Category Archives: Health and Drugs

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



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!

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.


Apps to Keep Your Dog Healthy, Active and, Maybe, Quiet

This was a great article in the New York Times sent to us by Izzy’s mom! Enjoy!

by Bob Tedeschi

I’m part owner of a nervous little dog with a bark like an ice pick through my brain and a tendency to use that weapon at random, several times a day.

Pippi, who is officially my wife’s dog, also has a fondness for dark chocolate. And when we make the mistake of leaving it within her reach, her behavior approximates that of a barking cocaine addict. During those moments I sometimes wonder whether she might actually expire.

Smartphones can now answer that question with great precision and perform many other dog-related tasks because of apps like Pet First Aid ($4 on iPhone, $3 on Android) and PupTox ($1 on iPhone).

Others, like iSqueek ($2 on iPhone), Squeaky Fun Time (free on Android) and Dog Whistler (free on iPhone and Android) are meant to interact directly with your pet and may even help shorten your dog’s barking jags.

A third category of apps is meant to give your dog’s social life a little boost (as in the free Dog Park Finder for the iPhone) or let you leverage your pup to strengthen your own social network.

Here, DogBook is the one to watch. Free and only for the iPhone, this is the mobile version of the DogBook service on Facebook, which lets dog owners post profiles of their pets and connect with other canine lovers.

The app is promising, but flawed. You can search for Facebook friends who have also joined DogBook. But when I searched the list, very few had actually posted profiles of their dogs.

The app displays the profiles of your friends’ pets, but if my friends are any indication, these profiles offer limited (and not very entertaining) information. You can also view profiles of dogs who live near you, but because they belong to strangers, the information is even less interesting.

The search feature is marginally entertaining, though, because you can search for specific dog names and breeds and see how many people within a certain geographic area own animals like yours.

A more useful tool for socially minded dog owners is Dog Park Finder, which puts the content of into a mobile-friendly format. The free version of the iPhone app shows the location of roughly 2,600 dog parks, including those closest to you. Dog Park Finder Plus ($2) adds about 2,500 dog-friendly hiking spots and beaches. (Hey Walkies, a highly rated and free iPhone app, offers similar features, but is limited to New York City users.)

What if you’re out with your dog and it eats something toxic, like, perhaps, someone’s stash of dark chocolate?

Here is where PupTox and, to a greater extent, Pet First Aid come in handy. The apps can save you from a frantic trip to the veterinarian’s office.

Pet First Aid offers users a list of hazardous substances for household pets and points out toxic elements you may otherwise overlook. Avocados and antifreeze, for instance, can be toxic for pets.

The list includes a section on chocolate, where you can calculate the lethal dosages for dogs of certain weights. The app further differentiates between milk chocolate and pure chocolate.

Pet First Aid includes a section for adding veterinary contacts and pet identifications, and lists vaccinations and other information. One of its developers is also the publisher of, which offers pet health advice.

Far bigger online publishers are also pushing their content to mobile phones, including AOL, which produces the free Paw Nation. This polished, useful iPhone app is technically pet-agnostic, but the information skews heavily in the direction of dogs.

Users can choose from several categories of stories and videos, including pieces on animal nutrition and health, celebrity pets and question-and-answer sessions with veterinarians and specialists from the American Kennel Club.

Some recent features include advice for giving dogs ibuprofen and Benadryl, tips for owners of snoring canines and guidance on why a dog’s ears can get smelly. (Tips: smelly ears can be cured with medicine, but you’re more likely to need a surgeon to get rid of snoring.)

App developers haven’t built programs for your dog to play with your device, as they have done with cats. But iSqueek and Squeaky Fun Time are close, in that they can at least attract your dog’s attention.

ISqueek, for instance, includes interactive photos of 18 different squeaky toys. The toys were true to life and annoying. Perhaps predictably, Pippi was quickly drawn to the sound when I tapped the toys. Squeaky Fun Time offered uninspired graphics and less sound control, but it was free and the closest thing to iSqueek that I could find on the Android platform.

The app that held the most promise for me was, likewise, free. Dog Whistler emits high-pitched tones that you can tweak in various ways, especially on the iPhone version, so you can train your dog to, for instance, not threaten your sanity with incessant barking.

The app receives mixed reviews, so I was prepared for the worst. (As one iTunes reviewer wrote, “It doesn’t work on the dog, but it really annoys my brother.”)

I opened Dog Whistler and waited for my daughter’s school bus to unload in front of our house — a trigger for Pippi’s most frantic barking. When it did, and Pippi started growling, I pointed the iPhone at her and hit the whistle.

Man, did it hurt my ears, but it didn’t keep her from barking.

Uli Donates To the Blood Bank!

Uli’s mom reminded us about a great story KVOA did on her recent donation to the Southern Arizona Veterinary Blood Bank! Here’s the article, with a link to a great TV segment starring Uli and her mom!

Sometimes pets need blood in a crisis and that blood comes from other pets. That’s right, pets can donate blood, and there’s a blood drive for them right here in Tucson.

Uli does it, she’s a Rottweiler mix, and she’s helping save her own kind by donating her blood. Christine Warren is a blood bank coordinator at Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center and says right now Tucson receives blood from about 45 dog donors and 12 cat donors.

Warren said, “Tucson Arizona has one of the largest volunteer veterinary blood banks in the country, and it may not seem like a lot but with those animals, we save lives nearly everyday.”

Carrie Fairchild says she brings in her dog Uli about once every 3 months. Uli is about 3 years old and all dogs and cats can donate blood in between the ages of 1 and 8 years old. Fairchild said, “It feels great that she’s helping other animals and she likes coming here.”

The blood from a dog or a cat today will save the life of another pet in the future. Fairchild said, “I know how I feel about Uli and if I can help somebody else keep their dog in their life, that’s wonderful.”

Link to the Story and Video.

Link to the Southern AZ Blood Bank.

Keep up the good work Uli, and everyone else who donates to the veterinary blood bank!


Erica’s Weekly Woof! ~ Dog Food Ratings

Choosing a food for your dog can be an incredibly daunting task. So many of our canine companions have some level of food allergy or intolerance as well.  The main culprits that cause these allergies are the fillers: corn, wheat and soy.  In addition, food fillers are the third largest cause of allergies in dogs. Atopy (inhaled) and flea bites are the only allergies that occur more often than food allergies.

So many of the low level kibbles contain these ingredients, and the reactions within the dog can really run the gamut.  Anything from severe itching, hair loss or thinning, scaly skin all the way to behavioral problems.  It’s amazing what a proper, well balanced diet can do for your dog.  It often times includes a simple protein and a single carbohydrate, free of by-products and fillers.

All major dog food brands make so many claims about their health benefits that it’s hard to wade through all the information.  Especially when you’re watching t.v. and one of those great commercials comes on with the happiest, healthiest looking dog in the world!  I don’t know about you, but it always grabs my attention.

The website is a completely independent information source that rates dog foods and their ingredients.  Check it out to see where your food falls, and  see if you need to make a change or improvement for the health of your best friend.