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weight loss diet
overweight dogs
excessive exercise
moderate exercise
extra pressure
middle age
losing weight
Arthritis And Exercise Dogs
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Arthritis And Exercise Dogs

Part of my dog’s weight loss regime is regular exercise. His weight was never a problem in his early years, but as he moved into middle age, he became more “measured” in his approach to exercise. Fewer calories burned, with the same amount of food, meant the weight piled on. When he started the weight loss diet, the vet urged us to increase his physical activity. This we did gradually over a period of time to a point where he was getting two walks a day, each of approximately 2 miles in distance.

Everything was going to plan. The dog was losing weight and appeared much fitter and healthier. Then arthritis appeared on the scene. Arthritis is a disease of the joints. It is more prevalent in older dogs, and it is worse for overweight dogs because of the extra pressure on joints. While exercise is encouraged for arthritic dogs, owners need to be careful that joints are not damaged further by excessive physical activity.

My Labrador had few outward signs of the condition. The only change was a sudden reluctance to go out for walks. I took him to the vet for a check-up and was told he had developed arthritis. Medication was prescribed and the vet advised moderate exercise and warned against "over doing it". So what is the difference between moderate and excessive exercise?

Excessive exercise - Too much physical activity could result in lameness or tiredness to the extent where the dog is not interested in food or attention. The effects of over exercising may not be seen until one or two days after the event, when extreme siffness in the joints will be noticable. If the dog is unwilling to go for a walk then that's a sign they are unable to cope.

Moderate exercise - Dogs with arthritis will benefit from moderate exercise. But what does moderate exercise actually mean? This is sometimes better illustrated by explaining what dogs with arthritis should not do:

• No jumping up or down steep heights or gradients – if I throw a ball into the air my dog will launch himself off the ground in order to catch it. This is no longer allowed. We can play fetch, but only by rolling the ball for short distances along the ground. Jumping in and out of our SUV has also been banned.

• Standing on back legs should be discouraged – not something I need to worry about being the owner of a Labrador, but many smaller dogs excel at this type of exercise

• Too many walks of an excessive length i.e. more than 2 miles

Our vet helped us put together a physical exercise program to help with the arthritis which also supported his weight loss progress. These are some of the outdoor exercises that were recommended:

Outdoor exercise

• Mild running/jogging for short spurts

• Lots of short walks of between 10 – 15 minutes per day

• Swimming –Labradors like to swim so this exercise was not difficult to achieve. We are also lucky in the presence of numerous lakes and ponds in our local area. Swimming is so beneficial to dogs with this condition simply because the exercise is non-weight bearing on the joints.

• Walking on a long leash to restrict the level of exercise.

There are also moderate exercises which can be used in the home.

Home exercises

• Climbing the stairs - because this is low impact exercise.

• Playing with toys – games such as hide and seek and fetch to be played for 20 minutes daily

At the moment we are coping with the arthritis but the condition is degenerative. It will get worse as the dog gets older and thankfully our local vet has just invested heavily in a hydrotherapy pool. It’s good to know that when walking becomes too uncomfortable for him, hydrotherapy sessions will help to maintain his muscles and reduce swelling in painful joints.

What is Hydrotherapy for dogs?

The term hydrotherapy actually means “water healing”. Just like swimming in a local lake, the dog’s weight is supported by the water and is particularly useful when dogs have chronic arthritis because it allows them to move their joints easily. The big advantage hydrotherapy has over swimming outdoors is that the water temperature is kept constantly warm. This aids blood circulation to the joints which helps treat swelling and inflammation. Dogs wear life jackets so even if they are unable to swim they can take advantage of this treatment. Nurses are on hand all the time to monitor the dogs when in the pool.

We have had to take the advice about exercise seriously because if our pet becomes more sedentary as a result of the arthritis, then his weight is likely to increase again. This becomes a vicious circle because the more overweight a dog becomes the more it will suffer from arthritis. Keeping them moving is the right thing to do. Any moderate exercise is permissible, as long as it makes them move!

Yes arthritis is painful, but given the right treatment and exercise the dog can still have a healthy and happy life. In our case the medication and supplements prescribed for the dog have certainly made him “perk up”. He is back to his old self. The amount of exercise is about the same as it was before the condition, it’s just delivered in a different way now. So far, the change in his exercise program has had no detrimental effect on his weight loss. Long may this continue.

Street Talk

Hi Janice I just passed by to say that I like your article and to wish you well in all what you are doing in the internet. Thank you very much

  about 9 years ago

Great Job

  about 9 years ago

Thanks Frank. Have been enjoying your articles too.

  about 9 years ago
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