Lumps & Bumps

Oftentimes when our veterinarians examine an older dog, its not unusual find at least one or two cutaneous (within the skin) or subcutaneous (just beneath the skin surface) lumps and bumps. Such growths are common by-products of the aging process.

The good news is that most cutaneous and subcutaneous canine tumors are benign. It’s that small population of malignant masses that keeps us on our toes. They are the reason it’s important to have your veterinarian inspect any newly discovered lumps and bumps your dog develops. The smaller a cancerous growth is at the time of treatment, in general, the better the outcome.


Pet your dog!

In terms of “lump and bump patrol,” your first order of business is to pet your dog. No doubt you and your best buddy already enjoy some doggie massage time. Even better is a is a more methodical petting session. Once a month, slowly and mindfully slide your fingers, palm sides down, along your dog’s body. Move systematically from stem to stern while inspecting for any new lumps or bumps.

Also, look and feel for changes in the size or appearance of those previously discovered. Any new findings should be addressed with your veterinarian who relies upon your help with this surveillance. Imagine your vet trying to find a tiny growth on a shaggy Sheepdog or Sheltie during the course of a single exam. Some lumps and bumps are bound to be missed without your assistance.

Its always a good idea to continue to observe the new lump once a week. Examining it more frequently can make it difficult to accurately assess change. If the mass is growing, or otherwise changing in appearance, or seems painful, its best to have it checked out sooner rather than later.

Fine needle aspirate for cytology

If a newly discovered growth is large enough, the usual first step your veterinarian will recommend is a fine needle aspirate for cytology. The purpose of this step is to attempt to  clarify the cell type within the mass, and whether it is benign or malignant.

Collection of a fine needle aspirate is a simple process that is easy on the dog and rarely requires any sort of sedation. Using a needle no larger than the size of a vaccination needle along with some gentle suction, your vet will remove some cells from the growth. These cells are then put on to glass slide, stained, and evaluated under the microscope.

Some cytology interpretations are a slam-dunk, and can readily be interpreted by your family vet. Others require the eyeballs of a specialist — a clinical pathologist who works in a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Remember, the goal of the cytology testing is to determine the underlying cell type, therefore whether the growth can be left alone or requires more attention. Fine needle aspirate cytology is often (but not always) definitive. If the results do not provide clarity, a surgical biopsy of the mass may be recommended.

Its not always a great idea to push ahead with surgery without benefit of fine needle aspirate cytology.  If the cytology were to reveal a malignancy (cancer), screening the rest of the body for metastasis (spread) is the logical next step. If metastasis is discovered, removal of the originally discovered mass is unlikely to provide any benefit. Rather, such surgery will only subject the patient (and the client’s pocketbook) to a needless procedure. Leaping into surgery to remove a mass without the benefit of cytology is risky business.

The importance of histopathology

If your veterinarian surgically removes a growth from your dog, its always a great choice is to have the mass submitted to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory for histopathology (biopsy). There, a veterinary pathologist will evaluate paper-thin slices of the mass under the microscope to confirm the identity of the mass.  This test also determines if the mass was removed with clean margins, which lets your vet know if they were able to remove ALL of the dangerous cells.  It can be extremely difficult to get clean margins on areas where there is a lot of skin tension, such as a limb, toe, or paw.

Even if a fine needle aspirate cytology indicated that the growth was benign, histopathology is warranted. On occasion, the pathologist discovers something quirky such as a malignant tumor within the center of one that is benign.

If histopathology is not affordable, ask your vet to place the growth that was removed in a small container of formalin (preservative) and it can be held for a later date. This way, should multiple masses begin growing at the surgery site or should your dog develop a tumor at another site, you will still be able to request histopathology on the original sample.

Lumps and bumps are a very normal part of the canine aging process. Teaming up with your veterinarian to assess them on a regular basis is the very best way to insure that they never create a health issue for your wonderful dog.

Source:, Nancy Kay, DVM Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine

Summertime Travel with Your Dog

Let’s face it. Dogs ARE a part of your family. No matter how you want to look at it, we are less stressed and more comfortable when our pets are with us. With this said, over 70 percent of pet owners now regularly travel with their pets.


It’s nice to take trips alone without your pets, but to experience a new destination with your furry kids can be extremely memorable. Below are a few tips to make sure your dogs have as much fun on your next trip as you do:

1. Car safety. Dogs belong in the back seat. Keep Fido in the back seat. There are doggie seat belts available from your local pet store OR use a “stay” command to keep your dog from coming into the front seats. ALSO: Only lower the rear windows enough so the dogs head can stick out and then LOCK the power window controls to restrict the windows from accidentally lowering or raising any further. NEVER have a dog in the rear of a pick-up truck unleashed.

2. Dog friendly hotels. Nowadays, almost ALL hotels are pet friendly. They reserve specific rooms just for pets. With this said, there may be areas of the rooms that have been previously soiled. So, when you first enter the room, be sure your dog is LEASHED for the first few minutes to avoid the possibility of marking or pottying. If you plan on staying more than one night, I recommend that you negotiate only paying one nights pet fee.  Always leave the room cleaner than you found it.  Also, try NOT to leave your pet alone in the room unattended.

3. Ticks and fleas. Be aware of ticks and fleas when you are traveling to regions of the country known for these critters. ALSO, note the time of year. Fall can be the worst for ticks, especially in areas with an abundance of trees. Consider treating your dog with a flea & tick preventative a few days before leaving. Daily tick checks will also prevent a tick from bedding and bloating on your dog.

Just be sure to have your doggie cross-country “to do” list complete. Better preparation before you embark on your journey will ensure that it will be easier to handle any emergencies with your dog on the road if they occur. The joy of new adventures is what keeps us all going and what a better way to experience them than with your dog.

Source:, By Mark Siebel Special to AFN

Distemper in Dogs


What is distemper?

Distemper is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic dogs and other animals such as ferrets, skunks and raccoons. It is a contagious, incurable, often fatal, multisystemic viral disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Distemper is caused by the canine distemper virus (CDV).

How is the disease spread?

The disease is spread mainly by direct contact between a susceptible dog and a dog showing symptoms. Coughing and sneezing can spread the virus over short distances.

What are the clinical signs?

As with all infectious diseases, clinical signs can vary. The main clinical signs are diarrhea, vomiting, a thick yellow discharge from the eyes and nose, cough and eventually seizures and neurological signs. Dogs that recover from the disease are often left with persistent nervous muscle twitches (chorea) and recurrent seizures.

Are there other diseases causing similar signs?

There are many diseases that cause diarrhea and vomiting, several that cause similar respiratory and neurological signs, but few diseases that cause all of these at the same time.

How can I prevent my dog from becoming infected?

Fortunately we have highly effective vaccines to use. These are given to puppies along with other routine vaccines. Although in the majority of dogs the protection from initial vaccination may last more than a year, annual revaccination may be recommended because some dogs may be at higher risk for contracting the disease.

How common is distemper?

Canine distemper is seen worldwide but because of the widespread use of successful vaccines, it is much less common than it was in the 1970’s. It is essential to keep vaccinating our dog population to prevent canine distemper from returning as a major killer of dogs.

Why Does My Dog Run Away?

It can be so discouraging when your dog continually tries to escape.  Unfortunately, not all pets that get lost make it home.  Some that do make it home are worse for wear.  Make sure to follow these guidelines to keep your pet happy, healthy & safe at home.


1. Most Common Reasons: Boredom, Loneliness or Sexual Urges
Dogs that are locked in a home or a small yard for hours at a time without any attention or stimulation can get bored or lonely. This can cause them to feel the need to bolt or escape either to relieve themselves, look for food or find entertainment. Sometimes running away can become “self-rewarding” behavior. When they run away, they get to roam wherever they please, dig in the neighbors yard, chase cats and hang out with other dogs. Therefore, this behavior can be positively reinforced every time they run away.

2. They are in an unfamiliar home or new location
Dogs are habitual creatures and value routine. When they are in an unfamiliar location and get loose, it is likely that they will run in the direction of home.

3. Dogs are following their instinctual desires
Dogs are creatures that enjoy being part of a pack and they also have very strong predatory instincts. Therefore a dog that is left alone for too long may escape to go in search of company. They may also want the freedom to follow a tasty scent or to find other dogs to chase squirrels with. Furthermore,  un-neutered dogs may go roaming in search of a mate.

4. They are reacting to a frightening sound or situation
When dogs are confronted with frighteningly loud noises such as thunder, loud beeping or fireworks, they may feel the need to escape their confines to get away from the sound. When unexpected events occur such as sudden rain or bright lights they may feel the urge to get to safety.

5. There is access to an easy escape
If there is a gate or fence that is low enough to jump over, broken enough to fit through or easy enough to open, chances are your dog will try and escape. The best thing you can do is double check your backyard to make sure it is fully enclosed and secure.

Having a dog that constantly bolts and runs away can be frustrating and exhausting. It can be tough to eliminate this problem but the steps listed above can definitely help you avoid it as much as possible. When Fluffy does finally come home covered in mud, smelling of sewage and completely spent from the day’s excursion, you can finally breathe a long sigh of relief. Even dogs know, there’s no place like home.