Can You Give Your Dog Arthritis?
Can you give your dog arthritis?
Yes, absolutely you can exercise your dog to the point (when he is young and still growing) that it will cause arthritis and pain later in his life.
But it isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Degenerative Joint Disease and arthritis can also be a genetic condition that has little to no bearing on how he was exercised when he was young and in some dogs cannot be avoided.
So What do you Do?
When He is Young
When your dog is developing and growing his joints and bones are also growing, and during this stage rigorous and repetitive exercise should be avoided; depending on his breed, age and size.
Many large breeds are considered to be “growing” and developing until they are 2 to 4 years of age. Rottweilers and Mastiff breeds develop very slowly and arduous exercise even at 2 years of age can cause damage.
Yet, small dogs can be done growing at 9 months or so.
If you are unsure about your dog’s structural growth ask your veterinarian.
Avoid structured running on hard pavement, which can pound his joints. Also avoid repetitively strange exercises, like agility and the weave poles. Young dogs that were constantly weaving their young bodies around weave poles were creating back, hip and other joint problems as they grew.
Also be very careful what you allow your young puppy to do while he is young and growing. My oldest dog now (12) jumped off of the top of a military A Frame(which was about 8 feet in the air) when he was a puppy. My ex-husband was playing with him and didn’t expect him to jump off of the top of the frame. He has good hips, but we discovered at about 3 years of age that he had fractured coronoid processes in his elbows.
Fractured coronoid process means that he has floating pieces of bone in his elbow joints. This can often be genetic and a problem of growing too fast; but I have often wondered if his early jump off of the A Frame caused this problem for my dog!
Exercise is crucial for puppies for their normal development both physically and mentally, but it is essential that you take it easy on their joints while they are growing!
Normal exercise: running on grass, limiting climbing and jumping, swimming, and games are good and much needed exercise for young dogs.
When my dogs are fully grown (for my breed 2 years old) I make sure to do full body x-rays prior to any extensive play, exercise and activities.
Before I start in agility class, or being a structured running program, or hook my dogs up to a bicycle and let them run next to it or pull a cart; I have my dog’s shoulders, hips and elbows x-rayed.
This allows me to know what their restrictions should be and how far I can push their bodies.
If my dog already has dysplasia or the propensity for degenerative joint disease, I am not going to put physical stressors on my dog in those structural areas.
Some people argue that most dogs don’t need x-rays or don’t suffer from dysplasia (especially mixed breeds or mutts)
But, that simply is not the case….
When I took dogs from shelters and trained them as Assistance Dogs for adults and children with disabilities, the first stop after a temperament test was to the vet for x-rays. A large percentage of dogs never passed this stage.
That fact alone, taught me that if I was going to engage in rigorous exercise with my dogs (which I do: hiking, biking, agility, bite and protection work, and running) I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to exacerbate an already genetically existing condition which would make my dog more prone to pain and arthritis.
That is Not to Say That A Dog Shouldn’t Live Life
Both of my Rottweilers had hip dysplasia, and two of my Malinois have had elbow problems, so I catered their exercise to their specific condition.
First off, let me say that I don’t have what it takes to run fast enough to injure my dogs! I am no marathon winner! I have my own knee issues and other things that make me extremely slow so I know that unless I have a geriatric dog, or a dog with severe degenerative joint disease, I am not going to injure my dogs when I go running.
But, if I hook them up to my pedal cart or bike and run them to their ability, I could cause problems!
I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE taking a dog swimming; young dogs and old dogs alike can enjoy a good swim!
- If you don’t know when your dog will be physically mature enough for strenuous exercise, ask your vet and go easy on his joints while he is growing.
- Once he is mature, get him x-rayed before you do anything that might make him more painful as he ages (we would give anything to spend just a few more weeks/months with our pets at the end wouldn’t we?).
- And, let him live life according to his health.
Exercise can be catered to fit any dog and their human!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.