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When your Maltese dog Gets Old
by Jay Bianco

Just like older people, caring for your elderly Maltese require special health needs, and require a little more care and attention than they did when they were younger. A little extra time and effort on your part will be well rewarded by continuing good health for them and years of rewarding and loving companionship for you. Fortunately for Maltese owners, the Maltese being a smaller breed tend to have longer lives than the larger breed of dog. In general elderly means over eight years old for dogs. When your Maltese gets older, their organs may become less efficient, and they may be less able to resist infections and other diseases. I'm sure you as a responsible owner, will want your Maltese to remain healthy and active for as long as possible. You should be aware of any condition which might need your veterinarian's attention. When your Maltese gets older he will naturally be less active than he was as puppy and young adult and therefore may need less energy from his diet. A special diet is sometimes needed for him as he grows elderly. Adjustment in the content of protein he gets might be needed as organs can become less efficient in dealing with food.

As your Maltese grows older you should make an assessment of his appearance and behavior. You and your Maltese should absolutely seek the advise of a veterinarian if he refuses food, has a problem in urinating or is in any obvious pain. Alert your veterinarian at once if you notice signs such as coughs, wheezing or breathing difficulties. There are also a number of specific health problems which you should watch for with your elderly Maltese such as arthritis, which may develop in his joints. Be careful about the amounts of exercise he gets - too much could easily make arthritis worse.

Older Maltese are more susceptible to diseases of their hearts and lungs, also ear infections can occur. Such signs as him pawing at his ear or a discharge from the ear or him letting out a yelp when petting him close to his ears could mean problems and should be looked after. Also his hearing may not be up to par. He may stop obeying your commands simply because he can't hear you.

Eye infections or even blindness in one or both eyes too become more common as your Maltese grows old. Watch out for discharge from the eyes, or any signs that sight is impaired, such as bumping into furniture, or when feeding him something from your hand he has a hard time seeing what you have for him.

Disease of the gums can not only lead to loss of teeth, but may also cause a more serious condition if the bacteria enters the bloodstream. If the teeth or gums do not look normal ask your veterinarian's advice, you should examine your pet's teeth regularly.

Bladder or kidney problems also pose a threat in your elderly Maltese, and even your pet which has been house-trained for years may suddenly disgrace itself. This is sometimes due to problems with the nervous system affecting bladder control, or may be due to a urinary infection. If your Maltese suddenly becomes incontinent, consult your veterinarian.

So how can you tell if your Maltese is showing signs of CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome) or if they are just getting older? Watch if they start showing some of the following behaviors:

If you see these behaviors in your Maltese, tell your veterinarian. Unfortunately, there is no cure for CDS, but there is increasing hope. There is a prescription drug available to treat dogs with CDS in the US (two are available in Europe). It works by increasing the amount of dopamine in the dog's brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the brain needs to function normally; an increased amount of dopamine can improve brain function. Though it doesn't work in all dogs, the drug can help many dogs with CDS think more clearly, remember more, return to their interactions with family, and enjoy a higher quality of life in their elderly years. Your veterinarian can help you decide whether a prescription is the right thing for your Maltese.





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