Helping Dogs with Joint Problems
Even dogs that have joint issues, like arthritis or dysplasia, need exercise. But when joints are stiff or raw or achy, then moving too much may be the last thing she wants to do. Still, gentle exercise is helpful to even this dog:
- The activity itself may provide the dog a little distraction from the pain.
- Regular exercise keeps joints moving and limber, prevent them from getting even stiffer
- Exercise strengthens muscles, and in turn, stronger muscles brace the joint better which puts less stress on joints.
One way to gently workout your dog with joint issues is with a canine balance ball.
Getting on the (Balance) Ball
A canine balance ball – you might also see it called a stability ball, exercise ball, physioballs or theraballs – is a soft, flexible, air-filled ball that is just big enough for your dog to stand on. They come in many shapes and sizes to accommodate different dog sizes, are made of a material resistant to tearing from dog’s nails and are shaped so to prevent them from moving while the dog is on it.
At the simplest level, balance ball exercises work like this:
- The dog stands with front paws on the ball while you hold him steady.
- Because the ball is flexible and filled with air, it will shift when your dog puts his weight on the ball.
- Your dog will try to maintain his balance. In doing so, he is working out several different muscle groups in order to stay up.
Just that simple act of maintaining balance is a workout! There are many exercises your dog can do with a balance ball to help strengthen different parts of the body: hips, back, legs, knees, core, etc. But with a balance ball, the exercises are practically no-impact. Many dogs that are resistant to walking, accept doing exercises with a balance ball (once they get used to this weird new thing)!
Your dog doesn’t need to spend a lot of time on this, especially at first. Twenty seconds might be all your dog needs to start out. But as her muscles and balance grow stronger, you can extend your exercise time, change the inflation, or gently jiggle the ball for more challenge.
Balance balls are great for healthy dogs too. Balance balls help strengthen muscles, fine-time balance, and improve body-sense, especially for competitive dogs.
All dogs need exercise for a healthy and happy quality of life and there are many tools out there that can work for dogs and owners in all types of situations. If you think a balance ball might be the tool to use with your dog, have a talk with your veterinarian or a veterinary physical therapist to find the best exercises for your dog’s condition.