Printer Friendly

Keeping old dogs fit.

Old dogs and watermelon wine are among the best things in life, says a popular country-western song. The wine I haven't tried, but I agree about the dogs. The bonds of loyalty and companionship between a dog and its owner seem to grow stronger with time.

Unfortunately, a dog's health problems increase with time too. Pet owners should do all they can to postpone or to prevent age-related maladies. Prevention should begin with spaying and neutering to lower the risk of suffering mammary tumors, uterine disease or prostate enlargement in later years.

Dogs are prone to gain weight as they age, and excess fat can lead to numerous health problems. Feed an older dog 20 to 30 percent fewer calories after age seven. An older dog should be fed smaller amounts more frequently and should be exercised approximately one hour after meals to aid elimination. And you won't deprive your pet at all by eliminating empty calories he may receive in between-meals treats.

You may wish to restrict an older dog's protein consumption as well unless the dog is working, pregnant or lactating. Protein digestion has been linked to kidney failure, the most common cause of death in aging dogs. Consult a veterinarian about your dog's protein requirements.

Dietary changes can help treat other age-related maladies. If your dog has heart disease, a low-salt diet may be recommended. For the frequent problem of dry, thinnings hair, try supplementing your dog's diet with zinc, lecithin, brewer's yeast and vitamins A, D, E and K. A word of warning, however: Some vitamins such as A and D can be toxic in large doses, so follow a veterinarian's instructions.

While we're on the subject of eating habits, don't forget your dog's mouth. Nothing detracts from an old dog's company more than bad breath from diseased teeth and gums. (Bacteria formed in a dog's mouth can plague the rest of its body, too.) For a sure remedy, clean your dog's teeth once a week with a towel dipped in a 50 per cent salt-and-soda compound. Commercial preparations are also available, at veterinary hospitals and pet stores. Have your dog's teeth examined as part of its annual physical. Your veterinarian may recommend professional teeth-cleaning by a trained technician.

Veterinarians can now do much to remedy many of the serious maladies of aging dogs. They can restore failing eyesight with cataract surgery, use medication to cure thyroid deficiency, counter heart, kidney and liver ailments through medication and diet and treat incontinence with hormones. They can even cure certain forms of cancer with surgery and chemotherapy if the cancer is detected early. So no matter how old your dog is, be sure to give it regular inoculations and checkups. Above all, don't assume nothing can be done for your old best friend.

Questions for the Vet Dear Dr. White:

My 14-year-old Border collie has been very well and active. In the last month or so she just suddenly looks old--graying around the nose and mouth--but she still acts well. Her sight and hearing seem to be all right and her appetite is good, but she often acts startled. She will jump up and look around as though she has heard something strange, and she shows fear at these times--sometimes when she is asleep, sometimes when just resting.

This evening she was eating when she acted startled and ran a little way from her meal. She seems puzzled, as though she really doesn't know what is bothering her. I can't locate a noise, and our other dog pays no attention.
 Vivian Berry
 Montrose, Colorado

Dear Vivian:

A 14-year-old dog is indeed elderly. Signs of senility in dogs often mimic those of senility in older people. These signs include: changes in the color, the texture and the strength of the skin and the hair; malabsorption and poor digestion; loss of vision, hearing, taste and smell; defects in memory and orientation; lapses in habits and training; and snapping at imaginary objects. Many of these changes from "normal" behavior are due to alterations in the brain cells.

If your dog has not recently had a complete physical, including blood chemistries and urinalysis, please make an appointment with your veterinarian at once. Aging is a normal process of life, and many of the neurological changes are not treatable; however, evaluation of the major organ systems may reveal physical deterioration that can be delayed by proper treatment.


Dear Dr. White:

When a friend leaves town I keep her 3-1/2-pound Silky Yorkie. She has colitis. She eats her I.D. diet at home but refuses it when I have her. I know she is spoiled and hard-headed, but would skinless, boiled chicken with a little rice hurt her? Can you suggest other "people food"?

My dog's eyes run water. Can I put boric-acid solution drops in the eyes?
 Lea Bennett Sartin
 New Orleans, Louisiana

Dear Lea:

The dog's refusal to eat the prescription diet (I.D., or intestinal diet) indicates an emotional upset or separation anxiety at being left in strange surroundings by her owner.

You imply that she will only eat "people food" while visiting you. Though the diet you suggest--boiled chicken and cooked rice--seems harmless, it may reinforce the dog's behavior. If you can schedule some type of positive reinforcement (pleasurable activity, attention, petting, etc.) to coincide with the dog's eating or approaching the prescribed food, you will be on the road to controlling the situation.

Gently clean the area around your dog's eyes and use a cotton ball moistened with water. A mild ophthalmic solution of boric acid may help.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:White, H. Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1985
Previous Article:The soup's on.
Next Article:The church with a mind of its own.

Related Articles
Letter: Popular; The owner of Catunda Leonardo is proud of his dog.
It's a dog's life as Otto retires.
Op puts life in the old dog.
History theme for poetic schoolchildren.
Even the dogs are giving a break to the new guy in town.
ECHO bans bogus breeds in dog ads.
Letter: Set up or shut up?
Dogs in training have day with AG; Veterans to gain work buddies.
Cute little canine; Minute Micha so small she can fit inside her owner's handbag.
E-collar sensitivity.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters