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More About Dog Arthritis and Exercise

Updated on August 13, 2012

Exercise and the Arthritic Dog

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is actually healthier to exercise your dog even with arthritis.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is actually healthier to exercise your dog even with arthritis.

As with in humans, arthritis is a joint condition. It occurs where the cartilage lining that cushions in between bones starts to deteriorate. With dogs, this deterioration occurs most often in the hip joints, knee joints and elbow joints. When that cartilage wears away, then the bones rub together, and the pain is anywhere from annoying to grating to painful. And while moving around may seem like the last thing he or she should do, exercise is very beneficial for a dog with arthritis.

An Arthritis Plan

Veterinary researchers estimate that 20 percent of adult dogs suffer silently from osteoarthritis.If your dog is getting older (over 6 years) and seems to be having trouble moving, get him or her thoroughly checked out by a vet for arthritis and other joint conditions.

Working with your vet, you should have a complete course of action for relieving your pet from the pain of arthritis. This will probably include medications, supplements, possibly therapy, and changes in your dogs sleeping environment. Your dog's arthritis relief plan will also include exercise, especially if your dog is overweight.

Exercise for Arthritic Dogs

Excess weight is more stress on the joints and further, excess fat tissues secrete a hormone that promotes pain. Losing weight usually helps to easy a dog's joint pain. But overweight or not, gentle movement on a regular basis helps your dog to live reasonably with arthritis.

The first thing that is important is stretching your dog's joints. Here are 2 very simple stretches you can do with your dog.

Hind leg extension

  1. Kneel next to your dog while he or she stands.
  2. Hook your left arm under the dog's stomach.
  3. With the right hand, slowly and gently push the dog's left rear leg just at its patella (knee joint) backwards slightly. If you were stretching a dog for competitive sports, you would stretch until the point you feel resistance. You should stretch less than this for a non-competitive or arthritic dog.
  4. Hold for 10 – 30 seconds.
  5. Stretch the right rear leg accordingly.

Front leg extension

  1. Hook your arm over your dog's back and under her chest to hold her up.
  2. From under the dog's elbow, slowly and gently push her left front leg forwards.
  3. Hold the position for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Stretch the dog’s right front leg similarly.

Stretches are best done when your dog is calm and before and after you walk. Stretch very, very slowly. When starting out, do not stretch the limbs far at all. Stretches should be for 10 to 30 seconds, but it may take your dog a few sessions to work up to that length if he or she is an energetic dog. Stop if your dog whines or shows discomfort.

Exercising for Arthritis

A dog with joint problems should not play games where jumping or sprinting are involved. These can make the joint condition feel worse, sometime immediately, sometime the pain starts later.


Walking is almost always one of the best exercises you can do with your dog.

  1. Be sure to stretch first.
  2. Start the walk slow, slower than your normal pace.
  3. Keep walks short if your dog has trouble, but do continue to walk daily. A little bit every day will do wonders on making his condition bearable. Doing a lot of walking just a few days a week will do the opposite, cause more wear and tear on this joints and make the walk a painful exercise.

Doggie Dancing

Another low impact activity you can do with your dog is actually dancing. As you would think, have your dog place his or her front paws on your torso and slowly walk around or two-step with your dog. Don't make your dog take big steps, just medium to small steps. Go for 10 to 15 minutes, but you could do this a couple times each day.

This activity, besides being a great way to spend time with you, is not as hard on the joints as running or jumping. Furthermore this posture helps your dog gently stretch hip, knee and elbow joints at the same time. Stretching is a good way to strengthen joints as well.

Joint pain does not have to be the end of your dog's active life. Work with your vet, but include physical activity and exercises in your dog's schedule and arthritis does not have to stop your dog from being energetic and having fun.


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      Joe Njenga 5 years ago from Nairobi Kenya

      You have comprehensively covered the this topic. I found your Hub to be useful and very informative. Thanks for sharing.