Tag Archives: Health

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 — http://ow.ly/oM5q. 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

She’s Not Fat…She’s Fluffy!

My friend Mark and I lived in a basement apartment when we first moved to Washington DC.  The family who owned the house had a rather humongous tabby named Athena who would waddle around in the backyard to sit in the sun or knock at our basement window to come for a visit.  This cat was a chunk!

One day, as I was sitting on the toilet, a set of eyes peered at me from under the bathroom door.  Then it had the nerve to squeeze itself under the door and stood on its hind legs just wiggling its little mouse whiskers and pondering what I was doing sitting there. I stood up and he ran under the door and back to where he’d been staying, our kitchen toaster.  We named him Mitch the Kitchen Mouse.


Unfortunately, Mitch wasn’t by himself.  I really didn’t want to set mousetraps.  He and his friends really were cute.  So Mark and I decided we’d get rid of them the “natural way” and one day when Athena knocked on our window to come for a visit, we catnapped her!  We figured the presence of a cat would convince Mitch and his friends that they should leave.

Athena loved staying in our apartment – it was cool and we gave her cold cuts since we didn’t have any cat food.   But Athena was so overweight that when Mitch came out of his toaster and walked right up to her, sticking his little mouse fingers in his ears his tongue out at her, daring her to chase him., she just sat there looking at him. She couldn’t pull herself up to go after him.

Athena is only one of many cats that suffered from obesity.  Cats don’t have a job anymore.  Very few kitties are keeping barns clear of mice and vermin. Most of our domesticated cats are living the high life snuggled on a cushion. It’s not like you can put your kitty on a treadmill and most people don’t strap on a harness and take Fluffy on a walk!

So how can we keep our kitties in shape?  First look at the food you are feeding your feline.  Remember, domesticated cats are really carnivores and many commercial cat foods have a lower percentage of protein and lots of grains that are high in carbohydrates.  The food is really marketed to the kitty parents with fun colors and fish-shaped kibble and singing cats on the commercials. Cats are unable to digest carbohydrates because they don’t have the enzyme amylase in their saliva that digests carbohydrates. Nature didn’t intend for them to consume large amounts of carbohydrates. Due to this issue, a cat’s body converts carbohydrates into fat, and it gets stored in their system.

Second, as hunters and predators, cats were not intended to have a “free style” diet.  In other words, if you put down a bowl of kibble for your cat to nibble on throughout the day, Fluffy may be consuming double or triple the amount of calories they should.  Stick with set feeding times and a high protein diet.

Last, try to get your furry friend active!  There are many cat toys you can purchase but before you go out and spend money, try a good old-fashioned yarn ball!  Ribbons on a stick also seem to be a favorite.  Laser pointers are a popular cat toy too but remember, don’t shine it directly into Fluffy’s eyes as it can burn your kitty’s corneas.  The bottom line is that playing with your cat will not only keep her healthy but I guarantee it will put a smile on your face too!

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.