Think your arthritic dog can’t enjoy some summer fun in the sun? Think again! In fact, there are several summer activities that can actually help your dog’s joint pain.
When it comes to exercising an arthritic dog, the key word to keep in mind is balance. Too much movement can cause them pain, while lack of activity can worsen their condition, causing joints to become even more achy and stiff. The right type of exercise will help keep your dog’s muscles strong and improve circulation, bringing healing blood flow, oxygen, and increased range of motion to those achy joints – while still keeping them safe and pain-free.
Do’s and Don’ts
Before we jump into our 5 summer activities to help your dog’s joint pain, let’s lay some ground rules for exercising arthritic dogs:
Do: Warm up and cool down
Don’t: Encourage running or jumping
Do: Watch for signs of discomfort, and stop the activity if needed
Don’t: Overdo it in length or intensity
Do: Provide plenty of water
Now without further ado, here are 5 of our favorite summer activities to help combat your dog’s joint pain that strike the perfect balance between too much activity and not enough:
Swimming is an arthritic dog’s dream – especially in the heat of summer. It’s low-impact, non-concussive, and non-weight bearing, meaning it allows your dog to enjoy all the benefits of movement and activity without putting stress on their joints and tendons. When submerged, the water takes on most of your dog’s weight, supporting their body and relieving their skeletal system from the stress of jarring impacts that can occur when exercising on land.
Furthermore, swimming gets dogs moving in a different way than they usually would on solid ground, which improves their range of motion. So take your pup for a dip in the ocean, dive into your local swimming hole, or have them join you in the family pool. Even if you are without an outdoor swimming spot or a backyard pool, many areas have swimming facilities exclusively for pets.
Getting your arthritic dog out and about in the fresh air of nature will not only help them physically, it will also work wonders for their state of mind. Dogs, just like humans, love variety and benefit from the stimuli of new places and experiences. So take your pup to a local nature preserve or park – just be sure to pick a trail that doesn’t have much of an incline. If it’s allowed, let your pup off-leash so they have the freedom to sniff as much as they like. If they start to run, however, put them back on-leash so you can control the pace. Running may cause them to overdo it, bringing more harm than good.
Walks Around the Neighborhood
This is an easy one that requires little or no planning on your part – just grab the leash and head out the front door. Your pup’s joints will benefit from the consistent low-impact activity of daily, leisurely walks, and they will love getting the daily news in the form of new smells and sights around their turf. So take advantage of those balmy summer nights with an after-dinner walk, or get out early in the morning before the heat really starts rising. Opt for a couple shorter walks throughout the day, instead of one long marathon walk.
Nothing says quintessential summer quite like playing a game of fetch with man’s best friend. You can still enjoy this beloved summer activity even if your best friend has some joint issues – with a few modifications. To help them get the benefit without any risk of injury during or discomfort afterwards, be sure to play fetch in a way that doesn’t encourage them to run or jump. Slowly roll or lightly bounce the ball just a short distance, and let them bring it back to you at a leisurely pace. It’s also great to choose a soft, padded surface, such as a patch of backyard grass or even indoors on a plush carpet.
Hitting the (Dog-Friendly) Beach
This one combines the benefit of low-impact, leisurely walking and potentially swimming as well. Most beaches are flat, so you won’t have to worry about them straining themselves on an incline. Be careful if your pup tends to get overexcited at the presence of other dogs – playing too much or too intensely could lead to overexertion. If this tends to be the case, try hitting the beach in the early morning or later in the evening when it won’t be as crowded – you may get the added bonus of watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
When we see that our beloved canine companions are in pain, watching them struggle to get up with stiff joints in the morning or declining to go upstairs, our instinct is often to let them rest and relax as much as they like. But in truth, non-activity only compounds their pain. So be an advocate for your dog’s health this summer and encourage these gentle, low-impact activities to get them moving in the right way. When you know how to strike the balance, you’re doing your furry friend a world of good.