Getting An Old Dog to Eat

by Gary Tashjian

My Rottie/Shepard mix Sheba is 15 years old now, and has started to show signs of age. Most notably her appetite has waned – she’s been an enthusiastic eater all her life (she’s been eating raw since I adopted her more than 10 years ago), but now she often needs a bit of coaxing to get her to eat. Aside from concerns about her nutritional needs, this also makes it more difficult to keep her on a regular schedule for her medications.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

Feeding:

1. Sheba’s appetite level varies during the day, and is often lowest in the morning. While I still give her the opportunity to eat in the morning, I don’t get upset if she doesn’t want to. Usually when this happens, she has a voracious appetite by the time the evening meal comes around.

2.  Don’t mix medicines into meals. I’ve always done this in the past, but now I give them separately. The herbal medications I’ve been giving Sheba are a bit bitter, and affect the flavor of her food. With her appetite already a concern, I don’t want anything upsetting the taste of her food, or making her wary of her meals.

3. Try taking a break from the normal diet every once in a while. Sometimes Sheba prefers a “lighter” diet – like cottage cheese and brown rice, maybe with a little chicken broth, just to give her a change from her normal raw meat diet.

Medications:

1. For pills, I’ve been using cream cheese to disguise them. It goes down easily, and Sheba never even knows she’s taken a pill. I’ve used peanut butter the same way in the past as well.

2. Powdered herbs are a challenge, particularly if they’re bitter. I’ve tried baking them into a biscuit and then serving in warm chicken broth, but this doesn’t always work. I’ve also put them into capsules, but sometimes it would take too many to get the amount needed.

3. My vet suggested diluting the herbs in water and then using a turkey baster to squirt the mix down Sheba’s throat. I haven’t actually tried this, as I’m sure I’d get some resistance, but I may need to if nothing else works.

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