Dog Arthritis and Exercise
What Is Arthritis?
Canine arthritis is a disease of the joints. The cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber between the bones, swells then breaks down. As the cartilage gets thinner, the bones actually rub against each other causing pain and damaging joints. This leads to swelling in the joints, stiffness, pain, and difficulty walking. When arthritis develops in dogs, it often occurs in the hips and elbows.
If your dog has arthritis, there's a pang in your heart. We all know how painful and difficult this condition can be with people, and unfortunately it is not any different when it comes to dogs. While it hurts to see your dog in pain, you can help him or her cope with this condition. Surgery and medication are two methods for dealing with it. But, did you know dog arthritis can also be relieved with regular exercise?
What? you may be saying. My dog has arthritis--his joints hurt. Taking him walk is the opposite of what I should do. It will do even more damage to his joints and hurt him even more.
Actually, moving around a bit can have the opposite effect. Vet and animal specialists recommend exercise for dogs with arthritis for several reasons.
Why Exercise A Dog With Arthritis?
- Exercise helps increase flexibility and endurance and strengthens muscle around the joints. Stronger muscles relieve some pressure on the joints. Flexible and strong tendons (attach bones together) also help lift some of the weight and pressure from the cartilage between bones.
- 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 o 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.
- Less activity and lying around helps your dog's joints to become stiffer.
- Regular exercise uses tires your dog out and helps her to sleep better.
- Exercise helps stave off other health problems such heart disease.
- Exercise helps your dog to deal with the physical pain. Activity occupies her mind, so it's something else to dwell on other than discomfort.
- Exercise is still fun and dogs like to have fun. Fun always improves anybody's quality of their life.
How Do I Exercise a Dog With Arthritis?
Frequent exercise is best, but keep it short. Two 10-15 minute walks daily does better than one long walk. A short daily walk is much better than a weekly hike.
Keep the exercise mild and low key like walks on level, soft ground.
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. As with people, dog arthritis is relieved with a balanced lifestyle that includes a good diet, medication if necessary and stretching the legs regularly.