Should I Exercise My Arthritic Pet?
It is hard to learn that the animal you love has arthritis. It hurts to realize that every time your pet jumps, walks or stand up he is in pain. You can't cure your pet's arthritis, but you can certainly make his life better. Diet and exercise are an important part of your pet's arthritis management plan.
Are You Sure Exercise is a Good Idea?
Making sure your pet gets some exercise may seem counter-intuitive when it is painful for your pet to move. Obviously, exercise is meant to compliment the other treatment measures you are undertaking, such as medication, supplements, acupuncture and massage.
Exercise is beneficial to pets with arthritis because it improves the blood flow to the joints, which allows the medications and/or supplements to get to the joints. It also allows your pet to loosen up. Inactivity usually makes animals stiff and uncomfortable. You have probably noticed that your pet seems stiffer in the morning.
How do I Get Started?
The most important aspect of exercise is finding the right balance. Too little exercise can keep your pet from getting better and too much can cause damage. This is mostly an issue for dogs, because cats are generally in charge of their own exercise regimen. Your goal is to find forms of exercise that your dog enjoys and that also keep your dog's muscles, ligaments and tendons strong and flexible, without making him sore and stiff afterward. Make sure you control the situation; sometimes dogs will get too excited in the moment and overextend themselves only to feel pain afterwards.
What Type of Exercise is Recommended for Arthritis?
The right amount of exercise is different for each dog. Short stints of activity are better than long stretches. Swimming is an especially good exercise, and fetch can be okay as long as you keep the situation under control and don't allow your dog to jump when catching the stick or ball. Landing on the ground places too much strain on the joints. Playing tug of war should also be avoided. For some dogs, walking around the block a few times each day is enough. Your dog might also need rest days in between play days.
Can My Dog Play by Himself in the Yard?
It is important to keep an eye on your pet if he is alone in the yard. He could fall or injure himself and is not as capable of defending himself from an attack by another animal. Your dog may also be sensitive to damp or cold weather.
Special Note for Owners with Overweight Animals
Weight control is important for all animals, but is particularly crucial for animals with arthritis. The extra weight puts a lot of extra strain on your pet. Getting exercise will burn some calories, but your pet may need to be placed on a diet too. Light foods that are low in calories are available. Other foods also specialize in joint health.