Weight Reduction is the Best Medicine

Question:
We have a 10 year old German shepherd/Malamute mix who is using the bathroom in the family room every night. She is house broken and knows she should not. She does have some difficulty getting up; however we cannot live with a dog using the bathroom in the house. She is overweight but will not go for walks. We love her very much and just don’t know what to do.

Dr. Nichol:
Aging is unkind to big dogs. Their joints endure serious wear as they lug that oversized load through life. The added burden of excess body fat almost guarantees painful arthritis. It’s such a chore for your canine senior to get up to relieve herself outside that she suffers the humiliation of soiling her living space.

You are right about the value of daily exercise; it helps maintain joint function as it burns a few calories. Prescription medications (not Tylenol or ibuprofen) would reduce your dog’s pain but by far the most urgent change has to be nutritional discipline. Pets whose owners show their love with table food pay a steep price. Too painful to venture outside her territory to explore the sights and scents, your dog’s life is diminished.

Have your girl thoroughly evaluated. If her exam and lab profile check out, prescription diet r/d (CQ) could be a life saver because it’s much higher in fiber and lower in fat than regular dog food. She could still enjoy a decent meal while reducing the strain on her long suffering joints.

Cognitive dysfunction (dementia) is another important consideration with your older dog; she may have forgotten her housetraining. Confusion, excessive barking, and a change in the relationship with family are just a few of the other common signs. Check my website, www.drjeffnichol.com for more information.