Should My Dog with Cancer Still Exercise? - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Should My Dog with Cancer Still Exercise?

Most dogs, before they were diagnosed with cancer, were used to going for walks each day. Once the cancer was diagnosed, you may have been too worried, or too stressed, to take your dog for walks around the block or play fetch outside. A cancer diagnosis is scary, and we want to do what’s best for our dogs. You may be wondering can your dog with cancer exercise. Or, if exercise would do more harm than good. Luckily, Dr. Dressler addressed this concern in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

The short answer to “should my dog with cancer still exercise” is… yes. According to Dr. Dressler in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide (chapter 15), physical movement may not only burn calories but might also burn off negative emotions.

You may be noticing your dog’s muscle mass is decreasing. She might be looking more and more fragile each day that passes. Daily movement can help re-build our dog’s muscles to help her live a life that’s as normal as possible.

Physical movement also helps boost the immune system. So your dog is better able to fight the cancer. And, helps your dog sleep better increasing melatonin production.

Plus, a little sunshine is generally a good thing. Being out in the fresh air can help your dog keep his head held high- and make him feel better overall.

What if My Dog Can’t Move Around Anymore?

There are a few ways you can help your dog with decreased mobility:

  • Assisted movement: Help your dog move by using a towel under his belly. Or, you can buy a canine mobility aide. The mobility aide helps you lift your dog- especially if your dog is a larger breed like a Lab or a Rottweiler.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy helps your dog by relaxing his body- so he’s not as stiff. Physical therapy also increases blood flow and allows your dog to extend her joints.
  • Grooming: You’d be surprised at how much a gentle brushing can help. Make sure you use a soft-bristled brush if you use one. If your dog doesn’t like brushes, gently run your fingers through his fur.
  • Warmth: Low heat can help stimulate blood flow and relieve some stiffness, too. You can soak a washcloth in warm water (not hot), or you can use water bottles with warm water. A heating blanket is usually what comes to mind but Dr. Dressler doesn’t recommend them. They can get way too hot for our dog, and do more harm than good.
  • Fresh Air and Sunshine: Do you go outside every now and then when you aren’t feeling well? The fresh breeze running through your hair with the sunlight shining down can work wonders for us. Same with our dogs.

Playdates are Fun for Dogs with Cancer, Too

Dogs can get lonely, even in your company, if they’re the only dog in the house. This is where playdates come in.

Dogs are social animals… pack animals. Most dogs have a natural instinct to meet other dogs. Keep in mind, just like us, dogs have their own individual likes and dislikes. If your first play date doesn’t go as planned, it could be your dog isn’t a ‘match’ for the other or vise versa.

Or, your dog could be one of the few who prefers human company. If that’s the case, invite a friend over he knows and trusts to play.

Dr. Dressler recommends playdates so highly, he says he’d even call them a ‘cancer treatment.’

Manageable Challenges for Dogs with Cancer

Dr. Dressler recommends giving your dog manageable challenges. This could be any change in her regular routine.

Take a walk to a new area, teach your dog how to roll over, or how to shake her paw. Each time your dog masters a manageable challenge, give lots of praise. Overcoming even the ‘smallest’ manageable challenge can mean the world to your dog.

The Bottom Line on Exercise

The bottom line… encourage your dog to keep moving. Movement could be as simple as a walk next to the house… or a short hike if your dog is still up to it. The fresh air, the sunshine, and the movement are all generally good for your dog with cancer. And, if she enjoys playdates, that’s an added bonus.

Amber L. Drake has been working with dogs for over 10 years. Throughout this time, she has served as a Canine Behaviorist and Canine Nutritionist working with dogs throughout the United States. She has worked with private clients, rescue organizations, shelter organizations and corporations. She has also been an Adjunct Instructor of Biology at a local community college teaching Animal Sciences for the past seven years and Kaplan University for the past two years.

In addition to experience in the field, she has earned a Doctor of Education (ABD), a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has completed coursework in Pre-Veterinary Science at Cornell University, Veterinary Technology at Penn Foster and Biochemistry at UC Berkeley. Drake is currently finishing a second Master’s Degree with Kaplan University.

She is continuously enrolling in additional courses, seminars and conferences to remain up-to-date in all dog-related topics. She has a desire to share her passion, knowledge and experiences with others.

  • daders April 10, 2018, 2:24 am

    I would imagine swimming would be especially beneficial. So many positives…buoyancy relieves stress on any part of an aching body, resistance provides faster results for strengthening, and particularly for large breed owners, if they are struggling, it would be easier for an owner to support the weight of their dog (provided they’re willing to get a little wet themselves).

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