Malvern Veterinary Hospital
547 Dandenong Rd
Armadale, Vic, 3143
Phone: 03 9509 7611
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Old age is to be enjoyed

Senior dogs have different requirements to younger dogs. While this is no suprise to us, how do you know when your dog is considered senior?

The table shown  indicates when  "senior age" actually begins in dogs. This age varies and depends on their size. For example, large dogs reach older age quite a few years before smaller dogs. There are things we can do for our senior friends. Here are some tips.

*Schedule regular visits with your Veterinarian:  Your dog needs to be examined every 6 months even if it appears healthy. Many diseases are hidden or not apparent. Remember it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it.

*Ask for a body condition evaluation during each visit:  This is crucial to determine whether your senior dog is over or underweight. Use food to keep them at their ideal weight. An overweight dog has a higher incidence of disease such as diabetes, heart, skin , arthritis and even cancer. Statistically dogs that are 20% over their ideal body weight can expect to live 2 years less than those at their ideal weight.

*Feed your dog a high quality diet:  Or consider a special diet if your senior dog has heart, joint or kidney disease. A great senior food is Hills Science Diet Mature.

*Take care of your dog's mouth: Brushing your dogs teeth will help to keep your dog's mouth healthy. If you cant brush then you can use dental chews ie Greenies.

*Exercise your senior dog: Tailored exercise can help keep your dog lean and maintain muscle strength. Arthritis can afffect senior dogs especially in winter. Now is a good time of the year to have your dogs joints checked.

*Provide plenty of toys to keep your dog occupied: Food puzzles can be used for entertainment and weight loss purposes too.

*Provide special accommodation:  Dogs with arthritis may benefit from soft bedding ( ie. Orthopedic dog beds). Ramps can be used to make stairs easier to navigate. Even carpeting or rugs over hard slippery floors can help arthritic dogs gain footing.

relative age chart

How old is your dog in human years?

Contents of this newsletter

01  A special mum

02  Mothers of the animal kingdom

03  What is an endocrine disease?

04  Maddie’s insatiable appetite

05  Cushing's disease – one to watch out for

01 A special mum

It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday 10th May so we thought it would be a good time to celebrate mums of the furry variety!

In keeping with this theme, we stumbled across a beautiful story of a mother dog in Chile. She saved her litter of nine pups from a forest fire by digging a hole to allow the week old puppies to take shelter.

The devoted mother, who was nicknamed Blacky, had no time to escape and local residents witnessed her taking the puppies away from the blaze and burying them under a metal container to protect them.

Rescuers who went in search of the pups found them alive and well and they, along with their mum, were put up for adoption.

You can see images of Blacky and her pups and read more about this amazing story here.

Happy Mother's Day to all the devoted mums out there!

02 Mothers of the animal kingdom

Some amazing facts!

  • Elephants have the longest pregnancy in the animal kingdom at 22 months.
  • Chimpanzees have the longest childhoods (apart from humans), staying with their mothers for up to 7 years.
  • Blue whale calves nurse for 7 to 8 months, drinking about 230 litres of milk a day. They gain about 3.7 kg every hour and are weaned when they reach about 13m in length. 
  • Male seahorses can actually give birth to offspring.

And finally:

During her reproductive life, one female cat has the ability to produce more than 100 kittens. Remember that there are many unwanted kittens and cats out there so it's important to desex your pet.

03 What is an endocrine disease?

An endocrine disease is a fancy way of describing a disease that is caused by a hormonal imbalance. These diseases are relatively common and can greatly affect your pet’s quality of life. Some diseases can even be life threatening if they are not diagnosed and treated correctly.

Endocrine diseases can develop because a gland is not functioning properly or the control of the gland is faulty.

When too much hormone is produced, the disease is referred to as a hyper disease. Tumours and abnormal tissue growth commonly cause an overproduction of hormone. 

A hypo disease occurs when too little hormone is produced. Endocrine glands that are destroyed, removed, or just stop working cause these diseases. 

Keep a look out for the following:

  • Changes in appetite and thirst
  • Changes in weight
  • Changes in coat and skin
  • Changes in behaviour

There are multiple ways we can treat an endocrine disease but diagnosis of the actual cause of the disease is essential.

We will cover some of the common endocrine diseases in this newsletter but remember that there are plenty more out there so make sure your pet receives regular health checks with us. 

04 Maddie’s insatiable appetite

Meet Maddie, a scrawny 14 year old tortoiseshell cat who is always in search of a meal. 

A check up revealed Maddie had lost nearly 17% of her body weight in the past year. This was despite her ravenous appetite and regular snacks around the neighbourhood.

A blood test revealed grossly elevated levels of thyroid hormone circulating in her body. She was suffering from an endocrine disease called hyperthyroidism. This condition is not uncommon in older cats and an overproduction of thyroid hormone results in an out-of-control metabolic rate, upsetting the regulation of carbohydrates, fats, and protein as well as the function of the heart.

Common signs of hyperthyroidism:

• Weight loss despite a normal or increased appetite
• Poor coat quality
• Vomiting
• Increased thirst and urination

There are different options for the treatment of hyperthyroidism and the treatment of individual patients depends on how well the kidneys and the heart are functioning.

Maddie has since commenced treatment with a transdermal medication and is gaining weight. We will monitor Maddie’s progress closely with regular blood and urine tests.

Arrange an appointment with us if you think your cat might be showing some of the signs mentioned above.

05 Cushing's disease – one to watch out for

Cushing's disease is one of the most common endocrine diseases seen in dogs. It is a slow and progressive disease caused by the overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is a normal hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland, and this hormone is essential for normal body function. Unfortunately, in some animals, the adrenal gland produces too much cortisol and can have detrimental effects on your pet’s quality of life.

In some cases, Cushing's can be caused by an external source of cortisol, such as the long term administration of cortisone.

Watch out for these signs of Cushing's disease:

  • Excessive thirst and appetite
  • Excessive urination
  • A pot belly
  • Ongoing skin problems, thin skin and hair loss
  • Poor tolerance of heat and excessive panting
  • Lethargy

Blood and urine tests are needed to diagnose Cushing's disease. It is also important that other endocrine diseases such as diabetes are ruled out.

Cushing's disease is just another reason why we like to perform regular health checks on your pet. If we are able to detect and commence treatment early we can slow the progression of the disease and help your pet live a longer and healthier life.