Category Archives: Pet Health Issues

Living (and Dying) with Seniors

IMG_2078Viola is my seniorist senior dog in my pack.  We make exceptions for Viola at this age. She doesn’t have to go upstairs behind the gate when I go out. She doesn’t have to sit/stay to get her dinner.  She doesn’t even have to do anything to earn her good night treat – she’s earned it because she’s still with us.

Viola breaks my heart because I know one day, probably sooner rather than later, she will leave us and cross over the Bridge.  My goal right now is to keep her happy and comfortable.  We won’t be doing heroic procedures with her.  No surgeries. No miracle drugs. She has a DNR in my mind.

Viola gets all her needs met – monthly heartworm medicines, good quality food, comfy dog beds to sleep in (she no longer can get on the furniture even with her doggie stairs), love and attention.  The decision not to treat a chronic illness in a senior’s life is huge. In my last round of seniors, we treated every lump and bump and eventually there was nothing left to do but hold their paws and let them go.

Viola’s had some masses removed a few years ago that turned out to be cancerous – a tumor inside of a fatty deposit.  Recovery was hard for her. Now we figure she’s around 13 or 14 or even 15.  We’re just not sure but we know we’ve been blessed with her in our pack for the last 10 years.  Sometimes she sleeps so deeply I can’t even see the breaths move in and out of her lungs. Her legs aren’t running in fields of rabbits during these deep sleeps.  Her ears aren’t twitching at some dream butterfly landing softly on her head.  These are the sleeps that scare me and cause me to get on all fours and put my hand on her chest to see if she’s breathing.  I’ve had to desperately shake her awake a few times because I just could not tell.

The other day, I changed the linens on my bed and threw the dirty ones on the floor.  I watched her meticulously gather all the pillow cases, the top and bottom sheets and form a little nest for herself. She looked like she was in heaven, engulfed in the smells of the sleeping human she loves and the other members of the pack.  She would sleep in the bed every night until about six months ago.  A week later, the pile of dirty linens is still on the floor and she sleeps in them every night. I can’t bear to pick them up to wash until I have another pile for her to sleep in.

I believe she’s pretty blind now, at least in one eye.  She no longer can catch the bedtime treat like she used to so I put it in my closed hand so she can smell it and gently take it from my palm. The other dogs in the pack watch her like hawks to see if she drops the treat. They know they can find it before she could.

I think she’s had a good life at the Litt Palace of Puppy Love. I will continue to give her special privileges as the grande dame of the pack. I think if she could talk, she’d be in agreement with her DNR.

A Gentle Giant — Sampson’s Story

IMG_1708Have you ever had a giant breed? I am currently fostering this guy named Sampson.  He’s 138lb male.  I call him “My Little Pony.”  Or Sammy. Or Dude. Or Dudee.  Sampson is a handsome boy but he’s sad.  He’s maybe the saddest pup I’ve met.  He’d lived his whole life with his mom and a few weeks ago was signed over to us to find a new home.  His mom has terminal cancer and a lot of other medical issues.

Sampson is such a people dog.  He just wants to be with his people.  He’s not food motivated or toy motivated.  He’s people motivated.  Sam is a lover…maybe a cat in another life.  He has a little bit of joy rubbing his massive head all over your legs.  If he sits next to you and your are standing, he will lean in so he can be touching you.  If you stop petting him, his robustly giant nose will whack you to continue the stroking.  Besides the love, if you are welcoming a giant breed into your home you’ve got to understand their needs.  Sampson does go through eight cups of food a day…about 20lbs a week.  He loves snoozing on the couch but he also needs exercise!  If you are not a fan of drool, then the jowly Great Dane may not be for you.  Expect to fill up a lot of water bowls and to mop up water dribbles from every drink.  While he is a gentle giant, Sampson will challenge you so continual training is a must and honestly, not something he’s been exposed to a lot.

Yesterday was his first foray into open adoptions at a large Pet Store where we have weekly adoptions.  Usually we set up crates and sometimes pens if we have puppies either inside the store or in front of the store and people searching for a new pet wander around looking at the dogs and cats. We don’t have something large enough for Sampson so I set up a folding chair and had him with me.  Boy did he get a lot of attention!  People usually have initial fear reaction to him because of his size but then they are on the floor hugging him and scratching him and stroking him.  It made him happy to have all the attention.

IMG_1704Then something caught Sampson’s attention, a noise that was familiar to him.  His massive head tilted as he recognized the noise and he stood up and started to get very excited.  He wanted me to take him closer and then we understood what made him so overjoyed — a woman in a motorized wheelchair rounded the corner of the aisle in which we were camped out.  I saw light in his eyes and he dragged me over to the wheelchair where he was trying to climb into a startled woman’s lap. Sampson thought Mom had come to get him.  My heart broke for him.

Sampson, while extremely handsome, does not have great genes.  He’s got Anisocoria, or over-sized pupils and I’m convinced that he doesn’t see in detail.  Hence, he knew a motorized wheelchair but couldn’t see that the woman wasn’t his mom.  Ethical Great Dane Breeders will not breed a “Merle” dog because of the chance of having puppies with double Merle genes and a higher propensity for health issues like blindness, deafness and even stillborn puppies.  Predominately white is not a recognized coat color by the AKC either because of the genetic propensity for deafness and blindness.  But at seven years old, Sampson is considered an old man for a Great Dane.

Sampson is being offered for adoption through Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue in Acworth, GA.  Adoption fees are $175 and every applicant is carefully screened.  Our top priority is getting the best home for the dog that he will prosper and be successful in.  Do you have room in your heart and your home for this Great boy?IMG_1711



Are We Just Idiots Here In Georgia?

How is this good for people or the bulls?' photo from

How is this good for people or the bulls?’
photo from

I just heard on the news tonight that the Georgia Running of the Bulls is on this Saturday in Conyers.  I’m sickened.  Do these bulls look like they are having a good time?  What happens to the bull that gores an idiot who can’t run fast enough?

Who thinks this is a good idea to have these fake “running of the bulls” all over the US?  This event is being held where we had the Olympic events for crying out loud.  I’m disappointed in Georgia.

Update on Bailey's Cancer

Bailey had her surgery a few weeks ago to remove her mast cell tumor. She is back to her crazy self and the wound is healing nicely. This week we actually started playing ball again so she is a happy dog!
Her labs came back that she had Stage 2 Mast Cell Cancer. Our vet, Dr. Miller was pleased with the surgery and Bailey will not need to go through chemo which makes us very happy!

Why Does Your Pet’s Breath Stink?

Virginia available courtesy of Mostly Mutts

Virginia, a senior Chihuahua Pomeranian, available to adopt. Photo courtesy of Mostly Mutts

This is Virginia.  She is very sweet and special.  You might be able to guess based on how strange her little mouth looks.  Virginia has no teeth.  She came to Mostly Mutts a few weeks ago.  She is a senior girl which may account for some tooth loss but most likely neglect of good dental health is the reason she lost all of her teeth.  I bet her breath stank when she had bad teeth.

The most likely culprits of bad doggie breath are teeth issues.  Even just ten years ago it was not a very common thing to hear about brushing your dogs teeth.  I admit that I had the tooth brushes but my dogs were not accustomed to it so the best I got was to put dog toothpaste (never use your own — flouride will hurt your dog!) on my finger and smudge it around in their mouths.   A few years ago, I started bringing all my dogs in for an annual dental.  This requires anesthesia and the animals are down about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes depending on how much plaque and gradoo (that’s a technical term I use!) they have going on.  When we finished the dentals, my vet told me that if I did not brush or give teeth cleaning chews to the girls at least four times a week it would be ineffective.

This week I attended a Twitter Chat sponsered by Greenies (#GREENIESchat) to promote dental health in dogs.  I learned a lot of things that I did not know and was very impressed with the Vet/Dentist, Dr. Brook Niemiec from Southern California Vet Dental Specialties.  Check out his bio — He answered a lot of our questions and brought a lot great info to the table.  When I asked him to confirm what my vet said, he told the group, “Brushing teeth daily is the gold standard, but less than 1% of pet owners do this.”

So what causes the bad breath?  According to Dr. Niemiec, bacteria is the #1 cause of bad breath in pets.  This creates plaque that leads to periodontal disease.  Bad breath is a sign of infection in your pet.  Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums that can cause your pet to lose teeth, just like Virginia.

So what can we do to battle it?  Of course brushing your pet’s teeth would be the ideal thing to do.  Don’t ever force it but start gradually.  It might be some toothpaste on your finger and rubbing it around at first.  There are also a number of dental chews available including those from Greenies (I am not being paid for a review — my dogs all love Greenies!).  Something that Dr. Nimiec said on the chat also made me think twice about some “dental” chews I had bought in the past.  He said that if you can not indent the chew with your thumbnail then the chew is too hard and could do more harm than good for your pet like breaking teeth.  So, as you are looking for dental chews, do that quick test.

I know I’m looking at my dogs dental health differently now!  Thanks Dr. Niemiec and Greenies!

What Every Pet Owner Should Know About Heartworms

Aedes albopictus - Tiger mosquito

Aedes albopictus – Tiger mosquito (Photo credit: Camponotus Vagus)

PollieRecently, the rescue I work with, Mostly Mutts, lost a beautiful Puggle we got about a month ago who was heartworm positive.  Pollie succumbed to the heartworm infestation.  For the time she was with us, she was well-loved by her foster family and I take comfort in that her last days were filled with a family that adored her.

Heartworm infections develop when pets become infected with parasites called Dirofilaria immitis that are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. Dogs may be infected by a few or up to several hundred heartworms. More and more cats are similarly infected although usually by only a few worms. Heartworm infection often leads to severe lung disease, heart failure and can also damage other organs in the bodyl.

According to the American Heartworm Society, Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog or other host release their young, called microfilaria, into the bloodstream. Mosquitoes become infected by the microfilaria while taking a blood meal from these infected animals. During the next 10 to 14 days, microfilaria mature to the infective larval stage within the mosquito. When the mosquito then bites another dog, cat or susceptible animal, the infective larvae exit the mosquito’s mouth parts and are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin. The infective larvae can then actively enter the new host through the fresh bite wound.

Inside a new host, it takes a little more than six months for the infective larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms may live up to five to seven years, and because of their longevity, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in our pets.  In the southern part of the United States and other sub-tropical climates, heartworm infestation is more common so having your pets, even indoor only pets, on heartworm preventative is crucial!

Pet owners should have their pets tested annually for heartworm as clinical signs of heartworm infection may not be easily visible.  However, pets heavily infected with heartworms or those with chronic disease often show prominent clinical signs such as a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure commonly recognized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen giving the pet the appearance of a “swollen belly.” Dogs infected with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart leading to a life threatening form of cardiovascular collapse called “caval syndrome.” Signs of caval syndrome include a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums and dark bloody or “coffee-colored” urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few pets survive.


Since heartworms can take up to six months to mature, the recognized practice in treatment is a minimum of three months on a heartworm preventative to treat any prevent additional infectation prior to having the actual treatment to kill existing heartworms.  The treatment needs to kill the adult and immature worms. Currently, only one product is approved by the FDA for this purpose (Immiticide®- melarsomine hydrochloride). It is given by deep injection into muscle. A series of injections are given, either over a 24-hour period or two treatment periods, one month apart. While treatment may be administered on an outpatient basis, hospitalization for the procedure is often recommended.  Once the treatment has been given, it is very important that the animal not be active for six to eight weeks.

This treatment is very painful for the pet since the injection is made into the muscle.  When the dog is sent home, exercise should be limited to leash walking for the duration of the recovery period, which can last from one to two months. This decreases the risk of partial or complete blockage of blood flow through the lungs by dead worms.

This is a horrific condition that is completely preventable.  If you do not have your pets on a preventative today, please please please have them tested and put on one!  Don’t let them become another statistic like Pollie

Saving Beatrice Part II

SSPX0035After Bea had been on heart worm preventative for a few months we started the treatment for the heartworms.  I know that doesn’t sound right — why be on preventative when you already have it.  Well the easy answer is so that it doesn’t get worse.  It takes about six months for the larvae to mature and show up as heartworm so what if you did the heartworm treatment and then three months later she tests positive again for heartworm?  In any case, we were not in a big rush to do the treatment on her.

It is not a pretty treatment and the needles that are used to insert the arsenic-based treatment are painful for the animals.  Beatrice handled the treatment with no complaints.  The eight weeks in a crate virtually 24/7 while the treatment did its thing did not cause Beatrice to make a single whine.  She came through the treatment wonderfully.  The cost was huge for us…only married a few years and getting established in our careers, we were living pretty paycheck to paycheck but we invested in Beatrice and found a way to do this for her.

Murphy and Riley, our pair of chocolate labs were so curious about Beatrice.  They didn’t understand why she was crated.  When the day finally came that she could be free, the three of them acted like they had been together forever!  They ran from one end of the yard to the next chasing each other.  I will always remember that day because it was the first day Bea had the run of the house like the other dogs.  We were having movie night and my younger brother came over.  He brought some good ole KFC with him.  We were eating in the lving room and had the chicken bucket and sides out.  Murphy and Riley knew that area was forbidden to them but Bea just walked over and took a chicken leg right off my brother’s plate!  She was none too happy to give it back either.

As Beatrice was recovering we saw some interesting characteristics come out.  For instance, she absolutely hated the UPS man.  He looked like Mr. Spacely from the Jetsons.  If we had a package — even if it needed to be signed for — he would run up to the front stoop, put the package down and run away because he was convinced that she would come through the side glass around the door.  My friend thought Bea used the glass to hold up her lips so everyone could see her sharp teeth.

Charming Bea

Charming Bea

Once she was introduced to a new person in her house, she usually ignored you.  It wasn’t that she was passing judgement on you.  She only liked her people and was indifferent about the rest, mostly.

One day we had some people over.  She hated when someone sat on her part of the couch. She would sit in front of you glaring until you got up and she would reclaim her couch.  This time, however, Ryan was sitting on the opposite side of the couch and Beatrice had reclaimed her cushion.  After a nap, Bea stood up sleepily and stretched and then walked over to Ryan and cuddled into his side, something she did quite frequently with her humans.  I said I had never seen her do that with an outsider and Ryan reached his arm around her and snuggled her closer and said, “Oh Beatrice and I are buddies!”  As soon as she heard his voice and realized he was not one of her humans she launched into attack mode and got right in his face with a warning growl.  I really think he peed a little in his pants!

The neighborhood kids were afraid of her too and once she got out of the gated back yard, the kids would scatter yelling, “Beastrice is loose!  Beastrice is loose!”

To us though, she was just Bea and she was wonderful!