This is so true when we see dogs with arthritis.
So strange that this degenerative joint condition is eased by the one thing it inhibits – movement! Regular movement helps manage muscular and joint pain. It keeps muscles and joints flexible.
We see this happen in both dogs and humans alike.
Do your dog’s joints stiffen up after she has been lying down for too long? But once she gets moving, they loosen up?
You see our spines have joints that contain a fluid called synovial fluid. The role of the synovial fluid is to lubricate and reduce friction between joints during movement. The movement encourages the circulation of this synovial fluid.
Have you heard that the popping or cracking sound that can sometimes be heard during a chiropractic manipulation? Di you know it’s actually made by the release of gases from this synovial fluid?
A few important points to remember when exercising a dog with joint and muscular issues:
Determine the right activity AND level of activity.
The choice of activity will depend on the age of the dog and the severity of the issue. A vet physiotherapist will be able to assess your dog’s condition and determine the most appropriate type of movement for him.
Stretch and move
Always remember the importance of stretching and moving. Your dog’s soft tissues – ligaments, tendons, muscles – will shorten and tighten if not moved through their full range regularly.
When sore muscles are moved they will initially feel uncomfortable but this discomfort will subside as you continue with safe passive stretches.
WHOA! We’re NOT not recommending OVER-activity either!
For dogs with muscular and orthopaedic issues, the key is low-impact, short and frequent exercise. Keep exercise activities between 15 and 30 minutes long.
Learn how to strengthen and stabilize joints.
The more stable a joint has, the stronger it is. Providing a good joint supplement which helps to stabilise joints is a must! Sashas Blend does just this through bolstering the production of synovial fluid (motion lotion) inside the joint!
A canine rehab specialist or certified fitness and conditioning specialist can teach you exercises to build the muscles around the joint safely.
So, how should you exercise your arthritic dog?
Fake news: a diagnosis of arthritis (or almost any other joint issue) means that you need to slow down activities for your dog to preserve his or her joints from further damage.
Keeping your dog still is worse for its body than activity.
Controlled exercise is key! It keeps your dog stretching, moving and circulating blood to all his stiff joints. This is important for maintaining strength and flexibility.
Follow a daily exercise routine or programme.
Remember: The key is low impact, short and frequent. Do NOT over-exercise.
If arthritis is caused by obesity, daily, low impact exercises can make a really big difference.
They allow the dog to lose weight, strengthen muscles, and get fitter without risking damage to their joints.
Do not allow for long periods of inactivity either.
This will give your dog’s muscles have an opportunity to stiffen.
Keep an eye for signs of exertion
Heavy panting, pain or other signs of overexertion. Stop the activity immediately. Pushing forward can cause injury, especially if your pet isn’t accustomed to a lot of activity.
Some examples of low impact, light exercises
Walking (keep it controlled), swimming, use of conditioning equipment.
Keep exercises short — 15-30 minutes of activities daily is a good start. Swimming is especially great for dogs with arthritis because the water supports much of the body weight and inhibits sudden excessive movements. Use a floatation jacket to help with jerky leg movements and early exhaustion.
Warm up and cool down
A minute or two of slow walking before initiating low-impact exercise activities will help arthritic dogs move easier. Warmups are important before the commencement of any activity with your dogs.
Cooling down is just as important as warming up especially if your dog has been quite active and has a quick heart rate.
Cooling down reduces stiffness and soreness by assisting the removal of lactic acids in the body.
You can give your dog massage (such as effleurage – repeated circular stroking movement) during “cooldowns”. Gradually reduce their heart rate to a normal resting rate.
Why too much crate rest is a bad idea
For decades, vets have prescribed extended crate rest for post-surgery and injury treatment.
It is now well established that Immobility is detrimental to muscles and joints.
The most obvious effects of long periods of immobility can be seen in the musculoskeletal system – muscle atrophy (wasting away), loss of muscle strength and weakening of the joints.
Muscles shorten and lose their full range of movement when they are immobilised. A rehabilitation programme of postoperative exercises can prevent these issues.
So, there is indeed magic in movement!
Always consult your vet physio or rehab therapist before beginning any new exercises to ensure your dog is medically and physically fit enough to partake in such activities.
~ Jackie Crawford of Canine Muscle Works, Australia
Cert. Animal Neuro-Myofascial Release
Cert. Veterinary Thermal Imaging
Cert. Canine Myofunctional Therapy
Cert. Emmett Therapy
Cert. Rocktape Canine Equine course