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Top Tips For Caring For Your Older Dog In Winter

Dog owners know to put a coat on their dog when they take her out in cold weather, but what about at night, when thermostats are lowered to save money? The issue becomes especially important for older dogs who, just like older people, do not adapt easily to abrupt changes in temperature. Make sure the canine remains comfortable by putting her in a fuzzy dog bed, perhaps with a blanket over her. Hot air rises toward the ceiling while cold air sinks to the floor where the dog sleeps.

That’s just one of the many tips found in GOOD OLD DOG: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy, and Comfortable, just out from the Faculty of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and edited by world-renowned animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, BVMS. Here's 10 other top tips for older dog owners:

1. If you fly with Fido, consider buying a climate-controlled pet carrier. The belly of the plane might be temperature-controlled, but not the tarmac in frigid or blazing hot weather.

2. Don’t be seduced by the word “Senior” on packages of dog food. That’s a marketing tool with no definition other than what the manufacturer wants it to mean. Instead, look for fine print that says the food went through animal feeding tests approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO.

3. Don’t despair if your aging friend is experiencing urinary incontinence. There is now an arsenal of drugs – and even surgeries – to correct the problem.

4. Check to see if your dog waddles or shuffles when she walks. It could be a sign of arthritis. Limping is not the only clue.

5. Consider buying health care insurance for your older pet. For about $50 a month, and sometimes much less, you can considerably diminish the cost of an expensive surgery or other procedure your older friend may need.

6. If your canine companion stands at the hinge side of a door to go through or gets “stuck” in corners or behind furniture, take her to the vet for a workup. She may have the canine version of Alzheimer’s, and the sooner you tend to it, the better your chances of slowing its progression.

7. Put runners down on smooth surfaces like highly polished floors. They may not look good, but aging dogs often have a harder time gaining traction on a smooth surface or getting up from a reclining position.

8. Think your dog may be sick? Take his temperature. Normal is a range – 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

9. Don’t smoke. Second-hand smoke is thought to raise the cancer risk for dogs (and other animals), just like it does for people. Even third-hand smoke – the tobacco toxin leftovers that stick on skin, hair, drapes, and so on – can make its way to your dog’s lungs.

10. Don’t fret if your dog needs abdominal surgery. For people, it can take 6 weeks after an abdominal operation to walk without pain. But people have to use their abdominal muscles to keep themselves upright when they walk, since they only have two legs. Because a dog has four legs, however, all her abdominal muscles have to do is hold in her organs, not expand and contract every time she takes a step. She can generally walk the day of the surgery.

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