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9. Old Dogs, New Dicks

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9. Old Dogs, New Dicks

Starting with the nose, most dogs retain their sense of smell until they drop. Scent is a prime sense for dogs, and smelling is often how they perceive the world. This is true for all dogs, from Pugs with short faces to Borzoi with long muzzles. You do want to look at the muzzle for any asymmetry, including lumps, loose lips or growths.

Your senior dog will almost always show some changes in his eyes and vision. Cataracts are fairly common in senior dogs, but that whitish discoloration you notice may not be a cataract. It could simply be an aging change called nuclear sclerosis. This is a hardening of the lens causing the whitish cast, but it has minimal effect on vision. Your veterinarian can distinguish the two via an ophthalmic exam.

Many dogs become less tolerant of grooming with age. Your groomer may suggest more frequent visits so the time involved is kept shorter. At home, you might want to switch to a wooden pin brush as opposed to one with metal pins. Trimming long feathers off the front and rear legs can help, as well as trimming long hair around the rectum and vulva or penis for hygiene purposes. Doing at least a partial shave may save grooming angst for you and your dog. Dogs like Old English Sheepdogs, Shih Tzu or Poodles who may have been kept in full show coats might really appreciate a cut down at this point in their lives.

Elderly dogs, especially Miniature and Toy Poodles as well as Miniature Schnauzers, are prone to skin growths. These may be small warts, little whitish sebaceous cysts or small lipomas. Your veterinarian will examine them and possibly do a needle biopsy or full surgical biopsy to rule out cancers. In general, small growths that are totally in the skin and can be easily moved around tend to be benign.

Last month, Bette Spinney noticed that the dog's balance was off kilter, and he seemed to have trouble seeing. Brando was brought to Cornell University's Hospital for Animals, where Thomas Kern, chief of ophthalmology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, confirmed that Brando was, indeed, having vision problems: He was blind in one eye. Kern ordered a magnetic resonance image, or MRI. The MRI system at Cornell, built by Esaote of Italy, is North America's first permanent, open-magnet MRI system specifically designed for companion animals -- dogs, cats and other small pets. The system was installed just before Thanksgiving, and Brando was among the first to use it. The system, which images soft tissue in detail, clearly showed Brando's problem -- a small tumor impinging on the optic nerve. "Thanks to the new MRI, we were able to diagnose the tumor at this early stage. Catching it early bodes for a better prognosis," Kern says.

Some dogs with paraphimosis will be in too much pain to tolerate home treatment. Others will suffer from paraphimosis that is too severe to be addressed at home. These dogs, or dogs owned by more squeamish people, should receive veterinary attention as soon as possible (although it is still a good idea to apply lubricant to the penis to prevent it from drying out). They generally require sedation or even general anesthesia for the penis to be replaced. After I treat paraphimosis I usually trim the hair from the tip of the prepuce to reduce the risk of recurrence; given the sensitive nature of the site, this is a task that only an experienced professional should attempt.

The inability to completely protrude the penis is called phimosis. The inability to completely retract the penis, alternatively, is called paraphimosis. The causes of each of these conditions can vary, and veterinary intervention may be required if the problem persists. These conditions may be more likely in small dogs, though it can be seen in all breed types. While this can occur at any age, it typically occurs in dogs that are younger than 1 year of age. Paraphimosis usually occurs after the dog has an erection, when the skin at the preputial orifice (the space between the prepuce and glans penis) becomes inverted and traps the penis, keeping it from retracting.

In male dogs, frequent episodes of mounting may cause dermatitis over their foreskins. It is a serious problem when a male dog humps objects frequently enough that he causes lesions to form on the tip of his penis. The lesions can be painful, and in some cases, they can cause scarring at the tip of the penis, therefore forming a urinary blockage. 59ce067264


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