Google Written by Tracey Patterson

Exercise and Dogs with Arthritis

If you have a dog with arthritis, it can be heartbreaking to see him or her limp in pain. This is not an uncommon condition either. But there are ways to help your pal live a quality life with this condition.

Does My Dog Have Arthritis?
Only a vet can diagnose if a dog has arthritis. You may suspect your dog may have this condition if she has difficulty getting up or walking. Click to read more on canine arthritis.

Once diagnosed, your vet tell you what the best course of action is for the type and progress of arthritis. Whether surgery or medication is used, if your dog has arthritis, he or she needs a lifestyle that helps bring relief including regular exercise.

Exercise For Arthritis?
What?, you may be saying. My dog has arthritis—he’s joints hurt. Taking him walk is the opposite of what I should do. Maybe it will cause even more damage. Actually, moving around a bit can have the opposite effect. Vet and animal specialists recommend exercise for dogs with arthritis for several reasons.

  • To manage weight.
    • If you dog is overweight, losing some pounds will provide relief. Excess weight serves to stress the already painful joints causing even more pain and swelling.
    • If you dog is at a healthy weight, continuing to exercise will help maintain the weight and as we said, too much weight adds to joint strain and pain of arthritis.
  • The more they lie there, the stiffer they become. Exercise helps increase flexibility and endurance and strengthens muscle around the joints.
  • Regular exercise use energy and helps your dog sleep better.
  • Exercise helps stave off other health problems such heart disease.
  • Exercise likewise helps your dog in dealing with the physical pain. It is an activity that is occupying their mind. It’s something to think about other than discomfort.
  • Exercise is still fun. And dogs like to have fun, and fun always improves the quality of life.

How to Exercise With Arthritis
A little bit more often is better than a lot once in a while. For instance, two 10-15 minute daily walks are better than one long walk. A short daily walk is much better than a weekly hike. Joints can eventually be aggravated by excessive activity, but there are definite benefits of some activity. Of course, take cues from your dog. If he wants to run a bit, let him run. If he’s ready to rest, stop and rest. Moderation is the goal: not too much, not too little.

Good Exercises for Arthritic Dogs

  • Walking – always a favorite. Choose low-intensity, easy routes. No hills, no rough surfaces, no uphill marches.
  • Hiking – like walking, make sure you choose easy smooth trails and go for short hikes.
  • Swimming – a great sport that is easy on the joints. Warm water, swimming in cold water will just be uncomfortable later.
  • Running games – if your dog is fine with it, some low-key running is OK. For instance, you could have a 10-minute game of hide and seek or fetch. Either one involves a lot of breaks and the “running” can be anything from a fast walk to a trot. Some running games include:
    • Hide and See
    • Fetch
    • Keep-away
    • Soccer
  • Agility games – this if fun and challenging if you train just for fun, competition is too intense training for competition. Do the games that are less impact like balance beam, chutes and tunnels, and running around obstacles.

If the weather is cold, keep your dog in. It is not known for sure if cold weather actually makes arthritis worse, but it can make the joints feel worse.

Arthritis does not have to be the end of your dog’s world. Always check with a vet first, but with care and some changes in lifestyle, both you and your pup can get relief.

9 Responses to Exercise and Dogs with Arthritis

  1. cindy says:

    my rot pup has dysplasia and i am trying to find info on exercises for him can you help

  2. Robin Hardaker says:

    hi my dog has arthritis her back legs very stiff can anyone help me how I should treat in regards to walking?

  3. chris says:

    in the winter what can you do to exercise your dog? if i put him on the treadmill he’ll fall because his joints are so bad. but since he’s overweight i really need to do this. any ideas? :/

  4. Tracey says:

    There are a lot of good ideas in the ebook on the home page–it’s totally free. But in general I really would suggest playing games in the home that get him moving–they’ll get you moving too. You can keep it simple and start with the things that already get his goat so to speak. We have a real simple game. When I’m walking through the house and the dog is following me, I abruptly change direction and walk another direction, then after 30 seconds, I do it again and I keep doing this. After a while the dog catches on and he starts bumping me, so I do it faster. Pretty soon we’re speed walking around the house.

    It can be really simple to get moving in the house. The challenge is keeping it up for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes. Just remember, you will probably get bored before you dog does, so when you feel like stopping, keep going another 5 minutes. Best of luck!

  5. Tracey says:

    If his joints are really bad, you would do best to start with low impact activities where balance is not a big issue. Training him to perform command is a really good way to do this. In order to learn a trick or command, a dog is repeating motions over and over and it can give him a low-impact workout. Commands like fetch, release, roll over are useful and physically active.

    A couple of things to remember: 1) choose commands where balance is not a major part of the command, and 2) really avoid treats as a reward for good performance. Love and rubs and attention WILL also work for positive motivation.

    What is also good are games where the dog is constantly in motion are good. Any game where your dog is constantly following you are really good. There are a few examples in the ebook on the home page.

    Now, these activities are not likely to burn a lot of calories, but this will help him get in better condition to do more intensive activities later. This is important–go slow with exercise and weight loss to prevent more injury to his joints. And do exercise regularly. And as always, check with his vet who has more knowledge of the condition of your dog’s joints and can advise accordingly.

  6. Emilia A. says:

    I have a 4 year old Boston Terrier (that we got about two months ago)that LOVES to run. We would go everyday to the dog park and play fetch with him and he would run with other dogs. But about a week ago he started limping and today we learn the (sad) news that he has arthritis. Can he still go running everyday just this time instead of an hour 10 to 15 mins? I can see in his eyes that he just wants to play.

  7. Tracey says:

    @Emilia…Even a dog with joint pain like arthritis can and SHOULD exercise, daily if possible. Reasonable activity will help him feel better overall. The issue is just to make sure he doesn’t over do it, some eager dogs don’t know when to stop. Check out our article here: Of course you should confer with your vet, even if by phone.

  8. My dog she might have arthritis and what can I do to make her comfortable and happy and she is 7 years old and a Lowchen

  9. If the arthritis is just starting to set in, you definitely want to keep exercising your dog every day, at least 30 minutes for a Lowchen. Moderate walking or playing is fine. Continuing to exercise will help keep muscles strong and ligaments a little more limber, which helps keep arthritis from getting so bad. Take it easy anytime your dog is showing signs of pain–limping, wincing, whining. Stay in and play during colder weather. And really try to coordinate with your vet. They will give you an idea if it is arthritis or some other joint problem, how far it is advanced, and can prescribe appropriate pain medication that will help your dog on the bad days. Best of luck with your pup!

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