Rehabilitation Exercises for Dogs with Arthritis

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Dogs can develop osteoarthritis, which is the most prevalent form of the degenerative ailment that affects their joints. While there are numerous potential causes for a dog to acquire arthritis, age is by far the biggest risk factor. Recognizing genetic predisposition is particularly crucial because it might result from trauma. The primary sign of arthritis is joint swelling, which makes joints less functional and causes a variety of symptoms. An important symptom is pain. Since arthritis cannot be cured, controlling these symptoms is crucial to preserving the dog’s quality of life. Physical therapy may be helpful in this situation.

The advantages of physical therapy for dogs with arthritis are covered by AnimalWised.

Dog arthritis: 

signs and symptoms

The most glaring sign of aging in our pets is arthritis, a disorder marked by joint degradation. Our dog moving less is one of the first signs of this illness, a symptom that many owners neglect because they think it is normal. In reality, it is a general decline in physical condition brought on by aging, a process we should try to slow.

As the condition worsens, canine arthritis symptoms will become more specific. One reason we need to be alert for indicators of pain in dogs is because dogs are animals that are too skilled at disguising their suffering.

Your dog may cease following you around as frequently as they once did, and you may interpret this as a sign of boredom. They typically find it too tough to move around as before in reality. Even moving out of a laying position can be challenging.

Dogs appreciate physical activity and don’t get tired of it. Even though they will constantly go through times of inactivity, if they stop moving and using energy, there will be a cause for it.

Dogs with arthritis who become less active experience the following effects:

Deterioration of the muscles: Amyotrophy is the loss of muscle mass brought on by a reduction in physical activity.

Fibrosis, which develops when connective tissue invades the joints, is also frequently seen. Our dog frequently experiences pain and muscle contractures, which particularly affect the muscles in the neck and spine.

Deterioration of collagen and tendons is a result of arthritis, which causes them to gradually lose their structural and mechanical properties.

Joint Issue:

Arthritis causes a decrease in proteoglycan synthesis, demineralization-induced bone loss under the cartilage, cartilage erosion, and the emergence of osteophytes (abnormal bone protrusions that harm the joint). As a result, there is less joint flexibility, which results in ankylosis. The joint becomes stiffer and more immobile as movements are gradually stopped, which reduces its vascularity and speeds up degeneration.

Consequences in the bones include a decline in bone production and an uptick in bone resorption, which makes the bones more brittle.

Vascular repercussions include a reduction in the number of blood capillaries, a reduction in venous blood flow to the heart (venous stasis), and a reduction in lymphatic drainage (lymphatic stasis).

The neurological system is becoming weaker and less activated in the central nervous system. In the long run, this hypo-stimulation can result in a total paralysis of the muscles, a partial paralysis (paresis), and inhibition of nerve cells.

Weight gain is a secondary sign of arthritis because it causes a reduction in physical activity. The joints are put under increased stress as a result of weight gain.

Physical treatment of dog options for arthritis in dogs

Physical therapy, commonly referred to as physiotherapy, is a constantly evolving category of curative or proactive methods for enhancing a dog’s physiology. The action of water, motion, thermal agents (cold and heat), electricity, sound waves, and light are the main principles that underlie them. The majority of methods used with people have been modified for use with animals.

Although almost all dogs with arthritis require physical therapy, not all forms of treatment are the same. The kind of physical therapy needed for a specific dog will depend on a number of variables, including the severity, location, and kind of their arthritis. Additionally, some treatments are better than others. The effectiveness of various medicines is still being studied, thus research is very important.

Each situation is unique, and the kind of physical therapy a dog will require can only be determined by a veterinarian skilled in functional re-education. After inspecting our dog and determining which therapeutic exercises are best for them specifically, this will be decided.


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Physical treatment alternatives for dogs could include:


using cold to treat inflammation and pain.

Thermotherapy is the application of heat for its analgesic effects as well as for workout preparation.

Due to the buoyancy of the water and the water’s massaging effects on the dog’s muscles, hydrotherapy helps animals by reducing their weight on their joints. reduces pain during exercise, which enhances heart activity and muscle quality in the dog. 

Depending on the sort of massage, it either has a calming or a stimulating effect. helps to improve tissue drainage and blood flow. In addition, if the dog’s home is far from the veterinary clinic, our vet can teach us massage skills so that we can administer this physiotherapy method to our dog at home in brief sessions.


Using stretches, the veterinarian gently manipulates the dog’s joints. includes proprioception exercises as well as passive or active therapeutic mechanotherapy with balls, plates, trampolines, etc.


can be used to build more muscle or reduce pain (analgesic effect).


When used in ultrasound imaging, the deep tissues are massaged, warmed, and given analgesic benefits.

Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oedematous effects of laser therapy.

Shock waves: may cause tissues to become less fibrous.

It’s crucial that all the methods we use on our dog at home, on the advice of our veterinarian, are painless and non-traumatic. Jumping, vigorous activity, running on hard surfaces, climbing and descending stairs, and other physically demanding activities are not advised for dogs that have osteoarthritis. Instead, we ought to take our dog on brief walks and, if feasible, let him swim in the water.

Advantages of physical therapy for arthritis in dogs

Physiotherapy is a crucial treatment to combat arthritis in dogs. Arthritis is a degenerative condition. 

With the right attention, physical therapy can:

reduction in discomfort and, occasionally, medication use

maintain or even improve joint flexibility

preserving or regaining muscular mass

Encourage the nervous system and tissue vascularization

keeping the right weight

Boost cardiovascular health and fitness

physiotherapy as a form of preventative medicine



Starting at age 5, we can begin physiotherapy with our dog to get better outcomes and prevent problems like osteoarthritis from developing. For small dog breeds, this may not be necessary right away, but it is crucial for large dog breeds. After the pathology has been identified in dogs with hip dysplasia or osteoarticular issues, we must assure routine follow-up.

Additionally, we must keep in mind that our dog needs the appropriate amounts of physical activity. Although some dog breeds may be more prone to hyperactivity, each dog will require different amounts of exercise. Even excessive exercise has the potential to be detrimental.