Can I Walk My Arthritic Dog? What Other Exercises Can They Do?
Every dog owner wants to do what is best for their furry friend. So when your dog starts showing signs of arthritis, it can be tough to know how best to deal with it.
Arthritis is a progressive disease that affects both dogs and humans. It causes the cartilage to break down leading to painful and swollen joints. Overtime, it can cause irreversible damage to the joints.
There is no known cure for arthritis, and all dog breeds are at risk of developing the disease.
If your dog has arthritis there are things you can do to help them manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.
But is walking one of them? Can your pet still take part in their favorite pastime once they begin to show signs of arthritis?
Walking An Arthritic Dog
Walking is a low impact exercise that can help your dog to preserve muscle mass, loosen stiff joints and maintain a healthy weight – all important factors for managing arthritis.
The most important thing to remember when walking an arthritic dog is to go at their pace.
Shorter, regular walks will be more beneficial to them, so you may need to take them out twice a day and for shorter distances than they were doing before.
The walk is for your dog, not for you, so be patient and allow them to walk slowly.
Let them rest for a few minutes if they get tired, and keep an eye out for signs of exhaustion or reluctance. There may be some occasions when it’s best to call for a lift home, so always take your phone with you.
Your dog will most likely enjoy being outdoors with you, even if they can’t walk very far.
If the weather is nice you could try walking to a bench and drinking a coffee so your dog can sit and rest, taking in the smells and the fresh air.
Even though your dog has arthritis, they may still have a very playful nature. Be careful when going to public parks or dog parks as they may over exert themselves when playing with other dogs.
Having the right accessories can improve your arthritic dog’s walking experience. You might want to avoid using a retractable leash to ensure that your dog does not try and walk too fast – slow and steady is best.
Support harnesses or dog wheelchairs can be used to take pressure off the painful joints.
Humans warm up their muscles before exercise, and this can be helpful for arthritic dogs too!
Try heat pads, a warm towel, or gentle massage to warm up their muscles before you take them out to help avoid injury and pain.
The heavier the dog, the more pressure they have on their joints. For unhealthy joints that are already affected by arthritis, this can be bad!
Maintaining a healthy weight is very important and walking will help with this, but if your dog is overweight then too much walking will put strain on the joints and could cause more damage.
Try and stick to flat, even ground, as this will be gentler on your dog’s joints. Grass is ideal as it absorbs shock and weight better than hard surfaces like concrete.
Avoid getting your dog too over-excited, with ball throwing or chasing, as adrenaline can mask their pain and they may end up injuring themselves.
A dog with arthritis is more vulnerable to joint pain in cold weather, so consider the conditions before taking your dog out.
If it is a cold, wet day, you may need to reduce the time you take your dog out to stop them from getting too cold.
If you are travelling to a specific location in the car for your walk, remember that your dog may need assistance getting in and out of the vehicle.
Don’t let them jump from the boot as this puts pressure on their joints and could cause injury.
Other Ways To Exercise An Arthritic Dog
We have established that you can walk an arthritic dog safely if you take the right precautions, but there are other options for exercise that may also be suitable.
Swimming is a great way to exercise an arthritic dog as the water supports their weight and takes pressure off their joints. Avoid taking them to places with a strong current where they will have to work hard.
Look for safe lakes, ponds, or dog-friendly swimming pools. If there aren’t any nearby, speak to your vet about local pet rehabilitation centers.
Canine physiotherapists recommend getting your dog a wobble board to use at home. Your dog stands on a tilting platform and as their weight is shifted, the muscles they use to balance are strengthened.
Use this for short periods of time only and see if your dog enjoys it.
Remedies For Arthritis In Dogs:
We have established that regular exercise can be good for dogs with arthritis. But what else can you do to help manage the disease and ease the symptoms?
Canine chiropractors are becoming increasingly popular and many owners have seen positive results.
As with humans, acupuncture can greatly relieve the symptoms of arthritis and improve mobility.
There are various massage techniques you can use to perform on your dog from the comfort of your own home. We all love a good massage – and so will your dog!
Adding the right joint supplements to your dog’s diet will help to preserve the function of their joints and ease arthritic symptoms.
Your vet may recommend putting your dog on regular medication such as painkillers or anti-inflammatories to help ease their symptoms.
To make your pet as comfortable as possible, consider making some changes around the house. Make sure they have a comfortable bed with lots of padding and support for their joints.
Install ramps where possible to stop them jumping – for example, a ramp to help them get up onto the sofa. They will be weaker and less stable, so cover slippy floors with rugs or mats to avoid them falling.
As always, if you are unsure about any of these methods then please seek advice from your dog’s vet.