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Our Pet of the Month for January is a perky 10-year-old Bichon Frise named Piggles. She is a beloved member of her family and a special patient of our hospital. Piggles has been diagnosed with a number of different health problems, yet she remains happy to visit the veterinary hospital and has endeared herself to the staff and doctors. You can see from the attached photos that Piggles enjoys life and that is really what it is all about. Our goal as doctors is to help pets and pet owners live well with the challenges that life presents.

Piggles’ primary health problem is Cushing’s disease – Hyperadrenocorticism. You can read more about that disease on our December 2015 blog and also on Veterinary Partner.  In addition, Piggles has been diagnosed with KCS (dry eye) and pancreatitis both of which are chronic diseases. Cushing’s disease in particular can make patients more susceptible to other illnesses by lowering the normal immune response, and affecting other organs and tissues. Over the years Piggles has had urinary tract infections, ear infections, tooth extractions because of dental disease, skin issues thought to be associated with allergies, the occasional respiratory infection along with several bouts of intestinal upset.

Fortunately for Piggles, she has responded very well to her treatment plan. She is on Vetoryl® to control her Cushing’s disease, Hill’s Low Fat i/d® to control her pancreatitis and weight, and eye medications for her KCS. Getting her primary diseases well controlled has been important. Periodically we have had to add in other medications but her owner’s diligent home care has really made a difference in limiting flare-ups. 

Piggles out enjoying a lovely day in the sun

Senior dogs can still chase sticks at the beach!








Just as with people, some pets are blessed to have few health problems, and others seem to develop a variety of issues as they age. In dogs and cats, some of the health problems we see have a genetic link in that they are more common in certain breeds. Many other health issues are related to the individual. Either way, we do have the ability to influence the likelihood of some issues by:

  • feeding a high-quality food
  • keeping our pets lean and fit
  • checking fecal samples to eliminate intestinal parasites
  • providing preventive care such as using flea and tick products
  • providing home care for healthy teeth along with anesthetic professional dental care and evaluation on a regular basis
  • checking routine blood and urine tests to detect early changes (especially helpful for kidney and liver disease where early intervention can make a big difference in outcome)
  • addressing changes early versus waiting, as in the case of skin nodules, find out what they are before deciding to ‘monitor’ them, and with heart murmurs – get an ECG, chest radiographs, and a cardiac Echo to know if treatment is needed or not, and to know how to address changes when they occur

The doctors and team at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital are skilled at managing complex medical cases and we believe in taking the time to help you understand your pet’s health. Once we have a diagnosis, we can help you decide the best course forward and formulate a plan to manage the progression of disease(s) appropriately.

There is a tendency for some pet owners to decide that ‘my pet is old’ so I don’t want to bring them in as often. However, regular veterinary visits can make a significant difference in how well your pet lives as they age. For senior pets, and pets with chronic illnesses, ‘regular’ might mean every 3-6 months. Unlike people, most dogs and cats tend to hide their symptoms and this can make it difficult to catch health problems at an early stage; regular visits also help us see trends and that allows us to adjust the treatment plans before your options are limited.

Advances in diagnostics and treatment options provide us with a greater ability to help your pet live comfortably, even with specific health problems, well into their teen years. Your pets give you a lot of love and enjoyment; give them the best that you can in return.

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