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Long live the small dog!

Mobility + Joint Health Tips for Small Breed Dogs

By Chloe White

They may be little, but small dogs have enormous characters — it’s no wonder that they make up over half of the UK’s top ten dog breeds.

On average, small breed dogs live 10 to 15 years, much longer than their larger cousins. It’s not uncommon for some small dogs, such as Jack Russell Terriers or Border Terriers, to reach 18 — the lifespan we might expect from a cat rather than a dog!

Bella jumping through the woods
It’s heartwarming to know that our pint-sized pups could be with us for so long, but those extra years have their downside. These long-lived pooches are classed as geriatric for longer than a larger breed dog, and their joints will need extra support to carry them through those extra years.

Osteoarthritis and other joint concerns can be extremely painful for your dog, and hobbling about for years is no fun. But fear not! There are plenty of ways to keep your small dog mobile and support their joint health for many happy, active years.


The pet supplement industry is full of myths and over-exaggerated claims, making understanding which supplement is best for your small dog very difficult. Look for a joint supplement with high-quality clinical research which is peer-reviewed and freely available to read.

The ingredients should be readily bioavailable (so that your dog only needs a small amount to see results). Some supplements profess to be very effective but you actually need huge volumes to see any clinical changes.

When regularly feeding an effective and clinically proven joint supplement to your dog, it can be life-changing. With the right supplement, you could see a difference in a matter of weeks!

Weight Management

For those dogs already suffering from osteoarthritis, studies have shown that losing just 5% of bodyweight can improve lameness scores and help dogs live more comfortable lives.

Keeping your small dog at a healthy weight isn’t all about diets and restricted feeding (although they’re important). It can be fun for both of you!

Try these ideas to increase your dog’s activity levels and keep them moving.

Go on Adventures

  • This is one of the most obvious ways of improving mobility, but according to the PDSA’s most recent PAW report, there is still a small percentage of dogs who are never walked or only walked once a week. Even if your dog is suffering from mobility issues due to age or injury, getting out for a short time is beneficial. If you would like to increase the length of time you walk with your dog, do so gradually over a few weeks, and avoid walking after a meal or when it’s hot.

Scatter Feeding and Puzzle Feeders

  • One of the easiest ways to increase your small dog’s activity is utilising puzzle bowls and scatter feeding. This is not only good for increasing activity levels, helping your dog to lose weight — but it’s fun for your dog and will support their mental agility.

Obstacle Courses

  • Lying items like broom handles on the floor for your dog to step over increases the range of motion of your dog's joints beyond what they would normally perform during the day. This keeps them fit and stretches their limbs, creating a greater range of movement in the joints and preventing them from becoming stiff.

Professional and Home Rehabilitation Therapy

  • Who doesn’t love a massage? Even your dog will enjoy a bit of pampering, and therapy is incredibly effective at supporting and maintaining your dog’s mobility. We recommend you seek professional support from a qualified therapist, but there are exercises you can do at home with your dog. (Always check with your veterinary or rehabilitation team to ensure these exercises are suitable for your dog.)


  • Static stretches can help loosen up a dog suffering from mobility issues. Like any new exercise or training, make sure you use a tasty treat and start small, building up to stretching over longer periods of time. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort or unwillingness to continue — stop and try again another day. Bicycling your dog’s limbs gently through a “passive range of motion” can help stretch out limbs gently whilst not extending them beyond a normal range of movement. Try these simple stretches at home.

Strengthening Exercises

  • Get your dog to move from lying to sitting, standing and back again. Although simple, these exercises will help build strength in the movements that your dog relies on every day.
  • If your dog struggles, you may need to assist in gently lifting under their abdomen to help them rise, being mindful of your dog’s comfort levels. Always have a tasty (but healthy) reward handy.

Professional Therapy

  • Veterinary rehabilitation therapists support dogs throughout their lives, particularly after an injury. As your dog ages, therapists can utilise a vast array of techniques and tools to help your dog stay active and be more comfortable.
  • Read more about how a rehabilitation therapist can support your dog here.

Small dogs bring boundless energy and love into your home, and it’s heart-wrenching to see them slow down as they get older. But old age doesn’t mean you can’t still have bags of fun together. With these tips, you and your mini-pooch can stay active and continue your adventure together.

Honey in the park

Want to learn more about what causes mobility problems in small dogs? Read our article here.

Find out how Antinol helped other small breed dogs on their mobility journey here.

Why not start with Bella's story? You can find it here.

Learn more about Antinol and how it can support your small dog’s long term joint health here.

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