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Old Dog
Keep Fido sharp with walks, toys. / David Atkinson/Getty Images

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Question

I liked your column on doggy Alzheimer’s (canine cognitive dysfunction) and the importance of walking dogs. On your advice, I take my dog for a mile walk every day. At 77, I feel better and so does Lady (a black Labrador retriever), 10.

Answer

Now that you’re walking, you might try another powerful way to delay or prevent cognitive decline in dogs: Change the environment, perhaps by rotating toys. I love Nina Ottosson dog toys. And I’m a fan of food-dispensing toys: Hide them (reasonably) so a dog searches for meals.

If you spot signs of confusion or changes in sleep cycles, see your vet. Early diagnosis increases the odds of dealing with a cognitive issue if, in fact, that is the problem (pacing may not indicate confusion but a dog’s hesitation to lie down because it hurts). For cognitive difficulties, your vet might suggest a prescription diet, or one of several drugs and supplements.

Pet questions? Visit Petphoria, our pet blog at pets.usaweekend.com for more from contributing editor Steve Dale.

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Contributing editor Steve Dale is a certified dog and cat behavior consultant. He writes a twice-weekly syndicated newspaper column and is the host of two syndicated radio shows. Most recently he is the author of two e-books that answer common (and some not-so-common) pet-behavior problems, Good Dog! and Good Cat! (available wherever e-books are sold).