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The Importance of Looking After Your Pet’s Muscles and Joints


by Hillary Thomas

Shockingly, one out of every seven dogs is badly affected by arthritis. The painful condition affects the joints and surrounding cartilage and can arise in a dog’s, hips, elbows, shoulders and spine. Just like the joints in a human body, dogs rely heavily on them to freely move their limbs. Without movable joints animals and humans would be inflexible and find ordinary movements such as walking, running, sitting and jumping almost impossible to do.

With this in mind it’s vital for any caring owner to understand the importance of looking after the joints of their pet as if it were their own body.

Keep A Close Eye On Your Pet

Remember, animals can’t always tell us how they are feeling and aches and pains in their limbs can sometimes go unnoticed or mistaken as signs of fatigue or lethargy. In the same way we can benefit from joint and muscle exercise, so too can our pets.

Ruby: My Fourteen Year Old Greyhound

Very recently, my fourteen year old greyhound Ruby, a rescued track dog had developed severe pain in her limbs due to being continuously raced around a poorly run dog track in her younger days. Before she was rescued, she was fed a poor unbalanced diet and rarely ever rested in the early years of her life. Her joints had become overworked and her cartilage had weakened and worn away leaving her with unbearable pain and discomfort. Luckily for her she was rescued by the RCPCA shortly after she turned four, otherwise, she, like so many mistreated greyhounds, would have been illegally put down after being deemed unprofitable as a racing dog.

Joint Disease (DJD) And Canine Hip Dysplasia

Even after I took her in and cared for her through the years, she had always had problems with her joints and very recently, she was diagnosed by a Vet as having very mild degenerative joint disease (DJD) and Canine Hip Dysplasia.

Ruby’s Pain Got Worse

Two weeks ago, Ruby was unable to sleep at night through the pain and on many occasions her joints would lock up meaning a gentle walk around the fields was now impossible. Any dog owner will tell you that watching a creature you dote on and care for experience even the slightest bit of discomfort is probably one of the worst things imaginable. I placed her in my arms and drove her to the Vet where she was given prescribed medication to relieve the pain and recommended a set of exercise techniques to do, including swimming and special bedding made from cut out foam that helped mold around her limbs to aid her in her recovery.

Exercise is Vital

Your muscles need regular exercise which in return strengthens and helps support cartilage and joints. Now before you start looking for that Canine Gymnasium, you’ll be pleased to know that you can help exercise your pet’s muscles and joints in the comfort of your own home or an open space. Exercising your pet’s joints and muscles is vital and below are a few simple techniques you can use on your cuddly companion.

• Take your dog for regular walks. Depending on their age and size start with 10 -15 minutes per day and gradually increase to an hour or more at least once a day.
• Play games with your pet like fetch and tug of war and get them to build up those important muscles around their legs.
• Feed them a balanced diet that will give your pet the nutrition it needs to build strong bones and defeat obesity which can put excess strain on joints and limbs.

Being an owner is more than just giving your pet cuddles and affection, it’s about maintaining their health on a daily basis. By feeding your pet a balanced, nutritious diet and giving them regular exercise you can make sure your dog lives a long and healthy life with strong, functioning joints and muscles.

Hillary Thomas works part time at CutFoam and lives for animals. She regularly spends her spare time working at local animal sanctuaries. She has a rescue greyhound called Ruby who is her world and the two of them enjoy reading blogs on PetsBlogs by the fire.


About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi worked in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions. Retired, she currently lives with her spoiled dog and four chickens (who are, interestingly enough, also spoiled).


  1. I have been involved in racing Greyhound adoption for 15 years and have owned 14 former racers in that time, along with 5 other Greyhounds which never raced. Most of them, whether they raced or not, developed some degree of degenerative joint disease (some very mild, and some which require anti-inflammatory medications) in their older years, so my experience would indicate that DJD is simply the result of the aging process (as in humans), not being involved in racing for a few years before a Greyhound is retired from its professional career. There is simply no scientific evidence that racing Greyhounds, simply from the act of racing (and absent an acute injury) have a higher incidence of DJD in their older years than do other breeds of dogs. Racing Greyhounds are typically entered in a race every 3 – 4 days, and every day they rest and sleep in crates or kennels for much of the time that they aren’t turned out to empty and get exercise. They sleep about as much in the racing environment as they do in the home environment. They do not get a “poor, unbalanced diet,” because if they did so their racing performance would suffer. In the “early years” of their lives, young racing Greyhounds are raised in runs or paddocks with their littermates, and can run and play or rest according to their own choice. Hillary didn’t say how long her Greyhound raced, but the average racer’s career lasts only in the range of 1 1/2 – 3 years, as they lose speed as they get older.
    The overall point of Hillary’s article is quite good, though I wish she had more emphasized the need to keep one’s pets at proper weight — it is carrying around extra weight every day for years and years that can cause early DJD or accelerate its progress once it starts. It’s too bad she had to include anti-racing misinformation in her article and imply that racing Greyhounds come off the track more prone to DJD than other breeds, which in my experience is defintely not the case.

  2. Similar to humans, animals experience the same degenerative effects due to ongoing wear and tear so the regular supplements we take such as glucosamine, chondrotin, MSM and CMO are powerful repair compounds.

  3. I take my dog for a long morning walk everyday, I do not think I have a reason to worry. He is young, but I will surely keep an eye on him.

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