Monthly Archives: June 2013

What’s that Little Bump?


IMG_0337A few weeks ago while massaging Bailey, I noticed a little pea-sized lump under her skin on her right thigh.  We didn’t think much about it as the girls are always getting fatty deposit tumors and bumps and scratches.  I put it in the back of my mind but kept monitoring it.  I knew that she was due for her annual physical and teeth cleaning soon so as a precaution, I would have the Vet check it then.

That little bump turned out to be a mast cell tumor that is cancerous.  We don’t yet know what her treatment plan will be as that depends on what comes back in the labs.  At minimum, she’ll have to have surgery to remove the tumor and all the tissue around it to make sure they take all the cancer.  If the tumor is more aggressive, we might be looking at chemotherapy too.  Either way, not too much fun for Bailey in the near future but I feel confident that she’ll be ok.  I just have this feeling.

So what is a Mast Cell Tumor?  To be honest, my vet tried to explain it to me in the office but my head was swimming.  When someone tells you that C word, cancer, you don’t hear much after.  According to PetMD, mast cells are cells that reside in the connective tissues, especially those vessels and nerves that are closest to the external surfaces (e.g., skin, lungs, nose, mouth).  Mast cells contain histamine and heparin. They play a role in allergic responses, non-allergic skin disease, wound healing and tissue remodeling. They can also increase stomach acid production.

Mast Cell Tumors, also called Mastocytoma, are caused when mast cells replicate faster than normal.  In order to be diagnosed, the veterinarian aspirates the bump or lump.  Sometimes the bump is just under the skin.  Other times, it can be on the skin.  With Bailey, we felt something under the skin and it came to the surface.  Also it grew very quickly.  Mast Cell Tumors can be found in both dogs and cats.  Some mast cell tumors are benign but most are malignant.

The tumors are usually graded based on a number of factors including the location of the tumor in the skin, presence of inflammation, and how well they are differentiated. Grade 1 cells are well differentiated with a low potential for metastasis; Grade 2 cells are intermediately differentiated with a potential for locally invasive metastasis; and Grade 3 cells are poorly differentiated or undifferentiated with a high potential for metastasis. Differentiation is a determination of how much a particular tumor cell looks like a normal cell; the more differentiated, the more like the normal cell. In general, the more differentiated the mast cell tumor is, the better the prognosis is.

Boxers, bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers appear to be more susceptible to mast cell tumors than other breeds. The mean age for the development of this condition is eight years in dogs, though it has been reported in animals less than one year of age.  Although Bailey is what we call our All American Mutt, when we had her DNA tested, she did come back with Boston Terrier in her.  She will be eight years old on November 24th of this year.

In about a week we will know what Grade her tumor is and what we will need to do for her.  In addition to this, she had to have a broken tooth removed during her teeth cleaning.  My poor Bai Bai has been through the ringer in the last couple of days!  She is taking five pills a day twice a day including pain killer, anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, Benedryl and Pepcid AC.  She doesn’t mind that though because she gets them in the delicious Greenie brand pill pocket!  The pain pill (Tramadol), anti-inflamatory and antibiotic are due to her broken tooth being removed (she had to have a couple of stitches too).  The Benedryl and Pepcid are for the Mast Cell Tumor to make sure the overproduction of histamine and stomach acid doesn’t make her feel worse.

I am hoping the early detection will work in our favor.  We’ll keep you posted.


Stupid Pet Tricks — Watch Me Put My Paw in My Mouth, Ma!

Phoebe, my yellow lab, can put her entire front paw in her mouth.  This is not a stupid pet trick!  When she first started doing this, I thought there was something wrong with the pad on her paw and examined it thoroughly.  There was nothing there – no ticks between her toes or cuts on the pad.

Phoebe in the cone of shame with an ear infection

Phoebe in the cone of shame with an ear infection

What I didn’t know was that itchy feet are a classic symptom of dogs that suffer from allergies.  We humans may sneeze or have itchy eyes during pollen season but dogs show allergic reactions differently.  And, they have as many different allergic reactions as we humans do.

In addition to the paw biting, you might notice your pet has red, raw, itchy skin or increased scratching.  A common sign for flea allergy is itchiness at the base of the tail.  My “All American” Mutt, Bailey, has a severe allergy to fleas and every summer even though she is on a flea preventative, she has a reaction and loses the hair on the back of her legs and develops hot spots from licking certain areas, usually on her ankles and feet.  As soon as the weather starts to warm up, I want to put her in some kind of hermetically sealed jumpsuit that won’t let the fleas or any of the summer pollens near her.  Bailey on steroids is not fun!

Dogs can also be allergic to the common allergens that make us humans sneeze like the following:

  • Tree, grass and weed pollens
  • Mold spores
  • Dust and house dust mites
  • Dander
  • Feathers
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Food ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Fleas and flea-control products (The bite of a single flea can trigger intense itchiness for two to three weeks!)
  • Perfumes
  • Cleaning products
  • Fabrics
  • Insecticidal shampoo
  • Rubber and plastic materials

Phoebe, it turns out, is allergic to grains (corn specifically) and chicken.  She gets a special no grain, salmon food.  Her food allergy also manifests into terrible ear infections.  We can tell when she sneaks one of the other dogs’ foods because within a day, her ear becomes smelly and has a black yeasty discharge.  We’ve also had to change treats to be no grain, no chicken biscuits or freeze-dried liver treats.  You’d be surprised what has wheat and corn in it when you read the ingredients.

I recently read an article on allergies from Drs. Foster & Smith that broke dog allergies into three areas:  atopy, contact dermatitis and food allergies.



Atopy is the most common form of allergy in dogs and cats. Atopy is often seasonal. If a pet is allergic to ragweed, symptoms occur in the fall. Pets who are allergic to spring tree pollen will show signs in April and May. If a pet is allergic to dust mites, the symptoms may be most dramatic in the winter, when more time is spent inside. Signs of atopy include:

  • Chewing at the feet
  • Constant licking of the flank (side) and groin area
  • Rubbing of the face
  • Inflamed ears or recurrent ear infections
  • Recurrent hot spots in dogs and pinpoint facial scabbing in cats
  • Asthma-like wheezing and respiratory problems (more likely in cats)

Contact Dermatitis

Less common allergies include contact dermatitis, which include allergies to carpets, cleaners, or plastic. These allergies may cause:

  • Red itchy bumps or blisters on sparsely-haired areas of the skin and those exposed to the allergen such as the belly, feet, or muzzle
  • Intense scratching
  • Hair loss (in chronic conditions)

Food Allergies

Food allergies account for about 10-15% of all allergies in dogs and cats. Food allergies may show up concurrently with allergies to pollen, dust, etc. Symptoms include:

  • Itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area
  • Ear problems, often yeast-related
  • Skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic therapy ceases

In any allergy case, the best reaction is to work with your vet to find the fastest relief for your pet.

Rainbow Bridge…Coping with Losing Your Best Friend

rainbowbridgeRainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

— Author Unknown

Two of my good friends lost their beloved dogs this week.  I know they are sad and grief-stricken. The grief you feel losing a pet is real and it is painful.  My dogs mean the world to me and I probably spend more time with them than any single human including my husband.  When the time comes to consider their quality of life versus my need to have them on this earth with me, I hope that I will make the right choice.

I’ve faced this decision many times in my life and each time it is a painful experience.  I am a believer in the advancement of veterinarian technology and our policy in our house is to do whatever we can to save the dog.  My dog, Beatrice, who went under anesthesia to have a biopsy done and never woke up, haunts me.  I can only imagine her scared and amongst strangers when her life ended.  With my other animals, I’ve always been there with them, holding them and comforting them as they pass through to Rainbow Bridge.

My eldest dog, Viola, is starting to experience some health issues related to age.  Here eyes are clouded with what looks like the beginning of cataracts.  Her back legs are beginning to give out on her and she falls down.  She recently started waking up in the middle of the night and barking because she doesn’t seem to realize where she is.  We don’t know how old she really is because she was a rescue.  We guess her age to be about 11 or 12.  None of these symptoms, for me, are enough to look at putting her down.  My factors are first, how much pain is the animal in?  Second, what are the chances of recovery?  Last, what is the degree of recovery and the quality of their life?

We adopted Viola almost eight years ago.  My husband, Andy, found Viola at a rescue group showing their dogs at a PetSmart.  The problem was that he found her just about an hour after we had to put down our beloved Riley.  Andy literally left the emergency clinic where they couldn’t save Riley – he had a chronic disorder called “mega esophagus” and couldn’t get enough air into his lungs because the stretching of his esophagus caused him to have chronic pneumonia and lung infections from food and water getting stuck and causing infections.

Riley was in an oxygen tent and he was holding on just long enough to get his family there.  Both Andy and I had been out on Saturday morning.  When Andy got home, Riley had collapsed and did not appear to be breathing.  Andy put him in the car and drove to the emergency vet.  All the while calling me.  I was in a class and had turned my phone ringer off.  When we went on break, I looked at my phone and saw 14 calls from Andy.

I rushed over to the emergency vet as fast as I could.  They had managed to get him breathing again but he was suffering terribly.  When he looked me in the eyes, I felt him tell me to release him.  I could only manage to get one hand under the oxygen tent and I held his front paw and was able to scratch his chest a little.  It didn’t take very much and he was gone.

Although we adopted Viola a week later, she wasn’t a replacement for Riley.  Each dog is a one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.  Andy didn’t show me the picture he took of her until I came home on Tuesday and told him about another dog we had to rescue, Phoebe.  That Saturday, just one week after Riley’s passing, we welcomed both girls into our house.

For each family, it is different.  Some people vow never to get another animal when they go through the grief of losing a beloved pet.  Some families think adopting a younger furbaby while their senior is still around gives the older animal some extra energy.  I believe the elder dog teaches the younger dog the lay of the land and what’s expected of them.

Grief is a personal issue and every person will deal with this catastrophic loss differently.  I love looking through old pictures of the dogs I had in my past and remembering their stories.  Those stories help me work through the grief and heartbreak.  You never really lose a pet because you keep their memory close to your heart.  And I do believe that one day when i’m about to cross Rainbow Ridge, all my friends will surround me and welcome me!

Genetics of Dogs and How They Behave


If you had to guess, what would you say this dog is?

Take a look at this sweet face in the photo and tell me what you think she got in her?  When we adopted her from the shelter, she was only five weeks old.  Like a human baby, sometimes new born dogs are hard to tell what their features are going to be like.  Since she was found under a porch with her sister but no mom, the animal shelter guessed she was some kind of chow mix because of the black on her tongue.

We had just lost our Chow and Sharpei mix, Beatrice, in October and since then, I had been making surreptitious visits to the shelter.  Generally, I don’t adopt puppies.  I’m all about saving the older dogs but something drew me into the puppy room.  And there I saw this little bundle of black fur and blue eyes and I was sure it was Beatrice reincarnated.

We did all the right things with this puppy.  We took her, as soon as she had all her puppy shots, to puppy training school.  We socialized her around lots of people and other dogs.  We exercised her and took her hiking up the mountain at least once a week.  That pudgy, fluffy, flop-eared puppy grew into a gangly, giant-eared, long-snouted dog!


Me? Digging? I haven’t been digging!

Oddly enough, as her appearance changed, so did some of her behavior.  She became leery of people in general.  She was very cautious around other dogs.  She was exhibiting more dominant behavior with the other dogs at home.

We decided to get her DNA tested to just get an inkling of what her breed make up was.  We were certain by this time that she was no chow mix.

We purchased a standard, cheek swab DNA kit and sent it into the company.  In a few weeks, we got the results.  The DNA revealed that she had no breed in her primary make up — so Mom and Dad were not pure bred anything.  She also had no specific breed DNA in her secondary heritage line — so Grandma and Grandpa and Grandma and Grandpa were not purebred.  She also had no specific breed DNA in her tertiary lineage — so Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and…well you get the meaning…no purebreds there either.

What she came back with were traces of the following breeds:  Boston Terrier, Rottweiler and Belgian Tervuren Shepard.  The ears, for instance, definitely came from the Tervuren but certainly her short coat didn’t.  The Tervuren has long feathers.  I look at the shape of her mouth and her slightly bulging eyes and I can see the Boston.  Her natural protectiveness could be a trait from the Rottie.

Once I found out what her genetic make up was, however, it did not change the way I was training her.  It helped me to understand why she did some things, like herding the pack along when playing outside or guarding the house when we were away.  But, Bailey has a personality all of her own and quirks galore.

Although knowing the breed and the characteristics of the breed can help explain some behavior, it is not the defining factor in a dog.  As a pet owner, trainer and dog lover, I say these tests can be fun but don’t think your dog is going to act a certain way because her breed description says it.  I have a lab who doesn’t like water!

Automated or Human Launch – What Do Dogs Prefer? Review of GoDogGo

Phoebe (L) and Bailey (r) go after the tennis ball

Phoebe (L) and Bailey (r) go after the tennis ball

My dogs are absolutely ball crazy. I don’t leave loose tennis balls around the house because Bailey will walk around crying like she is in intense pain until she puts it in my lap and backs away anxiously waiting for a toss…even a small toss that she can pick off mid-air and then the crying cycle begins again. Phoebe only gets excited when I have the ball in hand when I step out onto our back deck.  She’s more practical than Bailey.



We have a lot of products designed to get the ball moving.  We have slingshots, chuck-its, golf clubs, canons and my latest purchase, the GoDogGo Fetch and Ball Launcher System,  T

oday, Phoebe and Bailey would like to tell you about their experiences with this automated ball launcher.  As usual, they don’t agree on the overall satisfaction — Phoebe gives it a resounding paws up but Bailey gives it a tails down.  First, we’ll hear from Phoebe.

Phoebe:  I really like this machine…alot!  First, it was really easy for Mom to set up.  She didn’t have any D batteries so she used the big orange extension cord to plug it into the wall socket on the deck.  It was nice we could use it right away and not wait for her to go to the store to buy the batteries…that might have taken a long time!  So once she plugged it in and put the balls into the basket, we were ready to go.  Mom pressed the button on the remote control and we could hear something sort of winding up.  I’m so used to watching Mom throw the ball that I didn’t associate the noise with the ball being thrown the first couple of times.  I kept watching her and missing when the ball popped!  So Mom finally made pretend she was throwing the ball so I would run down the stairs.

The GoDogGo ball launching system

The GoDogGo ball launching system

Mom was not looking at the remote control when she mashed the button and evidently she set it on auto 7 seconds.  This meant a new ball was launched every seven seconds.  I’m fast, but I’m not that fast.  Bailey was freaked out but I’ll let her tell you about that.  The only thing I’m not crazy about is that the ball pops up high but not very far.  Mom’s a terrible thrower and I think she throws further than the machine.

I haven’t learned 100% yet to bring the ball back and put it in the bucket.  I usually drop it at Mom’s feet  so I’m sure I’ll be able to figure out putting it in bucket.  Overall, I give it a 4 paws out of 5!  I like it very much and will fetch and fetch and fetch until Mom decides I’ve had enough.

Bailey: I don’t like this machine at all!  The noise scares me and I take the ball and run away.  Usually when we play ball, it is one ball at a time.  I will admit, I’m a little on the OCD side…ok I’m very OCD!  Ball playing should only have one ball at a time and if I do not get it, then my sister Phoebe will get it, and bring it back to Mom.  When we first played with this, Mommy made the mistake of pushing the button on the remote that auto launched balls and they were all over the yard.  I went to each one and tried to fit it in my mouth but I have a delicate mouth and could only fit one at a time.  It freaked me out that there were so many balls in the yard at once so I just got one and ran away back into the house.  The other terrible thing is that it made a large whackadoodle noise every time it sent a ball flying.  It was too scary for me and I missed out playing ball which is my favorite thing in the world.  So for how much it cost, how loud and scary it is and the lack of distance, I can only give it one paw out of five.  The good thing I will say about it is that it holds a lot of balls.

Kritter Keepers:  I love the concept of this but at around $150 it is a pretty expensive dog toy especially when one of my dogs is afraid of it.  I have taken it with to different clients’ homes and have had some good results with it.  No one else seems to be as afraid of the noise as Bailey.  I think the sound cues would be great especially for a puppy just starting to play ball but for dogs like my Phoebe who are very sight oriented, she hasn’t got the sound cue and looks at me to “throw” the ball.  All of us do wish the ball went further.  As a safety precaution (the machine can whip the ball out pretty fast — think pitching machine) the projection of the ball goes up rather than out.  Since I usually hit tennis balls off my deck with my tennis racquet, my dogs are used to trying to cover a great distance in a short period of time.  The almost always overshoot the distance when using GoDogGo.  Overall, love the concept, not crazy about price point and think there could be some improvements in design.  I give it a 3 paws out of five. 

Summer Lovin’ — Care for Your Pup During Summer Fun


Summer time is time for families to get out and do things together.  In today’s family, that often means the inclusion of your four legged furkids too.  Here are some suggestions for keeping everyone happy and healthy during the dog days of summer.

1)  Car Rides:  Even with the air conditioner running, it can get extremely hot in the car for a dog. On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes according to an article by PETA.  In less than 15 minutes, your pup can succumb to heat stroke or suffer brain damage.

Phoebe, my yellow lab, loves car rides but in the summer time I only take her for quick trips through a drive through or to Petsmart or to the dog park.  We carry a travel bowl and cold water in the car and I frequently make sure she has a drink.  If we are traveling long distances, we make a lot of stops for water and fresh air.

2)  Hiking with your dog:  Many state and national parks allow dogs on the trails but what do you need to pack to make sure you and your pooch are protected?  First, make sure you always keep your pup leashed.  From squirrels and snakes to deer and bears, the last thing you want (or need) is for Fido to run after the local wildlife.  An encounter with something as innocent looking as a toad can cause great pain and even death for your dog.  Secondly, like you, dogs can get sunburned!  You should apply sunblock to sun-sensitive areas such as tips of ears, nose, belly and groin areas that typically have sparse hair coverage and thinner skin.  In addition to the leash and sunblock, make sure you have plenty of water on hand for you and your dog.  Last, make sure you plan your hike according to your capabilities and your dog’s.  If you are both couch potatoes usually but have been bitten by the summer bug, plan a shorter hike at first and work your way into more challenging trails.  After a hike check your pup out from snout to tail for unwanted passengers like ticks between toes and behind ears where they love to hide!

3)  Water Activities: Some dogs like water more than others.  Having two Labrador Retrievers, an “All-American Mixed Breed”  and a Jackahuahua, all four of my dogs show a variety of tolerances for water.  One of the funniest things is to lift the little dog out of the water and see that her feet are still paddling!  I would say the first rule for swimming is to not force your dog to swim.  My two labs need no invitation to get in the water whether I’m in it or not.  My chocolate lab, Viola, hardly gets out of the water.  She is a rescue dog we’ve had for about eight years.  Her original people turned her in because she kept escaping their yard and breaking into the neighbor’s pool.  My other two dogs, Bailey the mixed breed and Sophie the Jack/Chi mix need some encouragement.  Bailey stands on the steps of the pool and cools her paw pads but I have never seen her swim.  Sophie, on the other hand, is very motivated to be where Mom is so if I am swimming, so is Sophie.

There are many water activities you can get your dogs involved in and one of the most exciting is dock diving or dock jumping.  I like to call it part of the X Games for dogs!  Competitions are scored based on speed, agility, and length of the jump — from the dock’s edge to where the dog’s nose touches the water. Best of all, dock jumping is exciting and fun for people and pooches alike, and it’s a safe activity.  dock_diving1

4) Cool Treats:  If you and your family are enjoying a cool ice cream, why not have a similar treat available for your canine buddy?  In your grocery store in the frozen food section, there are usually some kind of frozen pet ice cream like Frosty Paws.  Real ice cream can upset your dog’s tummy plus there is too much sugar for the pet to process.  If you would like to make your own frosty frenzy take a ripe banana, a cup of yogurt and a tablespoon of peanut butter, blend and freeze.  I put this mixture in the old-fashioned ice cube maker tray and freeze.  Bailey and Phoebe love plain ice cubes but go crazy for this treat.  Even Viola and Sophie love it.

Summer time is a great time for everyone as long as you make the responsible choices.  Always take plenty of water with you whatever your activity for you and for your fur-baby.  Always clean up after dog!  And last but not least, always have fun as a family!