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How to Care for Your Older Dog: Tricks, Treats & Treatments That Make a Difference

How to Care for Your Older Dog: Tricks, Treats & Treatments That Make a Difference

Everyone knows the saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new trick!” And while there’s truth to that, the owner of an older dog knows that aging dogs develop some new tricks, even though they aren’t taught them. Since some of those tricks (like increased vocalization, accidents around the house, and night time waking) aren’t tricks you’ll like very much, you’ll need some tricks of your own, and maybe some treats and treatments, to keep life with your beloved pet pleasant for everyone.

Tricks to try with your aging dog

One of the most frequent conditions older dogs develop is urinary incontinence. This could be due to one of several medical conditions, but it’s likely just to be weaker muscle tone around the urethra. One of the most certain tricks to guard against wet spots in the house is to walk your dog more frequently. It’s an obvious thing to do, but it helps in two ways – it gives the dog more opportunities to empty his bladder, and it gives him the exercise he needs to help keep mentally and physically fit.

If your dog is wakeful during the night, make sure she’s not sleeping all day. Just like people, dogs’ sleep cycles can change dramatically in later life, and you can support nighttime sleep by keeping her busy during the day. If you work, consider doggie day care or hiring a daytime dog walker. Another trick that might help is a heating pad under the dog bed or her favorite sleeping spot. Don’t turn it up too high, but remember that many older dogs are in some pain with aching joints and the like. A warmer, cozy sleeping spot can help ease the pain and keep her asleep at night.

Treats to make the golden years a happier time

There is no reason that you shouldn’t reward your older dog with a few extra treats. You’ll want to be sure, though, that the treats you choose are made with him in mind – not too hard for old or missing teeth, and with ingredients geared to help his joints, his dental hygiene, or his skin and coat. There’s a variety of commercial treats intended for older dogs. Look for Greenies for older dogs and Zuke’s Hip Action, among others.

You can also give your older dog treats from your kitchen. One favorite for many dogs is scrambled eggs – they’re soft and easy to eat and full of good protein. Plain yogurt can be a healthy and tasty dietary addition, and many dogs like sweet potato and pumpkin, which are full of vitamins and fiber.

Treatments to consider with your vet’s advice

Your senior dog should see the vet more frequently as she ages. Make sure you talk through all the possible symptoms you’re seeing. For example, if your dog is leaking urine from time to time, is she also very thirsty? If so, age-related hypothyroidism may be the cause, and that is treatable with synthroid hormone replacement.

If your dog limps and is uncomfortable, is there an acute cause, or does your vet believe he’s suffering from chronic arthritis or another joint condition? Would something like a glucosamine/chondritin supplement be in order? With some good advice from your vet and your patience and accommodation for his age-related changes, you can live happily with your beloved dog as he ages. After all the love he has given you over the years, you know he’s worth it.

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