How much is your dog worth?

Priceless, most of us would say. But what happens when you have an old dog and an unknown illness, like an abdominal mass? Your vet runs through several scenarios:

  • Run multiple tests to try to identify the problem. That would cost of over a grand, and not involve treatment. If we’re lucky, the problem can be determined from only one or two tests. Plus the cost of treatment, whatever that may be.
  • She could do exploratory surgery and remove the mass, but if there were multiple tumors, then she would euthanize your dog.
  • Or she could just make him comfortable, which may last only a few weeks.

How far do you go down the rabbit hole?

Chipper was my mom’s cocker spaniel and I inherited him and his ‘sister’ Buffy in 2013. Now he’s 12 ½ and has an enlarged spleen—not slightly enlarged, two to three times its normal size.

I know my mom would have said, “Just put him down. He’s old anyway.”

But I can’t do that.

I’m wrestling with the issue, even though my long-term plan is to get a springer spaniel puppy (my preferred breed). When I first inherited Buffy and Chipper, I also had Cassie, my springer spaniel. But trying to walk or travel with three dogs was very challenging, so when my springer passed, I decided to wait until both cockers died, or possibly only one, depending on the health of the remaining dog. I don’t think it’s fair to stress an old dog with a crazy puppy.

But Chipper was my mom’s dog—so by association, a part of my mom.

Chipper started having diarrhea several days before his scheduled semiannual senior exam. Both cockers get this every few months to the extent where they need strong probiotics and maybe an antibiotic to clear it up. My dogs eat a mix of high quality kibble, homemade dog food and leftovers, and it’s usually the leftovers that cause the problem—but they love my husband’s cooking—especially pot licking—their favorite time of day. I also walk them around the neighborhood where they frequently gobble things up before I can get them to drop it.

On hindsight, Chipper had a couple of other symptoms, like becoming a fussy eater the last few weeks. He just didn’t seem to like breakfast anymore, but would eat dinner and snacks. Normally he would gobble up everything, as is typical for cocker spaniels.

He also dragged on walks around the block and was hesitant with stairs. But these are typical for a dog that has arthritis. I figured I would mention these things during his senior exam.

The money question—the start of the rabbit hole.

I was shocked when my vet said Chipper had an enlarged spleen and she asked how I would like to proceed.

The spleen filters blood and removes abnormal blood cells from the body. It is also part of the immune system. Although it is an important part of the body, dogs, and people, can live without a spleen, although they are at a higher risk for infections.

An enlarged spleen is often a symptom of an underlying problem, which could range from an infection to cancer. Injuries can also cause an enlarged spleen, but Chipper hasn’t had any major injuries.

To date, Chipper’s course of action has included:

Step 1: First, my vet put Chipper on antibiotics, the simplest and easiest thing to do. Then she ran a blood test, which was part of his regular senior exam. An infection would have shown an elevated white cell count, which he didn’t have. He was slightly anemic, which could indicate internal bleeding. Antibiotics and blood tests $170.

Step 2: My vet thought he might have cancer, and that we should determine if it has metastasized or if he was a good candidate for a splenectomy. I didn’t know how far I wanted to go yet, so I approved the initial tests, x-rays to see if Chipper had tumors in his chest at a cost of $110. The x-rays didn’t show any obvious signs of cancer.

Step 3: Then she recommended an ultrasound, which required a specialist. I hesitated for a day as my husband, my sister, and I discussed whether it was worth putting Chipper through the stress of multiple vet visits and which direction we wanted to proceed. We concluded that we should not proceed with the $400+ ultrasound, which might not show anything.

When my vet called the next day, she urged me to get the ultrasound so we would know how to proceed with Chipper’s illness. She convinced me that it was necessary. So the next day I traveled 1 ½ hours each way to a specialty vet for the ultrasound and consultation at a cost of $500. The results were inconclusive except that Chipper doesn’t have any obvious tumors on his spleen or the surrounding organs. Great that he doesn’t have any obvious signs of cancer, but we still don’t know what is causing his enlarged spleen and how to treat it.Dog at vet

Step 4: My vet recommended a urinalysis and additional x-rays (which the specialist also recommended). She also re-checked his blood counts since Chipper no longer had diarrhea. Another $210, for more inconclusive results, except that his red blood cells have dropped a bit further, but his protein levels are up.

Step 5: There is still the possibility of cancer, but only inside his spleen, so my vet wants to confer with the specialist to see if a fine needle aspiration of his spleen should be performed with ultrasound guidance. This would involve another trek to the specialist and a cost of about $400.

So, I’m a grand into it before we decide if we want to go forward with step five. But it is looking like Chipper might have a difficult time with a splenectomy if he is already anemic with a lower red cell count. A splenectomy would range from a $1,000 – $1,500 if it is not complicated.

When do I call it quits?

I know I don’t want to do chemotherapy if it will add only a few months to his life. I also don’t want to have him suffer through a splenectomy if he has to have weeks of recovery, only to die within a few months.

Some reports say he could live another year after his spleen is removed if he doesn’t have cancer.

But he is 12 ½ years old—the average lifespan for a cocker spaniel.

I’d be willing to go through the surgery if he had a year—but should I put him through the trauma?

Or should I let him be?

Maybe I’ll let Chipper decide. Once he shows no interest in food for more than a couple of days, I’ll know it’s time.

Blogpaws wordless Wednesday


Raw Dog Food—is it right for Your Dog?

Let your dog decide

Feeding your dog raw food is a fairly new concept based on what dogs ate naturally in the wild. Modern technology changes much faster than anatomy, which may take many hundreds of years to adapt to dietary changes. Dog eating

This trend to feed natural foods based on a dogs ancestral diet is similar to people going back to natural foods after more than a half century of eating a processed diet that contributed to many illnesses.

If you are like me, you grew up with your parents feeding the family dog dry kibble purchased at the grocery store. My dog gobbled it up, but years later developed skin allergies and cancer.

When my mom grew up in the 1940s, she fed her dog table scraps. Most of her dogs didn’t survive even a decade, possibly from their diet or the lack of veterinary care back in those days.

What is a raw dog food diet?

We can’t let our dogs kill the neighborhood squirrels and rabbits, so what should we feed them—uncooked meat? No. Although dogs are carnivores they won’t get enough nutrition from eating just meat. Carnivores, like wolves and coyotes usually eat their kill’s organs first to get the nutrients they need to survive.

It’s critical to offer a balanced diet when feeding raw food. The right balance of meat, nutrients, and yes, even vegetables. Grains however, are not part of the ancestral dog’s diet.

Types of raw dog foods include frozen, freeze-dried or dehydrated. These allow for easy storage and prolong their shelf life.

Benefits of a raw food diet

Many people report the following benefits from feeding a raw food diet.

  • Shinier coat
  • Fewer trips to the vet and better overall health
  • More energy
  • Fresher breath
  • Firmer and fewer stools
  • Healthier weight

Is it safe?

One of the biggest concerns with a raw food diet is bacteria. Raw food can contain Salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria that we frequently hear about in recalls. Cooking destroys these pathogens, but also reduces the nutrients.

So does raw food contain bacteria? It can. Since food preparation should be in a sanitary environment with fresh meat, it’s best to leave this to the professionals. That’s one reason it is best to buy a name brand raw dog food.

Now you can buy freeze-dried or dehydrated forms of raw dog food that are convenient and have a stable shelf life. Just add water.

Did I try it?

I received a few free packets of Welly Chef Premium Raw Dog Food at the recent BlogPaws Conference. My two cocker spaniels ate them up when I used the dehydrated food as a topper  over their regular food.

Welly Chef package

Welly Chef ingredients



Pleased with how my dogs loved their food, I contacted Welly Chef and asked about their affiliate program. I received a box of the Turkey Recipe, and will receive some compensation if you order using the link to Welly Tails below or to the right.

Welly Chef Premium Raw Dog Food uses low temperature dehydration to provide maximum nutrients. It also…

  • uses USDA inspected US farm raised turkeys
  • contains all natural ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, green cabbage, lentils, tomatoes, and the list goes on. The ingredients are real foods, not chemicals.
  • contains the superfood chia seed
  • contains kale, kelp, pumpkin, blueberries and more.
  • it has added vitamins and minerals
  • it has higher protein concentrations and lower carbohydrate

It’s easy to make, just add warm water, stir, and wait 5 – 10 minutes to rehydrate.

raw dog food as a topper

Welly Chef raw dog food added as a topper

It’s best to gradually transition your dog’s food to a raw diet, since some dogs may get an upset stomach. Use it as a topper over their regular food for a few weeks as you increase the amount.

Buffy, my 8-year-old cocker loves it and gobbled it up as a topper to her regular food.

Chipper, my twelve-year-old cocker has a more sensitive digestive tract. After introducing the raw dog food to him, he was fine for several days, but then got the runs, so I stopped giving it to him. A few weeks later, I tried again, thinking maybe he’d gotten sick from something he ate outside. But again, after a few days of only having a half teaspoon full of raw dog food on top of his regular food, he became ill. After twelve years of eating commercial kibble, I think his digestive tract cannot adjust to raw food.

This may happen. Raw food is healthier for your dog, but it may not be appropriate for all dogs or at all stages of their lives.

I recommend starting out with a small amount and trying it for a few weeks. See if your dog tolerates it and, over time, increase the amount.

This post contains my own opinion and experience using the Welly Chef Turkey Recipe.

For more information about a raw food diet, I recommend reading the articles below.

Have you tried raw dog food? What was your experience?

This is a blog hop. Please visit the other blogs and comment.

Blogpaws wordless Wednesday


Blindness Temporarily Thwarted

Buffy, my one-eyed cocker spaniel, acted normal on Sunday morning, even asking me to throw her ball. But ten minutes later, she stood still with her head down. She stepped cautiously forward and bumped her nose into the bathroom door, then the wall, then the corner. She sniffed everything. I waved my hand in front of her face. She blinked once, likely feeling the air moving. But her eye showed no movement. Continue reading

My Senior Dog has more Energy than Last Year

Buffy & Chipper with Welly Tails Senior Dog Care product

Buffy (left) and Chipper (right) with their Senior Dog Care product.

Chipper, my twelve year-old cocker spaniel, has more energy when we go for walks than he did

this spring. He often leads the way as we walk around our neighborhood (as long as interesting scents don’t distract him), and he now chases squirrels—something he hasn’t done in years. Continue reading

Can Pets Prevent Suicide?

“Everyone thinks of committing suicide at some time,” my walking partner said as we settled into a steady pace for the 5K Wauk for Suicide Prevention and Awareness this past Saturday.  We had both known people who have attempted and some who had succeeded at committing suicide.

Cocker spaniel giving author a hug

Buffy giving me a hug.

Continue reading

When your Dog has the Runs—Should You Visit the Vet?

On Monday, I arrived home later than usual after work and found my husband scrubbing the carpet, a roll of paper towels lay on the floor and a scowl across his face. Buffy, my tan cocker spaniel had made a huge mess all over the living room rug. Diarrhea.

Buffy at the vet

Buffy sticking out her tongue at me at the vet’s office.

Continue reading