Lumps, Bumps & Other Things

Picture this… You’re sitting on the couch with your dog or cat, giving them a mini-massage and lots of love.  Suddenly, you feel something lumpy and bumpy under their fur.  What is that?  Is it anything we need to worry about?  There is no way to tell from the outside what kind of “bump” it is.  Nor can this be discovered by “feel.”  There are several types of “bumps” that are non-threatening — fatty masses or even cysts.  But is it benign or malignant?  There’s only one way to find out!

If you bring your pet in for an exam at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital, our doctor will make sure to give your pet a full physical evaluation.  The veterinarian will take a look at the lump and probably recommend a Fine Needle Aspirate.  This is a minimally invasive procedure (done with your pet awake) where the doctor puts a small (vaccine sized) needle into that lump.  They are able to pull out some cells, place those onto a microscope slide, and then evaluate the sample.  By looking at what type of cells are present, the vet can diagnose your pet’s tumor and discuss the findings with you.


There are many tricky types of cancer that can look and feel like other things.  Maybe it just feels fatty or fluid-filled.  The only way to know for sure is to look at a sample under the microscope.  It’s worth your peace of mind to know EXACTLY what that growth is.  That let’s you know what needs to be done about it.  As in human medicine, undiagnosed areas of cancerous cells will spread very rapidly if left untreated.

Is any special preparation required before collecting the sample?

For routine sampling of lumps and bumps on the body surface, there is usually no special preparation required, although a simple disinfectant like alcohol may be applied to the skin prior to sample collection. However, when samples are collected from internal organs (during an ultrasound, during which the pet is usually anesthetized or sedated) or need to be tested for bacteria, sterile surgical technique must be used during collection and handling of the sample. This involves shaving the fur, cleaning and disinfecting the skin, and wearing surgical gloves etc., just as would be done in preparation for surgery.

Is cytology by FNA always diagnostic?

Cytology by FNA is not always diagnostic, but in those cases where the results do not provide a definitive diagnosis, they usually contribute valuable information that ultimately leads to a final diagnosis.  If the sample is not conclusive, your veterinarian may recommend sending the slides to the laboratory to be evaluated by a Veterinary Pathologist, a veterinarian that has additional education in diseases and microscopy.

What is the next diagnostic step after cytology?

The next diagnostic step after cytology is histology. Histology is the microscopic examination of solid tissue AFTER the mass has been taken off surgically from the pet. Histology lets you and your vet answer two important questions: what is this mass?  And were we able to get clean margins during surgical removal (getting ALL of the tumor)

In most cases, histology will provide a definitive diagnosis, and is generally considered the diagnostic “gold standard”.  If your pet has a growth surgically removed, we always highly recommend that the tissue be sent away for histological examination.


Finnicky Cats

Fussy eaters are common in the cat world. Unlike dogs, who devour everything edible and some non-edible items too, cats are far more discerning in their tastes. This can be a source of frustration for their owners.

Your feline friend may be a fussy eater if he or she:

  • only eats certain flavours or textures of cat food
  • likes you to feed her by hand
  • only eats foods made by you
  • only eats a mouthful and then demands feeding every hour

When pickiness becomes a problem

For many owners feline fussiness is not a problem. They are only too willing to feed their cat morsels of warm food from their hands 10 or more times a day. For others, their cat refusing to eat just one meal is intolerable.

To understand this problem it helps to look at the natural diet and nutrition of our feline friends… Cats are natural carnivores, eating predominantly a meat-based (high protein) diet, little and often.

Your fussy cat may instinctively be trying to eat the best diet he can. Or he may have trained you to provide only the foods he likes. If you are concerned about your cat’s nutrition, his health or his weight, it is best to consult your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital prior to making any dietary changes.

How to avoid a fussy eater

Kittens should be exposed to a variety of foods and this practice continued throughout life. Feeding only one type food may result in them only eating one type or flavour. Most cats respond well to variety in their diet.

How to cure a fussy feline

Here are some tips if your cat has become too fussy:

  • Try mixing the preferred food with the one you would rather your cat was eating. Then gradually increase the proportion of the desired choice.
  • Warm wet (canned) food up a little or add a few drops of warm water to the dry food. This helps release the aromas and flavours.
  • Look at the nutritional quality of the food you are feeding and feed the best, highest-quality food you can afford.
  • Decide how to feed your cat and be consistent but remember that cats prefer food at room temperature and they like to nibble regularly.


When starting any sort of food change with your cat, it is important to ensure they continue eating well every day.  Cats that go without food for more than 48 hours OR eat significantly less for 2 weeks or more can have dangerous changes to their liver, then becoming even more ill.  If your cat’s appetite starts to decrease at any time OR if he/she won’t eat their new diet, it is important to give them whichever type of food they’d like.  If your cat is losing weight, vomiting, or has a yellow-tinge to their skin, please call Rita Ranch Pet Hospital immediately or take your cat to the emergency center for care.

Source: article Managing Fussy Eaters, original author Dr. Joanne Rigetti

Caring for Your Older Dog

Your senior dog is not the puppy that they once were, and now that they are older you may begin to notice some strange behaviors. Many pet parents notice that their senior dog paces all night, doesn’t respond to commands, or seems to have forgotten housetraining. These can be frustrating behaviors, but it’s important to remember that as brains and bodies age, you may need to accommodate your senior dog.

Many common older dog behaviors are likely due to normal aging, such as reduced or painful mobility, organ decline, loss of hearing or sight, and natural cognitive decline. If your dog can’t hear you well or finds it painful to move, they might be less likely to come when called or let you know when they need to go outside. Some senior dogs also become more aggressive, but this could be because it becomes harder to walk away from whatever is bothering them.



For dogs without a specific disease or injury, many behaviors are commonly seen as general physical and cognitive decline:

• Confusion and disorientation: Many dogs can appear to be lost or confused in familiar places, even in your home. They may seem distressed the first few times this happens, but they should calm down once it becomes a common occurrence.

• Changes in responsiveness: Dogs may not seem to recognize family members or may respond poorly to commands.

• Vocalizations, restlessness, or new sensitivities: Some dogs may begin to perform repetitive behaviors or vocalizations, like howls or whimpers. Some older dogs may also seem more restless or develop separation anxiety, even if they never had it before. Older dogs can also become more sensitive to loud noises, like thunderstorms.

• Less active: As you might expect, older dogs tend to slow down, but you may still be surprised when they start eating less or when they groom themselves less and may need help keeping clean. Some senior dogs also become less affectionate.

• Changes in the sleep-wake cycle: Many senior dogs experience disturbances in their sleep cycle, leading them to sleep during the day and stay awake at night. During the night they may pace or vocalize which can be frustrating for pet parents.

• Loss of housetraining: Many dogs seem to lose their housetraining in their later years. They might begin to regularly go inside the house, have accidents, or forget to go while outside.


Work with your veterinarian at Rita Ranch Pet Hospital to discuss any of these behaviors. Your vet will check to see if any indicate a treatable condition, or they may determine the behaviors are due to cognitive dysfunction syndrome, indicating normal cognitive decline.

Keep in mind that your dog is aging, and may be in pain, and be patient. Try to find ways to make them more comfortable, such as a heated dog bed which may soothe their joints and make it easier to sleep through the night. Allow for them to go to the bathroom more times during the day and night—this may mean someone will need to let them out during the work day or you may need to give them an indoor space like a dog litter box. Also, be sure to find new ways to keep your dog stimulated and healthy, such as short walks, indoor training, and gentle play. Just because your dog is older doesn’t mean they should lay idle around the house—find adjusted ways to keep them active. As long as you work with your vet on treatments, remain patient, and find new ways to keep your dog mentally and physically fit, the two of you can still enjoy happy and healthy time together.

You Are What You Eat — Info on Food Allergies

Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy.

Food allergies are different from food intolerance. Food intolerance is the result of poor digestion, such as lactose intolerance. For example, people and dogs with lactose intolerance are either missing or have low levels of the milk digesting enzyme lactase.


The first thing you need to do is work with your veterinarian to make sure that your dog’s symptoms truly indicate a food allergy. If that’s the case, we will likely recommend that you try an elimination diet— feeding a food that has a different protein (meat) source and a different carbohydrate (grain) source than what your dog has had before.

Your vet may also suggest that you try a hypoallergenic diet. These foods are made with hydrolyzed proteins. That means that the proteins are already broken down into pieces that are small enough that they won’t trigger an immune response.

Food allergies can cause digestive problems, itching and skin irritation in pets, but Rita Ranch Pet Hospital can help!  We can help you treat the symptoms and keep your pet as comfortable as possible.  However, the most valuable things we can do is do diagnose the cause of your pet’s discomfort.
To help your veterinarian diagnose your pet’s allergy or allergies, we can put him on a diet trial for 8 to 12 weeks, during which time your pet is on a very specific food, with no other treats or table scraps. Our veterinarian can provide specific recommendations as needed. You will need to transition your pet to the new diet slowly over a period of about five days; if he refuses to eat the new food or gets sick, contact us immediately.

Once we arrive at your pet’s new diet, he must continue eating these foods exclusively to avoid a recurrence of the allergy symptoms. This means that any treats or snacks you feed him must be derived from these foods as well. As for medications, you should be able to administer any prescribed pills by hiding them in hypoallergenic food ingredients.

Allergy diets require vigilance from all concerned. Warn friends and loved ones against feeding anything other than the recommended foods to your pet, and make sure the animal cannot snap up any dropped food items. Feed your other pets separately, unless of course they are willing to consume the same hypoallergenic diet. Keep your pet on a leash, if necessary, to keep him away from trash bins or dropped scraps while walking. Contact Rita Ranch Pet Hospital with any pet care questions you may have — we want to help your pet stay allergy free!

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