Many pet owners find that a regime of exercise helps their dog deal with arthritis.
Exercise can fulfil two goals:
First, to help keep the dog as agile and pain free as possible.
And second, to slow the progression of the disease.
Your veterinarian should be able to show you some exercises to use with your dog or he may even recommend a pet physical therapist. Do not start an exercise program with your arthritic dog without talking to your vet first.
Tips for Exercising Your Dog
Start an exercise session slowly to give your dog’s muscles a chance to warm-up.
The most advantageous exercises are those with low impact on the joints. This is one reason swimming is so popular. The joints are not being thrust against a hard surface. Make sure the water is not to hot or too cold.
A long, leisurely walk can help your dog by keeping the muscles stretched and moving. Avoid hills. A soft, level walking path is preferable to pavement. Fifteen to thirty minutes is usually long enough but this may need to be reduced as your dog ages or the disease progresses. Taking several short walks throughout the week is better than one or two long walks.
Give your dog a chance to cool down after exercise. Slow down the pace and gradually come to a stop.
While playing Frisbee with your dog may be fun, this type of exercise is actually very hard on your dog’s joints and is not recommended for pets with arthritis or other joint problems.
Massaging your pet before and after exercise can help relax muscles and improve circulation. But be careful not to use too much pressure on painful joints. The massage should only be applied to the dog’s muscles.
Heat can be used to relax your dog’s muscles but extreme care must be taken to assure it is not too hot. This can sometimes be used before exercise to help loosen muscles.
Cold packs are often used after exercise to reduce inflammation and pain in the joints. Do not leave on for an extended time. Fifteen minutes is usually ample time for heat or cold.
If your dog is experiencing severe pain or heavy breathing, stop the exercise session at once. Remember that arthritis is progressive and will gradually worsen over time. An exercise that may have been fine for your dog three months ago may now be too painful. Take your dog to the vet at least twice a year so the exercise program can be adjusted to your dog’s current condition.
If the weather is too hot or too cold you may need to just walk your dog around the house. Cold temps will cause his joints to ache more and extreme heat can cause heatstroke in an older dog. Use caution when weather is bad.
Exercising your dog will not only help improve your dogs mobility, but it will help keep him at a healthy weight. Obesity will only cause your dog’s arthritis to worsen.
Though the progression of arthritis cannot be stopped; a consistent exercise program can help your dog remain active for as long as possible.