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Big Dogs: Big Problems - Caution on the Exercise Front
Last review: 08/12/10  JR Rogers

In the past, we have talked about certain breeds of dogs that are prone to developing arthritis problems. Generally speaking, it is the larger breeds that are more prone. Of course, arthritis does not discriminate. It can strike a small breed dog just as quickly as one of those larger breeds that tend to have problems.

Age and Other Factors

If you read this column regularly, you should all know by now that lifestyle changes for your pet can make a huge difference. Keeping weight down to avoid stress on arthritic joints, diet, and exercise all make a difference.

You also have to understand that those large breed dogs are not going to necessarily develop arthritis. As a mean age for those in high-risk categories, it is about age seven or sooner. However, watching for symptoms and signs early on can certainly put you on notice that something is not right. It goes without saying that these are things that you should always be looking for: a little lameness, a tendency to favor a certain joint, and any other overt signs of discomfort.

The Exercise Component

If you are being a responsible pet owner and take the advice that we have been giving you, it is possible to get things under control before your pet is really suffering. What can make a difference is the use of a high-quality liquid glucosamine; a diet consisting of at least some raw vegetables; and moderate exercise.

The Hip

This is likely the area where the greatest risk lies and particularly for larger breed dogs. Hip dysplasia, as we have discussed, is painful and debilitating. When you are beginning to get the exercise side of things working correctly, even this condition is manageable.

What Not To Do

I hear from owners of larger breed dogs on a regular basis. Most would agree that taking the steps outlined has changed their pet's lives. However, one area that always should be of concern is "how" you are exercising your arthritic dog.

The most "stressful" activities from an exercise standpoint are not recommended. If you are taking Fido down to the local park and tossing balls for him to "fetch," you are likely causing more damage to injured joints. Common sense should tell you that rapid movements and putting this additional stress on joints cannot be a good thing for a pet with arthritis. They will play until they drop so this is an area that requires a lot of attention.

I have often recommended swimming as the better alternative. Just as it is for humans, swimming is low-impact aerobic exercise that works to strengthen the muscles around injured joints and it assists in maintaining a more stable joint.

The issue is that most dogs affected by arthritis will respond quickly to the use of high-quality liquid glucosamine. Of course, then they "think" that since their pain has decreased, they can do much more than they really should be doing.

Stay with sensible exercise programs. If you do not, your pet is going to pay the price one way or another. In most cases, you will be able to tell when you have pushed too hard on this side of rehabilitating your arthritic pet. Generally, they will start to show you signs of fatigue and even begin to show you renewed lameness.

Watch also for signs that their appetite is not quite normal. That is often a signal that they are experiencing some pain and discomfort. The bottom line is that you have to be prudent in approaching the exercise angle and keep an eye open for signs of trouble.