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Exercising Your Arthritic Dog

Recently, we’ve had a number of new clients bring their dogs to us for help with the dog’s arthritis. Most are older, and the arthritis seems to be concentrated in their hind end.

What is arthritis exactly?

It is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to symptoms that include pain, Exercise in moderation is essential for your senior dog.stiffness, lameness, and occasional swelling. While there are many types of arthritis, in older dogs osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) is the most common. It is usually caused by normal wear and tear on the cartilage, the connective tissue in the joints. It can also be brought on by an injury or infection, speeding up the natural breakdown of tissue that occurs as part of normal aging.

Arthritis is very common in both dogs and humans, and is something that becomes more symptomatic as we age. It’s estimated that 65% of all dogs between 7 and 11 years have arthritis in varying degrees. Symptoms are exacerbated when the dog is overweight. 1 in 3 dogs with arthritis is overweight.

Keeping dogs fit and lean throughout their lives can decrease the likelihood of a dog developing arthritis, but there’s no guarantee. Once there is a diagnosis, it is even more important to keep a dog fit and active. Maintaining a daily exercise regimen is very important to help keep your dog’s weight under control and to keep his muscles strong. Excess weight places more stress on joints, making the arthritis symptoms much worse. In addition to controlling weight, regular, appropriate exercise keeps muscles strong which helps to support and stabilize arthritic joints.

What type of exercise is best for your dog? Anything that’s low impact. Here are some suggestions.

  • Swimming. This is by far the best exercise you can give to an arthritic dog, (or almost any dog for that matter) especially in a warm pool. Swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise that gives your dog a full body workout. Among other things, it builds muscle mass, increases range of motion and flexibility and improves cardiovascular health.
  • A Walk. With an arthritic dog, walks need to be shorter in duration, but there needs to be more of Running on a treadmill is a great way to keep your dog in shape.them. The best surface to walk a dog is grass, sand (not hot sand) or some other soft surface. Most dogs who have arthritis have a tough time walking, that’s why walks need to be shorter. If the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor walking, use a treadmill.
  • Games. Games such as hide and seek are great to play with your dog, particularly if your dog is food or toy motivated. The great things about games are that they also stimulate your dog’s mind, and they can be played either indoors or outside. Just make sure the surface you’re playing on won’t hurt your dog.
  • Working out using an underwater treadmill. While there are many things I don’t like about underwater treadmills, they can be an option for dogs who for whatever reason can’t tolerate swimming.Dayzee on the balance disk and bone
  • Working out using balance equipment. Stability balls, balance boards and other equipment from companies like FitPAWS can give your dog a great low impact workout. Contact us if you want 
  • to try this, we can definitely advise you.

Whatever you do, exercise is an absolute must for your arthritic dog.

Because arthritis is often a painful condition, dogs don’t feel like moving. They get up slowly, walk slowly, lie down carefully, and more. If we don’t encourage them to exercise, their muscles will atrophy, making their condition worse. It then becomes a downward spiral.Hydrotherapy for arthritis

I’ll never forget Bretta, an older Rottweiler, who came to us for the first time in 2012. Her arthritis was so bad her parents were actually looking online for information on euthanasia when they found us. They brought her to us for regular swimming twice a week. Within 6 weeks she was walking again, and after a few months was running and playing with toys she hadn’t touched in years. She passed away a year later, not from the debilitation of arthritis, but from cancer. She is only one of the many arthritic dogs we’ve helped who have had a longer quality of life just because of regular hydrotherapy and exercise.

Do your older dog a favor – if you’re not giving him regular exercise, please start. If you are, please continue. Your dog will thank you for it.


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