Activities For Dogs With Osteoarthritis

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Introduction

You've enjoyed many years with your dog, but as time has passed, his joints have become more and more stiff. The joints may also become inflamed. Running and playing, particularly on chilly days or before a rain, is becoming more and more difficult. Furthermore, walking may even be an issue. Some dogs are more prone to developing osteoarthritis. Large breeds such as the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Great Dane are much more prone to developing osteoarthritis compared to other dog breeds. However, do not allow your dog to become inactive; this is worse for an arthritic dog than encouraging exercise. Some adjustments might need to be made in order to help your dog exercise in comfort, but it is well worth it and can actually help your dog feel better in the long run.

Short Distance Fetch

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
20 Minutes
Items needed
tennis ball
Activity description
Gentle play will give your dog the opportunity to exercise, positively manipulate the joints, and ward off obesity (which can worsen the effects of osteoarthritis). With short-distance fetch, you won't need to incorporate training into the exercise, so steps you would need to teach a young dog how to play fetch are not necessary. You'll need to gently toss the tennis ball, and you'll need to ensure that you toss the ball only a short distance. It might be good for your dog to simply trot to the ball. Depending on your dog's comfort level, he may run to the ball and run back. The key is not to push your dog to run and jump, as those activities are hard on the joints.
Step
1
Show and toss the ball
Show the ball to your dog. As he is older, you won't need to incorporate training into the steps of this activity. Gently toss the ball a short distance. Aim for six to eight feet, depending on the size of your dog. Encourage him to retrieve the ball. You are most familiar with what your dog is comfortable doing; he may walk to the ball, or he may trot. If he's feeling well, he may run to the ball. Just keep the distance to the ball short. When he returns the ball to you, shower him with praise or give him a treat.
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Hide and Seek

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
30 Minutes
Items needed
kibble
pillows or blankets
Activity description
Hide and seek is a great scenting game for any dog. Larger dogs that are programmed to hunt down their "prey" will enjoy playing hide and seek. Some owners will teach this game to their dog when he is a young pup. However, the steps will be included in this game just in case your dog is unfamiliar with this form of gentle play. Remember, it IS possible to teach an old dog new tricks! The first time you place kibble under pillows or blankets, start by removing the dog from the area. You will need to bring him to the hidden spaces and show him where the food is hidden. Praise him as he finds the kibble. Soon, he will understand that you want him to dig into the pillow or blanket pile and find the sweet treat beneath.
Step
1
Teach the game
Remove your dog from the room as you hide the treats. Once you have built the hidden piles with a few pillows or maybe your dog's favorite blanket on top, then bring your dog back into the room. Say, "Find it!" The first time you do so, you may need to lift the pillow and show him the kibble underneath. Practice this until you can command him to find the food and he does so successfully.
Step
2
Play as necessary
Once your dog gets the hang of the game, swap hiding spots. Always keep him out of the room while you build the hiding spots. Once you bring him into the room and command him to find the kibble, his nose should take over and guide him to the hidden kibble.
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Warm up and Cool Down

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Any Day
Free
Easy
10 Minutes
Items needed
treats
Activity description
Once your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with osteoarthritis, you should always incorporate a warm up and cool down into any exercise you do with your dog. This will help in reducing strains, sprains, and other possible injuries. To warm up, you can play a game of Gentle Go Fetch as described above. You can also do something as simple as having your pet walk slowly in order to help loosen the already stiff joints. Once the exercise activity is completed, you will need to help your dog to cool down. You may have him walk at a slow pace for a minute, and some vets recommend a gentle massage, which will help the dog to not only calm down but to settle back into a resting and relaxed mode of behavior.
Step
1
Warm up
The easiest way to warm up your dog prior to another activity is to simply have him walk alongside you at a slow pace. Warm-ups should only take a minute or two. This will depend upon the age of your dog and the severity of his arthritic pain. Once your dog is moving normally, he is ready for the next level of exercise.
Step
2
Cool down
After the activity is over, your dog may be somewhat hyper. After all, even though he's experiencing swollen and inflamed joints, he still enjoys playing with his family. However, with osteoarthritis, your dog can actually injure himself if you allow him to overdo it. Have your dog heel beside you. Once he is calm, have him walk at the same pace as the warm up. You might even ask him to lie down so that you can give him a gentle massage. The goal is to keep him calm after exercise so that he is not injured.
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More Fun Ideas...

Swimming

Just as humans suffering from osteoarthritis are encouraged to participate in swimming as a low-impact activity, dogs can also benefit from a good swim. Make sure the area is suitable for your pet (whether pool or open water) before allowing him to swim.

Walking at a Medium Pace

As your dog ages, his arthritis may worsen. Remember that any activity is good for your dog, even if a slow walk is the only exercise you feel comfortable asking your dog to do. Work with your dog to gauge the proper pace for him.

Conclusion

If you notice your older dog having trouble getting up from a prone position, it is always a good idea to have a vet check-up just to confirm diagnosis of osteoarthritis. However, do not worry that your dog has to curtail all his activities! You will merely need to adjust his types of activities. Get him outdoors and walk at a regular pace (not too fast or too slow). Take him swimming if you have a pool or there are facilities near you that allow for this activity. Play gentle games with him that promote activity and calorie burning. Remember, arthritic dogs are often prone to obesity, but that condition will only add to your dog's pain. Keeping him active will allow him to live a happy, long life.