An exercise program can be simple or tiered to adequately fit the age, breed, performance expectations and available time for your pet. Home therapy creates greater and more rapid gains. A pet with arthritis, advanced age, weak muscles, nerve deficits, any that are overweight, or even athletes working regularly at their sport can all improve by having all joints in motion and some sort of stretching exercise on a regular basis.



  • Find an exercise program that is recommended by a veterinarian or professional therapist.  Dr. Frick created a DVD called “Fitness in Motion® Stretching & Exercises for Dogs” available at Pet Rehab & Pain Clinic. With this you can learn how to effectively deliver exercises for all zones of the body along with ones designed for specific conditions and how to successfully use balls.
  • Understand the goals or purpose and how to effectively deliver the exercises.
  • Take the time to do them correctly (no short cuts).
  • Always start conservatively then gradually increase the length of stretch, the angle or height of the stretch, and the number or repetitions.
  • Pay attention to the behavior or response(s) your pet gives with each stretch.
  • Keep notes on the changes you see and periodically re-evaluate posture, movement and balance from a distance.


  1. Feed a balanced grain-free diet. (For insightful information from a veterinarian regarding the effects of diet read
  2. Feed alone, away from other animals to reduce the incentive to eat fast. You may choose to put the food in a muffin pan to further slow him/her down.
  3. Feed only the snacks or treats outlined in the balanced program. Best to choose from whole food items like dehydrated meat and vegetables.
  4. Avoid eating in front of your dog when he/she will not be getting anything.
  5. Exercise your dog or cat as prescribed. Keep a journal of distance and/or time spent. Pedometers are made for animals too.
  6. Weigh in every two weeks and record body weight.
  7. Have a weight-loss reassessment done starting monthly then working up to every 3 months as the program successfully progresses. This will include weight, pelvic and thoracic circumference measurements, nutrition adjustments, exercise evaluation, and behavioral improvements.


Without adequate pre-exercise massage techniques, warm-up, and post-exercise ground stretches, a canine athlete could be at risk for an injury.  Stiffness is a symptom and reaction to pain or discomfort, be it from overworking unprepared muscle groups (sore muscles), arthritis, spinal bone instability or fixation and even dental malocclusion. Any of these etiologies can lead to a tissue’s inability to stretch. If the tissue cannot adequately stretch, then neither can the pet.  Massaging the body and properly stretching the joints will loosen muscles and connective tissue, sending signals to the mechanoreceptors about the joints and their capacity to flex and extend. Massage will also help to eliminate toxins and lactic acid by improving circulation to the tissue, further reducing soreness.

Passive or relaxed stretching is the most common type used with stretching exercises in animals as the person controls the motion and positioning desired.  Slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles that are healing after an injury.  Relaxed stretching is also good for “cooling down” after a workout and helps reduce post workout muscle fatigue and soreness.

Anyone can learn to be effective and safe when stretching their pet. Improved flexibility is achieved when stretching becomes a regular part of the athlete’s routine. If you are looking to improve balance, balls are a fun addition and they create a variety of options for working with your young or older dog.

Obesity is the most commonly recognized nutritional problem in dogs. Obesity is defined as a body weight that is greater than 20% above optimal body weight. It is predominantly caused by over-consumption of calories, under-expenditure of energy, and improper nutrient balance (more carbohydrates in relation to the protein). There is a common belief that protein restriction is helpful in older animals, yet no scientific evidence shows that reduced dietary protein is beneficial for the healthy older dog or cat. In fact, reduced protein diets for older pets may have adverse effects by contributing to the muscle loss that occurs with aging.

Risk factors for gaining excessive weight include neutering, mid to older age, inactivity, indoor lifestyle, and genetic predisposition.

Obese animals usually show signs of concurrent disease: lameness, increased drinking and urinating, increased respiratory effort or panting, sleeping more, poor skin and coat, and heart stress with circulatory malfunction.

A well planned weight-loss program includes a patient-specific nutritional therapy of reducing typical cereals or grains like wheat, corn, gluten, and rice, balancing protein, fat, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and water and address the needs of the endocrine system to create optimal metabolism helps the body adapt and change.

Initiate a home exercise routine, which for some may be gentle massage, range of motion, frequent but very short walks, and exercises using a ball. Balls are great for older pets and ones that have difficulty holding up their weight or tend to lie down rather than stand. It is a support that allows them some independence as they regain function.

For those with medical considerations or where the weather interferes with exercise, use a facility with physical rehabilitation technology, such as the underwater treadmill. Water walking allows for less weight and body mass on the legs, more flexion of the joints, buoyancy, better body balance, and an almost massage-like effect on the legs. At higher levels it can be a cardiovascular exercise that improves conditioning, muscle tone, and overall well-being.

A better lifestyle and exercise is the best chance for a longer life. Substantial research progress is deepening our understanding of obesity and the aging process, leading veterinarians and pet owners toward better guidelines including nutritional interventions and lifestyle decision that will promote healthy longevity. Considering the fact that the obesity rates of pets has climbed right along with their human counterpart seems the thing to do is get everybody in the house eating better (healthier) and exercising more.

Call us to schedule your pet’s appointment to get a successful and healthy weight reduction program going!

A good stretch will be comfortable and effective if you follow the above steps.  A “bad” stretch will be met with resistance or failure to make any positive gain in flexibility, range of motion, or performance.  To learn hands-on call  636-489-5350 and schedule and appointment at Pet Rehab & Pain Clinic .