Category Archives: Dog Health

Dog Spleens

After nearly ten years taking care of dogs on a daily basis, we recently learned about an important health topic we should have known about! (If you’re squeamish, you may want to avoid a picture later in this post)…

ImageOur dog Finnegan, a 10 year old Shar-Pei / Golden mix, had to have an urgent surgery to remove his spleen last week. We had been noticing for a couple of weeks that when he laid on his side, we could sometimes feel a little bit of swelling in his lower abdomen near his back legs. Sometimes it was more noticeable than other times, and we thought it might have just been a full tummy, but we decided to get him checked out by his vet.

ImageWhen Fin’s vet felt his tummy (she also have to move him around a little to get to the right place to feel the swelling), she immediately knew he had some sort of tumor or swollen organ in his abdomen. She took x-rays right away and saw that he had a large tumor attached to his spleen. We scheduled surgery for the next day.

Our vet explained that it was fairly common for dogs to develop some kind of “Splenic Masses” when they get a little older, and these can fall into two categories: the benign growths are called hemangiomas, while the malignant ones are called hemangiosarcomas (cancerous). In either case, it’s very dangerous to not remove the spleen and growth right away, as they grow very quickly and can rupture, causing internal bleeding and death.

While it’s fairly common for dogs to develop these growths, it’s not nearly as likely that dog owners will notice the actual growth in time to have it removed safely. Often, cancer symptoms become evident before then, or the growth will burst or bleed internally, causing symptoms that lead to an emergency vet visit. When dog develop large internal tumors that go undetected, any sort of bump or fall can cause them to rupture.

The next day Finnegan had his spleen removed, as well as the growth attached to his spleen. The growth was very large and taut, and ready to burst. It was being fed by the blood vessels in the spleen, so all the large blood vessels had to be cut and sealed off.


Fin’s Spleen and Tumor

Yeah, I know. Wow…

It turns out we had some warning signs a few weeks before the surgery, but didn’t know what to make of them. About a month before we noticed any swelling in his belly, Fin had an episode where he was walking across the living room and seemed to get a little woozy, like when you stand up too fast. A few steps later and we knew he was going to fall down, and we caught him. A couple of minutes later he seemed totally fine again. It worried us because it was such an unusual and unique event. We asked out vet about it, and did a blood workup (which came back normal) and a Valley Fever test (which came back positive).  Because his red blood cells had regenerated to normal levels, it was chalked up to Valley Fever symptoms.  In retrospect, the vet says it was more likely that a smaller blood vessel had burst causing low blood pressure, but had sealed itself off fairly quickly. At this point we were not noticing any swelling in his belly, so there was no way to know it was symptomatic of the tumor attached to his spleen.

Fin, it turns out, has been extremely lucky. Most of these tumors go undetected until it’s too late, and they burst. Dogs are rushed to the vet for emergency surgery, but that incident has a very low recovery rate. A tumor of this size amazed the vet staff, who said it could have burst at any minute. The surgery can be tricky, and recovery can sometimes be rough. Once the tumor and spleen are removed, they’re checked for cancer, and you have to wait a few days to get a definitive result back for benign or malignant. If it’s malignant, you can do chemo, but the life expectancy is still only a few months at best.


Finnegan Coming Home the Day After His Surgery

We are very, very lucky. We have an amazing vet for Finnegan, and he is a super tough dude. His surgery was on a Wednesday, he came home on a Thursday, and on Sunday we got a text from our vet about the lab results. She had sent three different sections to the lab, and each of them had come back CLEAN. That is, there were no malignant cells found in any of the tissues – no cancer. We took a long time to compose ourselves, because we knew the odds were not very good, and we had just beaten them. Fin was nearly out of the woods – we just had to keep him still while he healed and get his blood work checked (low blood counts or pale gums can mean there is some sort of post-operative internal bleeding).

We’re so thankful, and we’re so lucky. Good vets are hard to find, and we’ve had many vets over the years. If you live in the Tucson area we can’t recommend enough that you check out University Pet Clinic, where Dr. Adams, tech Chris B and the entire staff have been treating us like family for the last few years. We love them.

For more information on dog spleen issues, here’s a good general link. You can search for many others of course. Splenectomy / Splenic Masses




We here at Dawg House found a GREAT new subscription service that is right up our alley! We think you would love it too.

It’s called BarkBox!

The first step is to go to their website and choose the size of your dog.  Then, you choose your plan (you can pay monthly, every 3 months, every 6 months) and then you get to wait =).  The boxes are shipped on the 15th of every month, and every month you get a bevy of different dog related products geared to the size of your pup.

Somehow, Clio knew that the box was for her!! In this months’ box, we received:

1. Hyper Pet slingshot dog toy that is full size.  Our dogs love it!  You can shoot it really far, which is great for dogs that love to chase and fetch. Plus, it floats!         (

2. A bottle of Nature’s Miracle dog freshening spray that is really light in scent and conditions the coat as well. This one may be more for us, but our dogs love that we snuggle with them more often when they smell better. (

3. Acadia Antler–a small company from Maine that collects naturally shed moose antlers from the wilderness.  Moose antlers are the toughest antler, so they will last a long time.  They are non splintering, odor and mess free, and even provide calcium and other trace minerals.  Plus, they are very appealing to your dog—so much so we actually have to bribe our dogs to get it away from them! They have every size and shape available. (

5. Milk-Bone Trail Mix–it’s a great snack for the dog on the go! If you hike, bike, or even have a vigorous play session with your pup–this treat is for you! The pieces are small as well, so would work great as a training treat. (

6. Bocce’s Bakery treats–called Elvis treats! They are peanut butter, banana and bacon. Yes. You read that right. But they’re not for you–they’re for your dog. (

Hopefully you all will give this service a try—in addition to getting a great box of interesting treats and toys, learning about new products from mainstream companies, and supporting a variety of  small companies, 10% of the proceeds are donated to an animal rescue group.

What could be better than that? Finnegan says “nothing”!!

Ticks and Dawgs 2012

It has been a particularly active year for ticks in our area, and so it’s time for our yearly post about the little brown menaces!
The Fort Huachuca Scout posted in July that “Tick season in Arizona is almost year-round due to the warm climate. Due to a mild winter and warmer–then-usual spring, this years’ tick population will likely be higher than usual.” They also note that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)  is generally carried by the local Brown dog tick, the population of which has exploded due to the large numbers of free roaming dogs in AZ.

The AZ Department of Health Services also posted on tick disease and control in AZ:

Our friends at Radiolab recently posted a fascinating piece called “The Questing Tick” that explains how ticks find and attach themselves to their prey. Using their sense of smell to find areas where carbon dioxide is concentrated, they set up camp in these spots, raise two of their legs in the air, and wait for something (a dog or human) to brush by, then wham! they hitch a ride. So, dropping from trees is a myth! The Radiolab article focuses on Lyme Disease, which is also a real threat here in Arizona.

We’ve posted here on the Dawg Blawg about ticks and tick control. Here’s a link to last years’ article on ticks and mosquitoes and another on how you can control the pest population on your dogs and in your home using natural and completely non-toxic applications of Diatomaceous Earth.

Best thing you can do if you have dogs that spend time outside, and after walks and hikes, is to give them a good once-over. Check by running your hands flat all over their body and feeling for bumps. Look inside their ears, in all the little folds. Turn them over and give them some belly rubs, while at the same time checking all four of their “arm” pits. Look carefully around their eyes. Finally, use your fingers to feel between all of the pads on their feet. If you find a tick, use a fine tweezers to pull it straight off of the body without “popping” it, then flush it away.
All right – that’s enough about bugs – I know you’re all running your hands through your hair now — ewww.



Most of you know Milo as the dignified, reserved dog who sits near the gate at Dawg House every time somebody arrives.  He is also a silly puppy who can run around with the best of them! He has been part of our pack here at Dawg House for almost 5 years.

Recently, Milo was diagnosed with soft cell sarcoma, and has a single, localized tumor on his rear leg.   He was enrolled in a clinical trial to see if a new drug therapy would shrink the tumor, but it didn’t.  During his treatment, surprisingly, Milo actually enjoyed his visits to the vet.  It was inspirational to see him trotting in after a day spent at the hospital, all “smiles”.

The next line of defense for this cancer, though, is an amputation of Milo’s leg.  This will essentially cure him of the disease, which is a great outcome.  The amputation ensures that all the cancer will be removed, leaving nothing behind at the cellular level to multiply and grow again.  In the meanwhile, however, the actual surgery and aftercare is extremely expensive.

We here at Dawg House are sympathetic to the cause and know how difficult all these decisions can be.  We want to do what we can to alleviate some of the financial burden for Milo’s family so they can concentrate on what is important–helping him heal!

So, there is a donation box in our lobby, right by the door. Please donate a little something…because it can really add up and help out.  In the next week or so, we will also be raffling off a couple of daycare passes and 100% of those proceeds will go to Milo’s family as well.

We will look forward to his return to Dawg House, and his healthy future.  Dogs are incredibly resilient and it won’t be long til Milo is running around with the pack again!

Holiday Food Hazards for Dawgs

Here’s a timely re-post about Holiday food hazards for dogs!

dog dinner partyEach year we try to outline some of the holiday-related toxins that dawgs should stay away from. It’s tempting to give our pets lots of treats (especially when we’re getting so many!), but the fact is, certain people foods (and other holiday items) can be hazardous to their health!

The usual dog-toxin suspects we list each year include:

  • Bones (no Turkey bones, Ham bones, Chicken bones etc.)  They can lacerate or obstruct your pets insides–use them for making stock, not as a treat for your pet. (The bones that come in certain dog foods have been really softened up by soaking for a long time.)
  • Animal Fat (undigestable); plus too many fatty, rich or new types of food can give your pet pancreatitis or gastroenteritis; two medical conditions that can be painful and even life threatening.
  • Gravy / Butter / Dairy (a little turkey broth is OK!)
  • Chocolate / Nuts
  •  Garbage / Tin Foil / Plastic Bags (always tasty but toxic)–they can also cause a bowel obstruction.
  • Poinsettas, Holly, Mistletoe, Cedar (trees) – all toxic
  • Alcohol / Coffee
  • Onions/Onion Powder (often found in stuffings, can destroy red blood cells and cause anemia.)
  • Raisins / Grapes contain a toxin that can cause kidney problems in both cats and dogs.
  • Also make sure your pet has a quiet retreat during the hectic festivities that may be overwhelming–give him/her a break if they appear stressed. Mental health is important for pets, too!

More detailed info can be found online:

Diatomaceous Earth / Pest Control

At Dawg House, we work hard to keep our playroom, boarding kennels, lobby, and parking lot all very clean and pest-free. Every chemical cleaner we use is specifically manufactured for use in dog daycare and boarding areas. But when it comes to pests like ticks, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, and other no-see-ums, there are not that many effective control products, and even fewer that can be used with safety and confidence in rooms where dogs play and sleep.


This year was particularly bad for ticks. Though we use vet-recommended products on our own dogs, we’re still seeing the occasional tick trying to find a good place on them for lunch. Ticks are also occasionally hitching a ride inside the playroom on our furry guests, even though we know our clients are vigilant about keeping their dogs up to date on Frontline and other tick (and flea) control products.

A pile of D.E.

We did some research on safe alternatives and ended up using Diatomaceous Earth. Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

Diatomaceous earth, also known as diatomite or kieselgur, is a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. Diatomite is also used as an insecticide, due to its physico-sorptive properties. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. Arthropods die as a result of the water pressure deficiency. It is most commonly used in lieu of boric acid, and can be used to help control and eventually eliminate cockroach and flea infestations.”

There are two types of the DE as well.  We utilized the food grade, which means, if ingested, it is perfectly safe.  Many people actually consume about a teaspoon of the product per day, along with sprinkling that much on their dogs food, to kill any internal parasites and also to make dogs’ waste less palatable to other dogs.

The common ways people use DE to control pet-pests is to sprinkle it along the base of walls, inside dog crates, on dog beds, and sometimes rubbing it into their fur (though rubbing it on their fur can dry their skin out a little). DE commonly needs about 2 weeks to get rid of all pests, but it’s a great alternative to “bombing” or “spraying” chemicals around pet areas or your entire house. We have had terrific results here at Dawg House!

So, if you happen to notice a white substance around the base of the walls in the playroom, inside the crates, or on the bottom of your dogs feet—you know what it is! We’re not horrible housekeepers—we put it there on purpose :).

We purchased a 5 pound bag of human-grade (edible) DE here in Tucson at OK Feed for about $6 bucks.

  • If you have asthma or some other lung ailment, either wear a mask or be very careful when using food grade diatomaceous earth.

  • Do NOT get diatomaceous earth in the eyes. DE is drying to the eyes, so do NOT put it out when you or your pets are down wind of it. DE is drying to your skin, hands, and feet, just as it can be to your pets.

  • Do NOT give to very small pregnant animals such as cats, guinea pigs, etc. and do NOT feed continually to babies or small animals such as cats, hamsters, etc. DE can be fed on a continuous basis to larger animals and livestock for continuous parasite control and mineralization.

  • Do NOT use heavily in carpet. Some advise too much DE causes vacuum problems.

  • NEVER use pool filter grade DE around animals. It can poison or kill them.

  • Some people experience a healing crisis (detox reaction) when beginning DE consumption. If this occurs, reduce the dose, till your body is cleansed, and then increase to the RDA.

  • Remember, DE will kill beneficial insects as well, so use accordingly.


Ice Cream Recipe for Dogs!

Sammy’s mom brought us a recipe for Dog Ice Cream based on Frosty Paws, and since the we’re in the middle of summer, it’s a good time to share! Thanks to Sammy’s mom!

Dogs are not supposed to eat dairy products (yogurt is OK), so you’ll notice this isn’t a real ice cream recipe, but a nice substitute that you keep in the freezer and serve up cold as a treat. You can use ice cube trays, Dixie cups, a muffin or cupcake tray, or popsicle molds…

Yogurt contains much less lactates than regular milk, and the live cultures are great for dogs’ digestive systems (in fact, we put a spoonful of yogurt in our dogs’ food every morning and it keeps their tummies nice).

Ingredients: 32 oz plain yogurt, 1 mashed banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of honey (local honey is preferred) .

Instructions: Mix everything together in a blender and dump into your mold. (You can also pour and freeze inside a Kong toy!). Freeze.

Serve up cold! Try not to let them eat too fast or your dogs will get a brain freeze!