Use of Fit Balls / Physio Balls for Dogs with Mobility and Strength Issues
Sometime during your dog’s life, you’ll both have to face one mobility issue or another. All dogs experience a gradual decrease in mobility, strength and stability with normal aging; for some dogs, though, the problem occurs earlier in life or affects mobility to a more significant degree.
A variety of conditions can limit mobility in dogs, including hip dysplasia, arthritis, and degenerative myelopathy, which is a chronic and progressive disease that occurs in older dogs and affects the spinal cord. These dogs can benefit from fit balls to improve core strength to benefit balance, control, and mobility.
Types of Canine Exercise Balls
Exercise balls for dogs are known by many names, including fit balls, balance balls and physio balls. Some are round, similar to those used for humans, while others are peanut shaped to enable a more natural stance for canines. All exercise balls for dogs tend to be made of heavy-duty materials to withstand scratches and punctures by dog nails.
It’s important to resist buying human exercise balls off the internet; balls should be sized properly for the breed and weight of each particular dog. Using too small a ball can impede recovery and lead to additional bone, joint and muscle problems in your dog.
Benefits of Physio Balls for Dogs
Exercise balls help dogs of all types, from family pets to sport dogs. They work by strengthening the core, which is fundamental to walking, turning, running and jumping. Therapy with a fit ball or physio ball helps stabilize weak areas, improve balance, increase range of motion, elongate the muscles and improve proprioception and body awareness. When used regularly and correctly, these balls can greatly improve mobility in dogs with various inflammatory or musculoskeletal conditions.
In addition, you may want to use a peanut shaped physio ball to provide support to your dog while eating. Maintaining a standing position while eating can be difficult for older dogs who have lost some strength and balance and for dogs suffering from other mobility issues. Place the ‘waist’ of the ball under your dog’s chest and stomach with the round ends of the ball on either side of your dog’s ribs so that your dog and the ball form a sort of “T”. This will allow your dog to rest on the ball while eating in a standing position.
Exercise Balls as Part of an Overall Fitness Program
To be most effective, use of fit balls/physio balls for dogs should be part of an overall program to improve mobility in aging or disabled dogs. When used in conjunction with harnesses, motorized treadmills, aqua therapy and physical therapy, dogs can experience tremendous improvement in their ability to walk, run and jump and just get around in general.
Your veterinarian will be able to give you the specific exercises your dog will benefit most from and these may include placement of the ball under your dog and gently rocking him back and forth or from side to side.
Just as is the case with people, your pooch can benefit from the implementation of the correct exercise and physical therapy program to address his specific needs.
Animal Planet: 5 Cool Pieces of Dog Exercise Equipment
Dog’s Best Life: Help Your Dog Maintain His Mobility
Monterey Herald: Some Pet Owners Opt for Physical Therapy After Surgery, Injuries
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