are particularly stiff when they first get up. You can help them out by starting any exercise with a short, low impact walk to help get those joints moving. Most dogs move around much more comfortable once they’ve walked around for a minute or two.
Introduce New Exercise Routines Slowly
Most of us work during the week and try and cram as much activity into our weekends as possible (aka being a weekend warrior). But when it comes to exercising your arthritic dog, those sudden bursts of activity can cause added stress and injury. Try to maintain an exercise program you can do daily (or every other day), rather than one intense workout on the weekend.
4 Low Impact Exercises Your Arthritis Dogs
Just because your dog has arthritis doesn’t mean they have to stop exercising. There’s plenty of low impact activities you can still enjoy together. Here are 5 exercises that are great for dogs with arthritis.
Swimming far the most popular exercise choice due to its low impact on joints. Swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise that will increase your dog’s range of motion and build up muscle mass. Don’t have a regular place to go swimming? Check to see if there are any canine-friendly hydrotherapy centers, pools, public beaches, or dog parks with a water feature in your area.
- Leash Walking
Walking around the neighborhood or at a nearby park is an easy way to keep our dogs active. It doesn’t have to be one epic walk a day either; you can take your dog on a couple of shorter walks throughout the day to keep them moving.
- Indoor Games & Activities
Indoor games are an easy way to keep our dogs entertained and active, especially when the weather isn’t great. You can teach your dog some essential nose work such as “find the treats,” use interactive toys, or plays hide and seek.
- Short, Gentle Play Sessions
Try some short sessions of tug or fetch. Pay attention to your dog afterward to watch for any signs of discomfort. If your dog has trouble later switch up the routine to something a little gentler. Many dogs are still able to play tug in short sessions, and some can play fetch indoors if it’s on a softer surface such as carpet.
I play fetch with Mias in the living room; the carpet is a lovely soft surface, and I bounce the ball rather than encouraging her to jump and catch it.
Try out a few indoor games to see which activities your dog enjoys. Watch your dog afterward for any signs of discomfort. If your dog is achy after that, it means the session was too long or that the activity itself is too high impact.
Arthritic dogs don’t like to exercise, leading to more weight issues, leading to more arthritis — it’s a vicious circle. But low-impact exercise such as walking combined with a diet is hugely beneficial to arthritic pets. – Dr. Jessica Vogelsang
Avoid Running & Jumping Exercises
Dogs with arthritis should not be encouraged to jump or run around excessively. Although it’s fun to watch our dogs’ roughhouse and dance around, it can cause those joints a lot of stress and pain later.
If your dog has arthritis, avoid activities that promote a lot of jumping or running such as frisbee and long-distance fetch. You may also want to discourage sitting pretty or having your dog walk on their hind legs since it causes a lot of stress on those joints.
Cooling Down Period aka Massage Time
At the end of an exercise, take some extra time to relax and concentrate on making your dog comfortable. Heat can help soothe achy joints. So I often warm up a heating pad and put it on the dog hips for 10 minutes. You could also use a hot water bottle, blanket, or any of the store-bought heating options available for pets – just make sure it’s not too hot before you place it on your dog.
I also give her a gentle doggie massage after the heat treatment. Massages help increase the circulation to those joints, and although I don’t know how much it’s helping in the long run, I can tell you she really enjoys it.
Don’t Forget to Add in Some Mental Exercises.
Keeping your dog fit & healthy isn’t just about adding in more physical exercise to daily routines. All dogs can benefit from more interactive play and mental stimulation.
So throughout the day, add in a few other games and activities for your dog to enjoy indoors. A few easy ways to give your dog some more mental stimulation is by giving them a puzzle toy, a stuffed Kong, playing a game of tug, or only letting them sniff around & explore while out on your daily walk.
Find a Medication That Relieves Arthritis Pain
Unfortunately, arthritis is progressive, and there will still be days when your dog shows discomfort. Even with precautions, Laika still has bad days every once in a while. And on those days she gets pain relievers and plenty of rest. (and puppy massages, but that’s optional)
Glucosamine supplements are recommended for arthritic dogs, and they’re widely available at pet stores or online. They relieve inflammation and can help cartilage regeneration. Talk to your veterinarian about pain management options, and find a medication that works for your dog. Some dogs may benefit from daily medication, while others may only need to take pain relievers on bad days.
Your Arthritic Dog Can Still Be Active & Have Fun
It might take some trial and error to find the right amount of exercise for your dog. We still go to adventures every day and play lots of tuggers. Laika still swims, walks, hikes, tugs, fetches, does nose work, and plays lots of games.
Don’t dwell on what your dog can’t do; think of all the awesome activities you can enjoy together. It took me a while to learn that lesson. After a while, I finally realized that Laika doesn’t seem to mind her new routine; she’s just as happy and ready to go as she ever was. I was the one dwelling on the past and thinking of the “what ifs.” Engaging in various activities keeps her happy and healthy, not the lack of previous habits.
Dogs teach us various lessons, and living for the moment is one Laika’s taught me.
What Low Impact Exercises Does Your Dog Enjoy?
How do you exercise your arthritis dog? Do you go swimming a lot with your dog? Do you try and get in a daily walk or two? Did I miss any activities you still enjoy with your arthritic dog?
I am not a veterinarian; please consult a professional if you suspect your dog has arthritis or if you want help coming up with a management plan for the condition. It’s taken a lot of trial and error, and we’ve been working closely with our vet the entire time. This post is meant for informational purposes to show that arthritic dogs can (and should) remain active.
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