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14 ways to get your old dog to eat

Your senior dog may need special treatment.
Your senior dog may need special treatment.
John Hernandez

As dogs age, their appetite sometimes starts to diminish. Pups that usually rush to the food bowl and gobble down their dinner may start turning up their nose at their regular food. After your vet rules out any other health problems, its time to start getting some food in Fido. Here are 14 ways to encourage a senior dog to eat.

1.Don't mix medication into meals.
If you've been adding your dogs' supplements into his food, try taking them out. A hungry dog might ignore the taste, but if they loose their appetite they may be less willing to eat strange-tasting food.

2. Prime with a favorite treat.
Sometimes giving your dog a really awesome treat gets the digestive juices flowing, prompting them to eat their real food.

3. Treat an upset stomach.
Your dog may not feel like eating because of acid reflux. Feed a small snack before bedtime to reduce morning tummy upset, or ask your vet if you give your dog a small amount of Pepcid before their meal.

4. Smaller or softer kibble

Older dogs often have teeth problems. If you switch to a smaller sized kibble, or one that is semi-soft, your dog my eat with more enthusiasm.

5. Soften the food.
Another way to ease dental distress is the soften the food. You can use warm water, wet food, or chicken broth. Make sure you look for low sodium chicken broth with no onion powder.

6. Heat the food.
Heating up your dog's food will make it more aromatic, with can stimulate appetite. You can do this with canned food or dry food that has moisture added to it. Make sure the food is only warm, not hot.

7. Add ingredients.
Cracking a whole egg on food or adding raw meat can stimulate your dog to eat their regular kibble. Cat food can add flavor but should be avoided in large amounts because it has too much protein. May also be able to add dairy in the form of cottage cheese if your dog can tolerate it. Make sure to mix well so the dog can't pick out the "good stuff" and leave the kibble behind.

8. Home made foods
If you have the time, you can start making your dog home-made food. Use boiled rice, potatoes, or oatmeal for carbohydrates. Chicken, hamburger, scrambled eggs or cottage cheese can be used for protein, and don't forget the veggies! You can also feed macaroni but only if you know your pet has no gluten allergies. Ask vet for suggestions for a balanced diet, as you may have to add supplements for nutrition.

9. Exercise before meals.
Old dogs sleep hard and wake up slowly. A bit of light exercise before meals will get the blood flowing and may stimulate appetite. Try taking your morning stroll before breakfast.

10. Note daily changes in appetite.
Pay attention to what time of day your dog seems to have a better appetite. Offer food at same times as before, but note when your dog seems most eager to eat. If they don't want their morning food, just pick it up after ten minutes and try again in the afternoon. A dog who has missed his morning meal may be much more eager to eat in the afternoon. Just make sure they are getting a full day's worth of food even if they skip a feeding.

11. Peanut butter on the paws
This is a technique to jump-start your older dog's appetite. Place some peanut butter on the top of her paw. She may lick the peanut butter off in an effort to clean her fur. Getting some tasty food on her tongue may stimulate her taste buds again.

12. Raise your dog's blood sugar.
After avoiding food, your dog's blood sugar is probably out of whack. This by itself can cause some nausea and your dog may not feel like eating. Try spreading a little light corn syrup or honey on your dog's gums, and wait 15-20 minutes. After that short time, offer your dog something tempting but nutritious such as warm scrambled or hard boiled egg, a little cottage cheese, macaroni and cheese or oatmeal.

13. Appetite stimulants
There are some high-calorie appetite simulating gels on the market which may induce appetite in your dog. If she won't eat them on her own, try to put them on her paw as mentioned earlier. Your vet can also prescribe drugs that may increase your dog's appetite.

14. The Last Resort: Tube Feeding
When all else has failed to get food into your dog, your vet may recommend syringe-feeding a liquid diet, or insert a feeding tube. This process is sometimes messy and can be stressful for you and your dog. If there are no other health problems, tube-feeding may be worth it. However, if your dog is also suffering from debilitation issues, it might be time to talk about end-of-life arrangements.

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