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"Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

It’s an adjustment when our furry friends start to age, but there are ways we can help them stay active, and feel happy and important. Walks might have to be shorter, and involve more sniffing and exploring. An older dog who stops more often to sniff, or refuses to walk at normal speeds might just be sore. Arthritis can invade the hips, the legs and even the back. Be understanding, and allow extra time for breaks during your walks. 

Substitute mental games for physical exercise. Find doggie puzzles, or toys that tip over and expel treats, play hide and seek, and teach some new tricks that don’t involve lots of movement (like tapping the talking buttons to communicate). Hide their food – One of Reggie’s (age 13) favorite activities happens at meal time. I put his food into 4 different bowls and hide the bowls out in the yard, in different places every day. He gets so excited to go outside and “hunt” for his food. It’s definitely his favorite part of the day!

Physical therapy can really help keep your senior dog’s muscles strong and fresh. Swimming in a warm pool is a great way for dogs to keep active without too much muscle stress. There’s a nice heated pool, and dog swimming classes at The Academy of Dog Training in Newark, Delaware. Friends’ dogs have had success with dog chiropractors and acupuncturists. 

Ramps and steps can help you get your senior dog into your car or truck, or up onto your bed. Realize that it’s going to be work for your dog to ramp up and understand these new skills, so sometimes a physical therapist or a certified trainer can help make ramps or steps into a game for you and your dog.

Talk to your vet about meds that can help with arthritis, inflammation, incontinence, or general anxiety. Reggie started dripping urine last year, but a med called Proin completely solved the problem! He’s been on a couple anti-inflammatories, which have helped with soreness.

Now, though, he’s having trouble sitting and lying down. Getting back up is a painful struggle, and when he walks, he drags his right foot a little. We still do our nightly walks, but now we drive to the park, and I have to help him into the truck. It's hurts me to watch this.

I’ve decided to start Reg on a new arthritis med called Librela. It’s new in the US, but has been used in Europe, Australia and Canada with dogs. It’s not an anti-inflammatory – it’s an monoclonal antibody drug that is injected once a month. It connects with and blocks a protein called NGF, keeping that protein from binding to nerve cells – and interrupting the transmission of pain signals.

Librela is expensive, and there are possibly some very bad side effects, but we’re going to take a chance. Hopefully, it will stop his pain, and help him feel more like himself. I just want my Reggieboy to be happy, and I will certainly keep you posted on his progress. We’ve been through so much together…

(deep breath) 

Your senior pal’s naps are going to be longer, the sleep deeper. Take time for belly rubs, ear scratches, special treats and hugs. Maybe try a food topper like graded cheese, hamburger or tuna fish to make every meal special. Make every ride in the car special. Put away your phone and make every walk special. Every day with your senior is special, so treasure these times.

Give your dog a hug for me.  

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