Dogs with arthritis will sometimes limp in pain and as dog owners, it’s heartbreaking to watch your dog suffer. As we know, dogs themselves very rarely ‘complain’ and instead are more likely to give you extra licks when you’re trying to comfort them.
One of the best things you can do for your dog once arthritis has been diagnosed by your vet is to modify their lifestyle and exercise routine. Changing a few small things can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and happiness.
Exercise for an arthritic dog can help in many ways. Managing weight is the main reason, as dogs that don’t have exercise regularly do tend to put on weight. This is, in turn, increases the weight on the joints and can even cause more pain and swelling. Even if a dog is at the correct weight the constant exercise can help to keep the weight under control and thus reduce any extra pressure on the joints.
Exercise for an arthritic dog can help to increase flexibility and this strengthens the muscles around the joint and increases the dog’s endurance. So for example, if your dog is just lying in one position, because of the pain, the joints can become stiff and this can increase the arthritic pain. Such regular exercise can also help a dog to sleep better and this, in turn, will lead to rested muscles.
The same logic applies to everything your dog does – playing, eating, exercising.
In the case of eating, make it easier for your dog by making the distance they have to stoop and move their neck as short as possible with raised dog bowls. My older dog, Chloe, had arthritis in her neck and when I changed her bowls to ones which sat off the ground, it made such a difference to the pain she experienced in her neck, especially when the cold weather came.
When you are exercising an arthritic dog, it is better to go in for more number of short walks every day instead of the one long walk that the dog may be used to in its daily routine. Two 15 minute walks a day are ideal and if the dog feels it needs to rest in between, it should be allowed to do so to recover.
Rehabilitation specialist and ‘A Walk in the Park’ expert, David Prydie offers his top tips to readers:
“Exercise is an important part of treating arthritis in dogs. It helps prevent muscle wasting and promotes joint health. Exercise must be tailored for each individual dog in terms of size, age and stage of the disease. Here a few simple tips and stretches that can be done to make the life of an arthritic dog just that bit better.”
- Warm your dog up with some simple stretches before you go for a walk.
- After a walk make sure you give your dog a chance to cool down, wait for the dog to stop panting and repeat the simple stretches.
- Go for more frequent short walks rather than one big one.
- Using low calorie treats encourage your dog to turn its head round toward its flank in order to encourage spinal movement. Introduce this exercise slowly and do not force your dog to move if it is reluctant to do so. Repeat 5 times on both sides
- Encourage your dog to take a treat from above its head and then from between its front legs to encourage gentle neck movement. Repeat 5 times.
- Ask your dog to sit and then stand and then sit again. Reward each time and repeat 5 times.
Every dog knows its own limitations, so take a cue from the dog. Avoid any climbing or steep roads on your walks. Also consider finding your nearest hydrotherapy pool. Swimming in a warm pool can be fantastic for dogs with joint problems.
You can also encourage the dog to play games of fetch, hide and seek or even with a football as long as you stop as soon as the dog indicates its discomfort.