How to Exercise a Dog With Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is an extremely painful joint condition that affects an estimated 2.5% of dogs under veterinary care. Exercise can provide many benefits if a dog owner facilitates it properly.

Pet owners often turn to natural home treatments to help manage their pet’s arthritis pain or natural plant extracts to help manage joint pain. More importantly, canine owners should consider visiting a veterinarian regularly.

What Is Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis pain results from inflamed and damaged joints. It hinders dogs’ movement and may make them inactive, so they don’t feel like walking or playing. When this happens, one’s dog may suffer:

  • Lameness
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite


Non-medical approaches such as exercise may help manage arthritis pain in dogs.

Exercising Dogs With Arthritis

Veterinary experts used to believe that dogs with arthritis should limit physical activity. They often prescribed “exercise restriction.”

However, recent research shows that, over time, this approach can lead to issues like stiff joints, muscle loss, and weight gain.

Studies reveal that dog exercise like walking and aerobics may help with weight loss and alleviate pain.

Here are some tips to help exercise dogs with arthritis effectively.


Always start with a warm-up. A dog with arthritis is always stiff when getting up. Help a dog loosen up with a short, low-impact walk.

A minute or two of walking and moving about can loosen its muscles and joints. Then, they can start to move a little faster.

Weigh the Weather

Considering the weather is always important when walking the dog, especially if a pet pooch has arthritis. Make some adjustments to “walkies” since it seems to worsen arthritis pain.

During cold weather:

  • Shorten dog walks during cold winter days. It is recommended that for temperatures above -6℃, medium to large dogs can walk for about half an hour. Smaller dogs can walk for about 20 minutes.
  • Try to schedule the walk during the day, preferably mid-morning or early afternoon.
  • Let the dog wear coats or jumpers to keep them warm during the walk.

During hot days:

  • It’s generally safe to take dogs for a walk in temperatures of up to 68F. Anything over 77℉ is considered dangerous. Even at 70℉, canine pals may be at risk of developing heatstroke.
  • Dogs can get dehydrated when the weather is very warm. Pack a water bowl and a bottle of fresh, cool water so that the dog can drink at regular intervals.

Ditch Fetch

Typically, playing fetch is a fun way to exercise dogs. When they develop osteoarthritis, however, this option is highly inadvisable.

Fetch requires quick acceleration and sudden stops, and twists and turns. These movements may cause unnecessary stress on a dog’s joints. This activity will only worsen the doggy’s condition and cause more pain.

New Exercise Routines

Sudden bursts of activities can add more stress and cause more injuries to a dog’s joints.

It’s best to maintain a program that dog owners can sustain every day rather than engage in extreme workouts during the weekends.

Low-Impact Exercises


This exercise is non-weight bearing. It will help increase the dog’s range of motion and build muscle mass.

Canine owners without a home swimming pool can check if some local dog-friendly therapeutic pools or parks offer water features for pets.

Leash Walking

Dog owners can walk their arthritic canine companions in their neighborhoods. A few short walks during the day would keep dogs moving.

This activity will help loosen up their muscles without stressing their joints.

Short Hikes

Find a trail and enjoy a walk with a dog while watching for signs of discomfort. A few short hikes would be a good start.

If a dog manifests a feeling of pain and discomfort, cut the walk short and return home.

Quick, Gentle Play

Many doggies with arthritis can still play tug of war in short periods. However, watch out for signs of any discomfort during and after playing with dogs.

Dogs with arthritis should avoid activities that include jumping and running. Jumping can cause too much stress on a dog’s joints and will worsen the pain.

Pain and discomfort after play suggest that the session was too long. Try to shorten it next time.

Massage After Exercise

When the exercise session is done, spend extra time letting the dog cool down or relax. Heating pads can calm the dog’s muscles.

Put a heating pad on the dog’s hips for a few minutes. The warmth will help soothe aching muscles after exercise.

Dog owners without heating pads can fill a bottle with warm water and use it as a substitute.

Giving dogs a quick massage also helps to relax them. If the dog resists a specific spot on the body, move on to something that feels good.

Remember that only a certified canine massage professional can administer deep tissue massage for injuries or pain relief.

If a dog’s joints appear inflamed after a massage, wrap the area with a cold towel to soothe pain and reduce inflammation. If pain persists, consult a veterinarian immediately.

Keep an Eye on Arthritic Dogs

Pet owners can use wireless security cameras to monitor the dog’s condition and review footage regularly. This way, they’ll know how a dog is acting when they’re not around.

When pet dogs are sick, it’s normal for their owners to be sad. Canines can sense this, as they seem to be able to read emotional expressions.

Dog owners should find ways to help boost their pet’s mood. Daily exercise of 30 minutes to 60 minutes and a bit of love will surely help a dog deal with the discomfort brought by arthritis.



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