It’s a fact of life. Just like with people, dogs age. They grow silver and white hair, they become stiff in the joints and slow in their steps, they experience pain, they get grumpy and cantankerous, and they may not be quite as upbeat and peppy as they once were.
They also experience degenerative health conditions such as arthritis. If you notice your dog losing muscle mass, struggling to regain their feet, licking their aching limbs excessively, or any visible lameness or limping, canine arthritis could be the culprit.
And just like people who suffer from arthritis, dogs who suffer from arthritis have to remain moderately active with regular daily exercise to keep joints from becoming even more stiff and painful. It’s a balancing act, because too much activity can make arthritis worse, but so can too little.
‘Just right’ however, keeps your canine strong and their blood circulating freely, bringing healing blood flow, oxygen, and increased range of motion to creaky joints and tissue.
Also, it’s important to note that obesity puts unnecessary stress on their joints, exacerbating any pain they may be suffering from. So keeping your pooch at a healthy weight can relieve symptoms of arthritis and significantly improve their quality of life.
That said, below are some simple exercises you can incorporate into your dog’s daily routine to help keep them nimble and feeling young.
Short daily walks are best, rather than long extended ones. Try 10-15 minutes at a time and observe how your dog responds. Just be careful not to overdo it. Let your dog be your barometer, and if they seem as though they are in pain afterwards, try a shorter walk next time.
Short hikes on flat terrain are gentle on aching joints. It’s also good to switch things up and try different routes and trails. The variety keeps your dog interested and engaged.
As with leash-walking around your local neighborhood, when hiking you should watch your dog carefully to make sure the exercise isn’t doing them more harm than good.
As with people, swimming is a great low-impact exercise for dogs. It utilizes their muscles in ways that walking and hiking can’t, while keeping their joints and bones free from stress. It also keeps them moving through their full range of motion.
If you don’t have a personal pool, try a nearby beach or local pool that is pet friendly. Sometimes local parks also have lakes you can take your pet swimming in, just be aware of dangerous wildlife. .
Some breeds absolutely love swimming and water play, so if your dog is one of them, they will not only reap the physical benefits, they will be full of joy too, and joy is the best anti-aging agent one can find.
Short-distance fetch is a great option for playtime. Try not to throw the ball or toy too far while playing. Take frequent breaks, and let them catch their breath.
Another great option is a gentle game of tug-of-war. Both activities keep your pet moving and use their muscles but are relatively easy to moderate so they don’t go overboard and suffer painful consequences.
If playing fetch outside isn’t feasible or ideal, you can play fetch with your dog inside. The limited play area will discourage your dog from getting too wound up and doing things like jumping to catch the toy, which could result in added stress on their joints.
Also try playing hide and seek with your pup. Hide their favorite toy, or teach them to use their nose to find their hidden treats.
Daily exercise is just as important for dogs as it is for people. And like people, dogs that are in pain don’t like to move around too much, at least not voluntarily. So it’s up to you to take the lead and get them up and moving on a regular basis to prevent them from putting on excess weight and compound their problem.
Remember to take it slow and easy, and monitor your dog for signs of pain or discomfort. Adjust your daily routine as necessary, and enjoy the quality time with your pet during their golden years.