Keeping moving is the key to a longer, healthier, happier life for your arthritic dog. Arthritis is a vicious cycle. Your dog hurts, so she doesn’t want to go for her walk. She stops walking and loses muscle strength, becomes stiffer and less flexible. Her pain increases and she wants to move even less. It may seem counter-intuitive, but exercise is the answer to joint pain. Here are some exercise tips for dogs with arthritis.
First do no harm.
Start slow and gradually increase the time and amount of activity for your dog. Be especially cautious if your dog hasn’t had any exercise in a while. Start with a short walk around the block.
It’s tempting to cram everything in on the weekends. Daily moderate exercise is much safer and far more beneficial than vigorous activity a couple days a week.
Swimming is a great way to improve strength and flexibility while avoiding joint stress.
Be kind to the joints.
Avoid activities like jumping that are rough on the joints. If your dog enjoys chasing toys like balls of frisbees, throw low and soft. Save the hard, long throws for when your dog has built up her tolerance.
Be mindful of surfaces.
Avoid hard or unstable surfaces like concrete or sand. Stick with soft but firm surfaces like grass and packed dirt.
Gradually increase activity.
As your dog’s strength and stamina improve, gradually increase the length of time she spends having fun. You can also try new activities she may not have been comfortable doing previously.
Go on a diet.
If your dog is over weight physical activity will be more difficult and painful for him. Click here for more information on putting your dog on a diet.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Your veterinarian is there to help you and your dog. If you feel your dog would benefit from pain medication, don’t hesitate to ask. There are many different medications for varying degrees of disease. Any dog that has arthritis should be on a joint supplement. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. They have access to better quality products than you can get over the counter. Even if your dog feels great on pain medication, take it slow. Doing too much too soon will back fire.
There are many veterinarians with training in acupuncture for arthritis. It can work wonders for your dog’s pain. It is also surprisingly affordable. You dog’s doctor can refer you to a veterinary acupuncturist in your area. Anything you can do to make your dog more comfortable and keep him moving will have great benefits.
You can do this and so can your dog. Maybe he can’t run and play with the puppies at the dog park like he used to. But he can still do plenty of things he will enjoy. Start as slow as you need to. Increase activity as slowly as your dog needs to. Anything is better than nothing. Keep it fun.