Does your dog suffer from painful joint problems? As he stretches every bit of his leg to keep in tandem with your footsteps, you can most easily notice the pain in his eyes. Joint problems are almost too common in dogs these days - dogs anywhere between three to fifteen years can suffer from joint inflammation. However, a rather harmful myth that dog parents follow is the fact that dogs with joint problems need to stop exercising. 

Exercising, regardless of whether your dog has joint problems, is as essential to their well-being as nutrition. The only problem lies in what kind of exercises your dog is indulging in and for how long. 

Why is it important to exercise your dog with joint problems?

Better Mobility - Imagine a car that is left to rust with absolutely no use. Over time, the car has trouble starting and getting from place to place, right? It's the same with the animal body. The more it sits idle, the far more likely it is to stop working smoothly. Exercising a dog when they have joint problems is always beneficial, so long as you choose the right type of exercise and how long it has to be done for.

Lesser Pain - Activities like swimming, i.e. hydrotherapy, is known and appreciated around the world for their benefits in helping dogs with joint problems ease their pain. Since swimming is a no-impact exercise, it puts no pressure on a dog's joints and encourages movement without pain. 

Decreases chances of obesity - Obesity and joint problems are by far the worst combination of pain. When dogs with joint problems are exercised regularly, they have less of a chance of becoming obese.

Keeps body active: A body that is active has all organs working at their best as opposed to no exercise when organs work at a sluggish pace. 

Steer clear of destructive behaviour: Exercising encourages calmer behaviour because a dog has expended all of its energy through exercise. In addition to this, playing with interactive toys can help to beat boredom and stop destructive behaviour. 

What to do before exercising your dog?

To prevent aches and pains after exercises, it is best to have warm-up and cool-down sessions before and after exercise. Warming up and cooling down is especially important for your dog to look forward to exercising the next day.

Warm-up-Gently move certain joints like the hip and elbow through their full range of motion. This is from flexion (bending) to extension (releasing). You can choose to perform this exercise with your dog lying down or standing up. Repeat the motion ten to fifteen times prior to exercise. Since most exercises use the hip and elbow joints, you are most likely to use only these two for warming up.

Cool Down-Gently massage your dogs' joints after exercising. Massage helps the joints to relax and stay flexible until the next warm-up session. You can massage using slow, gentle, circular motions while compressing the muscles that what used. If your dog winces in pain, stop massaging immediately. Finish off by pressing along the length of the nerves to soothe that aggravated area. 

How to exercise a dog with joint problems?

Swimming is a no-impact activity and non-concussive activity. It allows your dog to enjoy exercising without putting stress or pressure on joints and tendons. This is because when underwater, the water bears most of your dog's weight and supports his/her body, thereby relieving their skeletal and muscular system from the jarring impact that could occur from exercising on land. In addition to this, swimming encourages movement of the whole body, i.e. all the muscles, as opposed to the unidirectional movement of muscles when a dog walks, runs, jogs, fetches etc. This multi-directional movement of muscles improves overall range of motion and is an excellent rehabilitation exercise for dogs with arthritis, hip dysplasia, joint inflammation, bone cancer, or neurological injury.

Slow, yet frequent walks
Walk your dog slowly for half an hour every three hours. Slow walks are a low impact exercise that can benefit a dog when done correctly. It would be best for your dog to walk on a soft surface like that of grass or wet mud as opposed to hard surfaces like tarred roads or slippery floors.

Obedience Training
Obedience training is a classic way of exercising a dog with joint problems. You can teach your dog commands that encourage moving his body in different directions for a short period of time, such as 'come', 'leave it. 'drop it', etc. Remember not to engage in unidirectional training exercises like sit, lay down, fetch etc.

Scent Work
Hide treats around your garden or inside your house in easily accessible yet challenging places like bookshelves, beneath the mud in pots, under the carpet, behind the sofa etc. Then ask your dog to 'go find' all the treats. This way, your dog is using all of his/her muscles, including those that work his/her brain, to find the treats. 

Do's and Don'ts of exercising a dog with joint problems

Always encourage low-impact exercises
Provide sufficient mental stimulation when not exercising
Use ramps in place of stairs 
Use an inflatable swimming pool to exercise your dog on days you cannot go out of the house.
Always remember to visit your veterinarian as per schedule. 
Keep their exercise routine similar every day - you can change places you walk, but not the entire exercise itself.

Don't let your dog run, jump, or jog for a long-distance or a long time
Do not encourage playing outdoors during cold weather
Do not change their exercise routine
Do not administer medication for pain after exercise without consulting your veterinarian.

Finding the right type of exercise and then sticking to a strict exercise routine alongside adequate nutrition can help alleviate symptoms of joint inflammation by a large proportion. This, in turn, can help your dog live a longer, happier, pain-free life!