Ask the Dog Trainer: My Best Friend is Old and Sick

Dear Kendal,
My dog ​​Oscar is my best friend. He still likes to play with his favorite green ball and chase me on my bike. He eats my socks and gets scared when he farts very hard, but lately he’s been very tired and lies down a lot.
Mom took him to the canine doctor and they said he was very sick and old. Everyone is very sad and I’m sad too. Mom said I should write to you and ask for help to feel better with Oscar. I don’t think it’s fair that my best friend is sick.
Dear Andre,
Oscar sounds like the best of friends, and everyone should be so lucky to grow up alongside a dog like him. My dog, Boomer, also steals my socks and farts so hard he wakes up from a nap. He and Oscar would also be great friends.
It’s always scary and sad when our loved ones don’t feel well. The canine doctors are very kind and competent people, and they will make sure that Oscar is not in pain. I’m sure if you ask they can help answer all your questions about his stomach and show you where he may be hurting. You may be able to help him with his daily medications and go with him to his exams so he doesn’t feel lonely or scared.
I’m sure you’ve been sick before and probably didn’t feel like eating much. Oscar may feel the same way, so you can help him stay hydrated by giving him ice cubes of low-sodium chicken broth or watermelon. If he has a favorite treat like baby carrots, diced chicken breasts, or freeze-dried liver, you can mix some with his regular food to entice him to eat. Make sure he has plenty of fresh, clean water in case he gets thirsty.
Oscar may also start acting a bit strange. He may have accidents in the house and feel bad. This is completely normal, and you can help Oscar be less embarrassed by taking him outside to use the bathroom more often and bringing his dog’s bed closer to the door. You can ask your mom to get him some kind of waterproof dog underwear or put on some potty pads that Oscar can access. He can get very cold or very hot, so you can get him a warm jacket or put some ice cubes in his water to help him cool down. He may also start to lose some of his fur or may not seem to hear or see you as clearly. Gentle daily brushing and talking to him in a calm voice can make him feel safe.
Think about your favorite memories with Oscar and make a list of adventures to have this summer. Even though Oscar tires quickly, you can still have fun together and include him. If he can’t run alongside your bike, take slow rides around the block, let him sniff and linger whenever he wants. You can have a scavenger hunt with his favorite treats, fill a kiddie pool with water and toys for him to splash around in, or take him with you when your family goes on a drive. Even a short drive to get pizza is fun with your head sticking out the window!
Take lots of photos! Invite Oscar to hang out with you while you play video games or read a book. If he can’t jump up on your bed or couch, ask your mom to help you set up a dog ladder or ramp for added safety and ease of access. I often read aloud to my dogs when they are not feeling well; James Herriot’s novels are my favorite, but whatever you choose to read, I’m sure Oscar will enjoy the story.
I’m sorry I don’t have better answers for you, Andrew. It’s very unfair for Oscar to feel sick, and it’s normal to feel upset that this is happening. When our friends aren’t feeling well, it can be really hard to remember the happiest times. But Andrew, it’s important for you to remember that dogs are happy creatures at heart, and one of the many valuable lessons they teach us is to find joy even when you’re having a bad day. So while it’s okay to be sad, try to find your smile again during the next chapter of your life together. That’s what best friends are for.
Kendall and Chandler Brown are owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For more information, visit or email

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