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Best types of exercise for dogs with osteoarthritis

If your dog has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis it’s natural to feel concerned about how you will maintain their long term quality of life, whilst keeping them as comfortable as possible.  Understandably dogs who live with this condition often become less inclined to exercise as moving can be difficult,  but exercise can be a wonderful and natural pain reliever for them.   It’s just about making a few small adjustments so that you can create an active lifestyle that works for them.

Step 1 – consult your vet

Before making any changes to your dog’s lifestyle it is always best to chat to your vet first, as what your dog is able to do will depend on where the osteoarthritis is located and how severe it is.  They will be able to talk through all the options available to you and give guidance on the type and frequency of activity that could benefit them.

Step 2 – maintain a healthy weight

One of the most effective ways to manage the symptoms of osteoarthritis is by keeping your dog at their ideal weight, as being overweight can add extra pressure on their joints and decrease their mobility.  If you aren’t sure if your dog is a healthy weight it’s easy to check, and with the PitPat app you will be able to keep track of it and spot any major changes.

Step 3 – getting moving

The key to getting your dog up and about is to start slowly.  The majority of dogs with this condition will be quite stiff with a limited range of motion when they first get up, so you don’t want to jump right into any activity.  Instead it can be a good idea to begin with a low intensity walk to get the blood moving around their joints.

Once they are warm you can start to introduce some gentle exercise.  Your vet should be able to talk to you about how much exercise they need, and it might be a good idea to consider using an activity tracker like PitPat, as you can set a tailored exercise goal and make sure you aren’t overdoing things.

Border Collie in garden looking to the side

The best types of exercise for osteoarthritis are activities that are low impact such as leash walking, short hikes or swimming.  These types of activity will help build muscle mass around the joints making them more stable, and have the added benefit of helping to alleviate pain too.  But try not to do too much at once as shorter, more frequent sessions will be much more beneficial, and avoid any activity that involves running or jumping.

This doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with your dog, and gentle play sessions are a great way to do this. Play engages them mentally as well as physically and is a wonderful way for you both to spend time together.  And whilst fetch outside may no longer be an option, fetch indoors on a soft surface like a carpet could be.  Just remember to roll or gently bounce the ball so that your dog doesn’t need to jump up to fetch it.

Step 4 – cool down

After a period of exercise it is really important that you give your dog some time to cool down.  This will help the muscles and the joints to relax and prevent soreness the next day.  Try applying some warmth in the form of a blanket or heat pad, just make sure that it isn’t too hot before using it.  You could even ask your vet to show you how to give them a gentle doggy massage as this is a soothing way to help with their circulation.

It might take some time and experimenting to discover the amount and type of exercise that is going to be best for your dog,  but the good news is that there are still lots of ways you can have new adventures together.

For insights into how your dog is doing, use PitPat to track your dog’s activity on a daily basis as this will help you keep their exercise at the best level for them.

The PitPat app also records a holistic view of their daily movement including resting and pottering, which will help you build a clear picture of how their condition is affecting their mobility.  This information can then easily be communicated to your vet to provide additional data to assist with their recommendations for your pet.

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