If you have a pet over the age of seven, chances are that they might start experiencing some achy joints. But that doesn’t mean your pet is becoming immobile and you can’t take them out for a jog every once in a while. Staying active will actually help your beloved pet with their achy joints and bones! But before you dive into an intensive training program, it’s important to understand the causes and symptoms of arthritis in your pet.
Causes of Arthritis in Animals Unsurprisingly, the causes of arthritis in animals are very similar to the causes of arthritis in humans. While joint problems are common in aging animals, there are a few that pop up most frequently. These include:
- Lack of exercise
- Joint disorders, diseases and conditions
- An early trauma or injury
Start by performing a simple assessment of your dog. Are they overweight? Does he/she get proper exercise? Do you still play together regularly? If not, keep an eye out for the following symptoms that may indicate that your furry friend’s joints need some TLC.
Signs Your Pet May Have Arthritis You know your pet better than anyone else, so it should be relatively obvious when they start acting differently. Be especially vigilant of the following behaviors in your dog:
- Difficulty standing from a sitting or lying position
- Stiffness or moving slowly
- Moving awkwardly
- Develops a limp or favors a leg
- Inability to jump or difficulty climbing stairs
- An aversion to being touched or picked up
- Swelling in the joints
- Changes in personality or mood
If you notice some of these symptoms in your pet, it may be time for a quick trip to the vet to uncover the cause of their discomfort. Your vet can help put together an all-encompassing plan that will combine exercise with diet and any medications and therapies that may help your dog recover. Now that you’ve done the prep work, use the following tips to keep your dog active and their joints healthy!
Limber Up Just like humans, our furry friends need a good warm up before they take on any sort of exercise. Kick off your pet’s workout with a quick walk or some gentle play to help them move easier and get their heart rate going. You’ll help reduce the risk of sprains, cramps and muscle injuries too. Getting started is often the hardest part, so motivate your pet with a little incentive! Treats, snuggles, etc.–whatever works for you! That unconditional love will be your greatest ally here.
Go Low-impact Now that your dog's muscles are warmed up, it’s time to get into the real workout. This doesn’t mean that you need to run your pet through a vigorous obstacle course - regular, light activity will do just fine! Walking is the easiest and most convenient exercise for you and your pet. Walks of just 15 to 30 minutes a day will keep their muscles strong and keep their ligaments and tendons flexible, while keeping blood-flow circulating to their stiff joints. Swimming is another great exercise for your pet, especially for dogs. Water will support much of their body weight and prevent them from jumping and turning quickly, like they would during a game of fetch. These movements can actually cause further damage to their joints, despite how much you know they love chasing that ball.
Don’t Overdo It Reminder: Take it easy! If you notice your pet panting heavily, appears to be in any kind of pain, or overly exerting themselves – stop the exercise! Pushing them can make the injury worse, especially if they haven’t been moving much lately. That’s why it’s paramount to ease them into your new plan. If you do notice signs of exertion or pain, reassess your plan with your veterinarian. Your dog might not be ready for the level of exercise you had in mind.
Remember to Cool Down Don’t get your dog all wound up to the point they are still running or jumping around, which we already mentioned can cause further harm. Make sure you help them cool down too! Help your pet gradually reduce their heart rate to help reduce the stiffness or soreness that may come from exercising. A good massage during the cool down will help remove those lactic acids, and will surely be greatly appreciated by your pet. Your older pet certainly looks peaceful sleeping the day away and may seem perfectly content, but some regular light exercise can extend their lives and keep them happier. Make sure you keep giving them that attention and love they deserve!