How do you exercise a dog with bad knees?
October 15, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Our 9-year-old yellow lab who has had a full ACL on one knee and a partial ACL on the other is getting worse. How can we exercise him properly without putting him in pain?

Whenever my bf takes the dog hiking, the dog returns home and cries all night. In the morning I have to drag him outside to use the bathroom, because he can barely get up. He'll try to get on his front legs, but his back legs can barely move. My bf thinks that intense exercise is better than longer daily walks. I think that putting the dog in this kind of pain is not a good idea. Help! (And yes, we do glucosymyn and all that.)
posted by k8t to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
 
My boyfriend adds: He had the surgery at 9 months old and has lived with it alright since then.
posted by k8t at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2007


Sorry to hear that. But would some pool based exercises help? That's what we do with people with such maladies.
posted by dios at 10:29 AM on October 15, 2007


Oh, and to add. We used to take him swimming all the time. Then we moved to California, and lakes are harder to find. The ocean is so rough.
posted by k8t at 10:31 AM on October 15, 2007


Why does he think that intense exercise is better than longer daily walks?

9 year old labs are heading toward the venerable-gentleman stage, anyway. Not to contradict your boyfriend, but it really seems like twice-daily gentle strolls are more in line with your pooch's physical capabilities.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:38 AM on October 15, 2007


Well, I see only two ways around it: (1) start slowly and build up his exercise capabilities over time; or (2) exercise him by removing pressure and impact on the joints. Since you seem to be saying that water-based exercise is out, then the only other low impact method I could think of would be to get him one of those wheelchairs for his back hips which will allow him to exercise by getting his heart rate up while walking on this front legs. Seems to me that would allow him to get his cardio while walking on one of those and build up his hind leg strength with just walking around the house.
posted by dios at 10:39 AM on October 15, 2007


Some vets have special doggie swimming pools with streaming water or underwater treadmills. You can take him to one of those.
posted by uandt at 10:40 AM on October 15, 2007


Oh, yeah, and I second thehmsbeagle: the intensity of the exercise argument is strange. Long walks are good enough. Poor guy doesn't need to be put through that if he can't handle it.
posted by dios at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2007


Sounds like hip dysplasia to me, which is very common in labs. Has he been checked out for that as well? I wouldn't work the dog that hard especially if its dysplasia. You're likely to only make it worse. And very few 9 year old dogs need, or should be allowed "intensive excersize".

Also speak to a vet about arthritis. Many older labs develop arthritis, and there are some medications that can make it more manageable.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:53 AM on October 15, 2007


The intense exercise argument is bizarre and, I suspect, self-serving. Humans with knee problems do physical therapy and/or have a regular exercise regime; why would dogs be any different? Hurting the dog so he cries all night is just not acceptable. Dogs are stoics, they don't complain until things are bad. Dogs don't refuse to get up until things are bad. I'm sure the dog loves to hike and loves to be with your boyfriend on hikes, but the pain is your indicator that it's too much. The dog can't make that kind of cause/effect judgment.

You need to talk to the vet about whether it's time for a regular course of Rimadyl or other pain/anti-inflammatory management (though there are issues like liver damage to consider), and if your boyfriend needs to be told by a doctor not to take the dog out on long hikes on uneven terrain, you can probably get that taken care of while you're there. You can also ask then about water therapy resources, which is the best low-impact option for a big dog.

Nine years for a dog that size is geriatric. He may now have arthritis on top of the ligament problems. It's probably time for a full reassessment - xrays and all.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:58 AM on October 15, 2007


I don't know enough about older labs to answer, though I would suspect that the rough hiking in SB is not a great idea for him.

If you want to try the swimming, I've seen a lot of people take their dogs to swim up at Refugio State Beach, which is somewhat protected waters. If you want to get him back in the water, that might not be a bad choice. Alternatively, you might check if dog swimming is allowed at Lake Los Carneros up in Goleta...
posted by JMOZ at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2007


Ps, my boyfriend doesn't want you to think he is a sadist.
posted by k8t at 11:15 AM on October 15, 2007


pls strike this sentence: My bf thinks that intense exercise is better than longer daily walks.
posted by k8t at 11:17 AM on October 15, 2007


Well then you've just answered your own question, really.

Quit it with the intense hiking, go for the longer, gentler strolls over even ground. General rule of pet ownership: if it hurts the pet, quit doing it.
posted by billybunny at 11:45 AM on October 15, 2007


ok... a lab crying in pain is scary.
Stop these hikes. That's horrible.
Please work hard to find a place he can swim.
posted by beccaj at 11:54 AM on October 15, 2007


I have never heard from any credible source that intense, infrequent exercise was better than frequent, moderate exercise for either dogs or humans. At nine, your lab is at a similar stage of life to a person in their sixties.

If I exercised our eight-year-old lab to the point where he cried all night and refused to get up, my wife would divorce me, if she didn't kill me first. And I would deserve either.

No matter how sincerely your boy friend believes in what he's doing, he's being cruel and destructive. You need to take over the care of this animal until your boy friend gets over this bizarre delusion.
posted by timeistight at 1:01 PM on October 15, 2007


Your boyfriend is torturing the dog, pet owners should not be pushing dogs to exercise to the extent that they are crying in pain. The dog likely has arthritis at very least, and this is not helping him. Exercise is good, high-intensity exercise that the dog's body clearly cannot handle is harmful.

You need a vet assessment (preferably by a vet who is well-versed in pain management and rehab), I suspect that assessment will indicate that you need medication for the dog (at very least an NSAID like Rimadyl and a secondary pain-relief med like Tramadol, plus a joint supplement like Cosequin). It is perfectly acceptable to find a rehab/pain management vet just for this issue, and stay with your regular vet for regular care. There are more and more vets who are specializing in pain management and rehab now, please look for one. Stop forcing this much exercise on the dog, it is harming him, and get professional assistance to make him comfortable.
posted by biscotti at 1:46 PM on October 15, 2007


Retrievers are some of the most stoic dogs in existence. I cannot imagine the level of pain that would cause my golden to cry all night. A little while ago when he was running, he got a nail stuck somehow and it was pulled out at the base. Blood everywhere. He let me clean it out thoroughly and never made a complaint through all of the other aftercare. He was walking around the house normally within 2 days. I had to restrict him from running on it. Can you imagine how long you would take to go back to walking if someone pulled out one of your toenails with a pair of pliers? Can you imagine not yelling, crying, or complaining if that happened? And standing still while someone cleans it out day after day? Now think of how much something has to hurt if that doesn't cause you to cry.

Because dogs don't talk we assume that not whining = not hurting. That is so far from the truth. I have seen old dogs struggling to get up, legs shaking, collapsing from the effort that never make a sound. When they are given pain pills it is like they are young again. See your vet and stop making him cry.
posted by hindmost at 6:22 PM on October 15, 2007


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