Should I Exercise My Pet With Arthritis?

If your pet has arthritis it does not necessarily mean that they no longer require exercise. In fact, staying active can actually help your pet manage the symptoms of arthritis.

Your Veterinarian can help you design an arthritis management program for your pet that will address his individual needs.  With the right combination of medication, supplements, diet and exercise your pet can continue to lead an active happy life.

Tips for keeping your dog active:

  • Light exercise such as walking or swimming will help strengthen muscles, keep ligaments and tendons flexible and increase blood circulation to joints.
  • 30 minutes of exercise per day is recommended. Even if it is separated into numerous small walks a day. Those minutes all count.
  • In the warm summer months, swimming is a great exercise that keeps weight and pressure off of those sore joints and prevents sudden movements.
  • Give your dog a few minutes of slow walking warm up to start moving easier.  Remember to keep the exercise to low impact activities.
  • Cool downs are also important for them after a walk. When you are close to the end of your walk slow your pace just a bit. Give her heart rate time to slow down and get those muscles to slowly relax again.
  •  Did you know massage can also help with stiffness and muscle pain that can be associated with arthritis? There are many massage techniques that can help your pet feel better, increase circulation and alleviate soreness.
  • Acupuncture is also an alternative therapy that can be helpful.  At Mission Ridge Animal Hospital, we have Dr. Wilson who provides this treatment.  Please call with any questions you may have.

Caution signs:

Be careful not to over exert your pet. Excessive panting, unusual gait or limping are signs to stop exercising and consult your Veterinarian. Over exertion can harm and injure your pet so be sure to stick to the program your Veterinarian provided.

What about my cat?

Cats can also get arthritis and exercise is also important for them too though it can be more of a challenge.

  • Entice them to play on the ground with a toy.
  • Purchase a harness for your cat. They are available at most pet stores and it is a great way to safely take your cat in your yard for a supervised short walk.
  • Place his food and water dishes in a separate area in the house away from their kitty litter box. This will encourage him to walk a little further.
  • Swimming, unfortunately, may not be appealing to most cats.
  • Avoid toys or games that encourage jumping which can be harmful to arthritic joints.
  • You can also try massage techniques on your cat. Ask your Veterinarian to show you how.

Along with eating a well-balanced diet and keeping a healthy weight, exercise can be an important part of managing your pets’ arthritis. With a program approved by your Veterinarian and frequent monitoring, your pet can lead a long happy life despite having arthritis.

It is also a great way to keep ourselves active….by ensuring our pets get their exercise… we get ours too!

Written by Debra Briton, RVT