When it comes to exercising pets, not everything is as simple as “just take your dog for a walk.” Though exercise is vitally important to a pet’s health, physical conditions might restrain their ability to function as other animals do. Some dogs and cats develop conditions like arthritis at an early age, exhibiting some of the tell-tale 5 signs of joint pain. Fortunately, even if your dog is diagnosed with severe joint swelling and discomfort, that does not mean your playful romps are over, it just means there will need to be some adjustments to the normal exercise routine.
Tips for Exercising Arthritic Pets
- Stretch & Massage: When you are about to embark on some physical activities with your cat or dog, first start with some minor movements, stretches and handling to see if your pet visibly indicates he is in pain. Some pet parents even use yoga balls to help release pressure in the spine, or small hand-held rolling balls to gently massage the sorest areas. Doing this both before and after the exercise may bring the joints relief.
- Test the waters. Before you commit to a long afternoon outing, first test the waters by going out for a brief trial. Allow the pup to move his legs at a leisurely pace around a lawn for 2-5 minutes. Observing your pet as he goes, does the dog seem to be all right? Is he favoring a side over another, is he hesitant to explore or venture far on his own? Note what movements seem strained and which ones seem easier for him, then build your exercise around his ability.
- Short encounters. If walking will be your exercise of choice, reduce your regular walking time considerably. It would be better to go on two or three 15-minute walks daily, than one hour-long trek with your pup. Take your cat out on a leash for a 10-minute meander. Lengthy trips might exhaust your pet, increasing the strain and soreness of his muscles and joints.
- Soft surfaces: If your usual walking route is over gravel, concrete, or the asphalt of city streets, try going someplace new. Instead of exploring outside, play indoor fetch on a carpeted surface, or a couch. Drive to a nearby park and let your dog stroll on the grass, or fallen leaves, or through the sand of a playground. If you are near water, take your canine companion to the beach where he can tread through soft sand. Just be sure to watch out for surprise waves and strong currents.
- Pain medication. When an animal’s quality of life is greatly altered because of an ailment or chronic pain, the pet owner should consider asking the vet for alleviating medication. A pet who does not exercise due to pain might grow obese, become diabetic, or develop a host of other health problems because of it. Becoming inactive from a lack of pain moderation will create worse problems for your pet than simply joint inflammation.
- Consider exercise alternatives: Physical therapy might help work on particular limbs, or weaker areas then need strengthening. If your dog is inclined toward the water, enroll him in a weekly class of Play games like hide-and-go-seek, or a short-distance game of fetch. The mental stimulation will do wonders for your ailing pal, and the low-impact motion of swimming will not only help his circulation, but it might even alleviate the pain.
- Consult your vet. This is often our first recommendation in any question of a health crisis, as vets have years of experience working with animals who may have been in a similar place as your pet. They will offer insights and advice based on your exact breed, and will factor in specific details (such as your dog or cat’s age, size, medical history, genetics, etc.) that a generic online list cannot provide.
Side note about nutrition and joint supplement
They say food can be either the worst poison or the best medication. One of the greatest ways to help your dog or cat fight arthritis in, addition to the pain medication, is to make sure that the animal pet is being fed nutrients designs to promote joint health and mobility. There are also joint wellness supplements and dog chews available to provide your pet with all the help he can get!