Study reveals specific exercise that may help relieve stiffness and pain in dogs with arthritis. Best of all, you can do it just about anywhere.

Just like people, dogs can suffer from arthritis too. In fact, arthritis affects 1 in 5 adult dogs in the U.S., and all dogs have a 65% likelihood of developing arthritis between the ages of seven and eleven years of age. Factors such as changes that occur with aging, joint injuries, repetitive activity, and genetics all influence whether or not a dog will get arthritis and the degree to which he or she will feel its discomfort.

Woof Report has written about how to prevent and identify sore joints in your pup, and has also explained the many treatment options available from natural remedies to prescription medications (see the links below to read these past tips). And now there’s a new development, easy exercises that show specific therapeutic value in easing discomfort in dogs with arthritis.

Study Offers Helpful Advice

In a study published in the July 2010 issue of the American Journal of Veterinary Research, researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, discovered that walking uphill or over low obstacles may help relieve the stiffness and pain in dogs with arthritis.

Researchers used a specially designed treadmill and computer algorithms to examine dogs as they performed three types of exercises: walking uphill, walking downhill and walking over low obstacles. The movements of the dogs’ joints in the front and back legs were examined and showed the three exercises had different effects on the joints, and specific benefits.

Improving Flexibility

While walking downhill does not appear to have much therapeutic benefit, walking uphill and over low obstacles were beneficial in improving flexibility of the affected joints.  According to the study, walking over low obstacles “significantly increased flexion of the elbow, carpal, stifle (knee), and tarsal joints and extension in the carpal and stifle (knee) joints, and walking uphill walking caused increased hip joint flexion and decreased stifle (knee) joint flexion.”

What’s particularly interesting about the study is that physical therapy is commonly prescribed for arthritis in both people and dogs, typically in conjunction with medication; however, there has been limited testing on its effectiveness for dogs – until now.

Testimonies Say it Works!

“These types of exercise are often recommended to improve the flexibility of joints in arthritic dogs,” said Barbara Bockstahler at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. “Nobody has yet taken the trouble to test whether they work but we are happy to report that they are of real benefit to the animals.”

The researchers added that the neither walking uphill nor walking over obstacles require expensive or special equipment and the exercises are simple to do, both for the dog and owner. In addition, they noted that dogs that have recently undergone surgery to the tibia should probably avoid walking over obstacles since that could potentially strain the tendon that joins the knee to the shin.


The Scoop:

Read about identifying and preventing canine arthritis.

Read about treatments and products to boost arthritis relief and improve your dog’s well-being.

Read abstract about this study from the American Journal of Veterinary Medicine

Originally published September 2010; reviewed and updated September 2016.