What Are the Best Low-impact Exercises for a Dog with Arthritis?

April 17, 2024

Arthritis is a common ailment among dogs, particularly those in their golden years. This condition causes the dog’s joints to become inflamed, causing pain and reducing mobility. If your pets suffer from arthritis, it’s imperative that they maintain a healthy weight and continue to move their joints to reduce pain levels. This is where low-impact exercises come into play. When done correctly, these activities can help keep your pet’s joints healthy without causing excess strain or pain.

Understanding Canine Arthritis

Let’s begin by understanding what arthritis in dogs entails. Arthritis can impact any dog, but it is particularly prevalent among older and overweight dogs. This condition results in inflammation and pain in the joints, and can significantly affect a dog’s quality of life.

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While there’s no cure for arthritis, it can be managed effectively with the right care. Exercise is vital to keep the joints mobile and to manage a healthy weight. However, it’s important to note that not all exercises are suitable for dogs with arthritis. High-impact activities can cause more harm than good, leading to increased pain and potential joint damage.

Low-impact exercises are the key to maintaining your dog’s joint health and overall wellbeing. These activities put minimum stress on the joints and help to enhance mobility and strength. They also lessen the risk of injury, making them safe for arthritic dogs.

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The Importance of Regular Exercise for Dogs with Arthritis

While it may seem counterintuitive to exercise a dog with joint pain, regular, gentle activity is crucial for managing arthritis. A sedentary lifestyle can worsen joint stiffness and pain, leading to loss of muscle mass and even more difficulty moving.

Opting for low-impact exercises can help your pet stay active without putting extra pressure on their already painful joints. Regular activity can also help manage your pet’s weight, a significant factor in arthritis. An overweight dog will place more strain on its joints, leading to increased pain and further deterioration of the joint tissues.

Engaging your pet in regular low-impact exercises can help keep their muscles strong, maintain their flexibility, increase their range of motion, and importantly, improve their overall quality of life.

Tailoring Exercises to Your Pet’s Needs

Just like humans, every dog is unique. What works best for one dog may not be suitable for another. Therefore, it’s essential to tailor the exercises to your pet’s specific needs. Factors to consider include your dog’s age, breed, current weight, and the severity of their arthritis.

Consulting with your vet is an invaluable step in determining the most suitable exercises for your dog. They can assess your pet’s health and provide detailed guidance on the type and amount of exercise that would be most beneficial.

Recommended Low-Impact Exercises for Dogs with Arthritis

There are several low-impact exercises that have been proven to help dogs with arthritis. These exercises can be easily incorporated into your dog’s routine, providing them with the necessary activity while minimizing the risk of causing additional pain.


Swimming is often top on the list for low-impact exercises for dogs with arthritis. The buoyancy of the water supports the dog’s weight, reducing the impact on the joints. Swimming also provides a full-body workout, helping to strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular health. Ensure the water is warm as cold water can exacerbate arthritis pain.


A simple walk can be very beneficial for dogs with arthritis. It’s a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on the joints. Keep the walks short and at a leisurely pace. Be sure to avoid rough terrains that could cause strain or injury.


Under the guidance of a trained professional, physiotherapy can be an effective way to manage arthritis in dogs. These exercises are designed to enhance flexibility, strength, and range of motion.

Diet and Weight Management

While exercise is crucial for managing arthritis in dogs, it’s also important to pay attention to their diet and weight. Carrying excess weight puts more pressure on a dog’s joints, worsening arthritis symptoms.

Working with your vet, develop a balanced diet plan and portion control measures to help your pet maintain a healthy weight. This, combined with regular exercise, can help manage arthritis symptoms and improve your pet’s quality of life.

Gentle Playtime: A Key Exercise for Arthritic Dogs

A crucial part of any dog’s day is playtime, and for dogs suffering from arthritis, this is no exception. Gentle play can serve as a therapeutic and enjoyable form of exercise. It’s very important to note that the intensity of play should be carefully monitored to avoid causing discomfort.

Playing fetch with a soft toy, for instance, encourages movement without the high-impact jumping or running often involved in this game. Alternatively, you could engage your dog in a game of hide and seek. This involves lower levels of running but still encourages movement, helping to improve joint mobility and range of motion.

Tug-of-war, a favorite game for many dogs, can be adapted for dogs with arthritis. Instead of tugging hard, encourage your dog to hold onto the toy and pull gently. This can help to strengthen their jaw muscles without stressing their joints.

As always, it’s essential when engaging an arthritic dog in play to observe their reactions closely. If they show any signs of pain or discomfort, it’s time to stop. Always remember, the goal is to provide a low-impact activity that helps maintain your dog’s joint health and quality of life, not to cause additional discomfort.

Massage and Stretching: Complementary Therapies for a Dog with Arthritis

There’s more to managing canine arthritis than just low-impact exercises. Complementary therapies such as massage and stretching can play a significant role in improving your dog’s quality of life. Not only do they help improve joint mobility, but they also provide an opportunity for you to connect with your dog on a deeper level.

Massage can help to increase blood flow to your pet’s joints, reducing inflammation and aiding in pain relief. It also helps to relax your pet and reduce anxiety, which can be beneficial for dogs dealing with the discomfort of arthritis. Always remember to massage gently and focus on areas that your dog enjoys having touched.

Similarly, stretching exercises can be beneficial for arthritic dogs. These exercises help to maintain and improve the range of motion in your dog’s joints. They also help to strengthen the muscles around the joints, providing further support and reducing the likelihood of injury.

Always consult with your veterinarian before starting your dog on a massage or stretching routine. They can guide you on the correct techniques to use and areas to focus on to maximize the benefits for your arthritic dog.


Arthritis in dogs is a challenging condition, but with the right care and attention, your pet can continue to live a happy, fulfilling life. Low-impact exercises, combined with weight management and a balanced diet, can play a pivotal part in managing arthritis symptoms and improving your dog’s overall wellbeing.

Regular exercise helps to keep your dog’s joints mobile, maintain muscle strength, and manage weight – all of which are essential for dogs with arthritis. However, it’s vital to tailor these exercises to your dog’s specific needs and always monitor their reactions to avoid causing additional discomfort.

Complementary therapies such as massage and stretching can also provide significant benefits. Always remember to consult with your veterinarian before starting any new exercise or therapy regimen.

Ultimately, managing arthritis in dogs requires a multi-faceted approach. With the right care, your arthritic dog can maintain a good quality of life and continue to bring you joy and companionship for years to come.