Even More Than What I Hoped For

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Years ago I had an interview with two veterinarians that owned a clinic north of Toronto. I don’t remember their names but I recall thinking they seemed like kind and gentle men. While waiting to meet with them, I noticed a photo album in their reception area. It was filled with pictures of dogs and cats and thank you cards from clients. During my interview, they asked what I most hoped for in my career as a vet.

“Someday, I hope to have an album like the one out in your waiting room.” I answered.
They laughed and said, “Well, unfortunately most of those pictures and cards were received after a pet died, so not necessarily the most uplifting.”

Perhaps they thought I was silly but twenty-two years later, my feelings haven’t changed. Every card of thanks and picture that we receive is a reminder to me that what we do matters – that we make a difference in the lives of our clients and their pets.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a moment that surpassed my wide eyed musings of so many years ago. One of our patients, Madison had an appointment for a laser treatment. She’s a beautiful chocolate lab with a mask of white around her eyes and nose. Kristin carried out her treatment and when they were finished, Madison headed out to the front desk with her mom.

I was sitting in my office when I heard a chorus of voices, “Where are you going?”
I stood and headed out to see what was happening. Madison had wandered by the reception desk to the pharmacy and turned the corner to the treatment room. When she saw me coming towards her, she stopped.

“Oh Madison – hello beautiful girl!” I said as I placed my hand on top of her warm head. She swished her tail back and forth, like wind shield wipers during a gentle spring rain. Then she turned and walked back to her mom’s side at the front desk. Turns out, she wanted to come and say hello – to me. And afterwards, I just could not stop smiling.

Pheochromocytoma, what’s that?

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Pheochromocytoma, what’s that?

Trust Miss Twinny to have a rare form of a tumor!

Miss Twinny came to me as a rescue, she was rescued from a terrible situation and soon became a beloved part of my family.

Everyone that met Miss Twinny fell in love, she had a face only a mother could love.  A squishy little face with snaggly teeth.

Miss Twinny was diagnosed with Pheochromocytoma, a rare adrenal tumor.  She unfortunately passed away just before they were going to do surgery to hopefully remove the tumor so I could have a few more years with my Miss Twinny.

Now looking back there were small signs that I didn’t notice at the time, like all of us we are busy and rushing around in this so called thing called life.   She had been not eating like she used to, I put that down to one of our other dogs at the time was pushy and I had to watch Miss Twinny when it was feeding time.  I put it down to her being scared of the other dog, causing her to be depressed. I also thought back to her drinking more, and more restless, also sleeping more, yes I know seems weird, being restless, and then sleeping more.

It became very obvious on our walk to the dog park two years ago when Miss Twinny kept stopping and her breathing was rapid.  I of course rushed her to work with me and Dr King examined her and we took blood to send off.  The blood work came back with alarming results, which then started the whole prognosis of what was ailing my sweet Miss Twinny.  We booked an ultrasound, and they were able to see the mass.

We then booked a referral appointment with an Internal Medicine Specialist as the surgery she would require is very risky.  I was very hopeful they could save her and I would be picking her up after her surgery and bringing her home to recover.

Here is a little about the tumor Miss Twinny had:

A pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal gland, which causes the glands to make too much of certain hormones. This can cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. These symptoms are intermittent (not present all of the time) because the hormones that cause them are not made all of the time or are made in low amounts.


Pheochromocytomas are rare in dogs. They usually occur in dogs that are older than seven years but can occur in younger dogs as well. Because this tumor affects an endocrine gland that functions to spread hormones, pheochromocytomas commonly spread to organs that are near them and can rapidly metastasize to other areas of the body.


The moral of the blog, is any little thing you notice, like not eating as much, drinking more, ANYTHING, call your Veterinary Clinic and make that appointment.  Do the bloodwork, as without the bloodwork we wouldn’t have known that Miss Twinny was in trouble.

This process was less than a week from the dog park to saying goodbye to my Miss Twinny.


I miss and think of her every day!


Puppy Socialization.

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What is puppy socialization and why it’s so important?

All animals, including dogs, have a special sensitive period at the start of their lives. During this time, they learn to accept things around them so that they are not afraid of them later in life.

Puppy socialization involves meeting and having pleasant encounters with many things. Positive encounters are a must for the puppy to thrive.

Unfortunately a natural response of a fearful dog, if it has no means of escape, is aggression.

Why is socialization so important?

To be a successful pet, dogs need to get on well with other living creatures as well as coping with a variety of different everyday experiences. Puppies that are well socialized grow up to be friendly and well balanced with everybody and other animals.

Sadly, not all puppies are so lucky.

The most common cause of fear and aggression is lack of socialization.

A puppy does not have to be mistreated to become afraid of people or new experiences.

The time to start is now!

Good socialization is the best way to ensure a friendly, well-adjusted puppy.

More young dogs are euthanized because of behavioural problems than die from diseases we vaccinate against.

How do I socialize my puppy?

Socialization is easy – IT JUST HAS TO BE DONE!

Puppies need to experience as many encounters as possible during their first year of life, particularly during the sensitive period.

With any puppy, the time to start is NOW. Carefully arrange for your puppy to have several new experiences every day, making it positive.

Vaccinations and socialization. The doctor will explain and advise you on integrating the timing of these vaccinations with a good, safe socialization program.

Until your puppy is vaccinated, it should:

  • Not be allowed to mix with unvaccinated dogs.
  • Not be walked in areas where other dogs have been.

Chameleon Lumps

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It was a sunny December morning. Charlie flopped down in front of the fire after a good romp at the park. As her owner stroked the right side of Charlie’s belly, she felt a bump. The bump hadn’t been there earlier in the day, and while Charlie paid it no mind, a phone call was promptly placed to our hospital to book an appointment. During that visit, a growth was found underneath the skin on Charlie’s flank – it was small and well defined.

“What do you think it is Doctor?” Charlie’s dad asked.

“I can’t say for sure without a biopsy. Could be a benign fatty lump. It is right next to a nipple, so it could be a mammary tumor – these are usually benign in a dog that was spayed before the first heat. A mast cell tumor is always a consideration with any lump. Mast cell tumors are cancerous, although those that are low grade can be cured with surgery.” I said.

To put it plainly, mast cell tumors are nasty buggers. Their red and itchy appearance when growing from the surface of the skin, is fairly characteristic and prompts us to take quick action. But when growing underneath the skin, they can feel very much like a fatty lump (aka lipoma). Mast cell tumors tend to send cancer cells to “stake out” the neighbourhood tissue. This means that they often spread locally, and are larger than they appear to the naked eye.

It turned out that Charlie did have a mast cell tumor. But, thanks to her owner’s careful observations and quick decision making, surgery to remove the mass was successful.

Whenever I’m asked what a growth is, be it on or under the skin, I wish I could be 100% certain in my answer. But I can’t. No one can. Only a biopsy, either needle or surgical, can provide a more definitive answer. So while many lumps and bumps are harmless, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian any time one is found on your pet.


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The word even sounds scary, and it can be scary to watch your pet have a seizure.  I live with a dog who has seizures.  Until we could find the right medications and dose she would have seizures about every 3 weeks, and they would be cluster seizures, meaning one after the other up to three at a time.

Touch wood she has been seizure free for over three years.  It’s a distant memory now of witnessing her have a seizure.  It took time and trying different medications and dosages, but we finally got there.

Abby was an owner surrender at the local Animal Emergency Clinic where I work part time.  She was purchased off of Kijiji by a very sweet family.  It was their first dog and they fell instantly in love with her.  Abby is a very sweet loveable dog and everyone that meets her falls in love.  She is a small Shih Tzu and loves children – she will make a bee line to meet kids.

The family had three kids and everything was perfect until they witnessed her having a seizure.  They did not know what was happening.  All they knew, was that their sweet new dog that they had only had for a week, was flopping around on the floor like a fish.  She lost control of her bladder and was frothing at the mouth.  It lasted just over a minute.

They immediately took her to the Emergency Clinic and as they arrived, she had another one in front of the Doctor.  The family loved Abby, but knew that they couldn’t keep her – it scared their small children so much.  They asked that Abby be euthanized.  The Doctor discussed with them their options as Abby was only a year old.  They still did not want to keep her, so I was called to see if I could take Abby.

Abby has been part of my family now for just over 4 years.  We love her, and now that she is on the right medication and dosage, she lives a perfectly normal life.

There are different causes of seizures.  Abby has Idiopathic Epilepsy, meaning basically we don’t know why she has them.   (Pets that seizure can be referred to a Neurologist for an MRI) to see if they can find anything that could explain the seizures.

Living with a dog that has seizures isn’t as daunting as you may think.  Once the medication and dosages are found, your pet can lead a normal life.