Dog Health Issues & What I Learned

When I decided to take in Argos, all anyone could tell me was that owning a dog was no big deal. They eat, they poop and you take them to the Vet once a year. But alas, it was not so. That or I just make a big deal about everything.

Luckily, Argos was  a healthy pup and his only problem was his constant defecating inside the house and his refusal to eat dog food. No biggie. Took me two months to housebreak him and eight months to figure out which dog foods he actually wanted to eat. I hadn’t the slightest clue and it was a costly learning curve.

On the other hand, Ellie will eat anything, so no problem there but we have dealt with some health and behavioral issues that have taught me quite a bit about how unprepared I was to care for her. My Summer went something like this:

  • Trip 1: vaccines + checkup
  • Trip 2: ear infection, spay + recovery
  • Trip 3: vaccines
  • Trip 4: ear infection
  • Trip 5: rabies vaccine
  • Trip 6: skin problems

She is on her third harness, has destroyed countless undergarments and because of her ferocious teeth, the toy box is pretty much empty except for a single rope toy and a Kong. Oh and I almost forgot, she pulled up and frayed the corner of the carpet in the bedroom and she has chewed the wooden legs of my desk and my nightstand.


Ellie snacks on toilet paper, used toilet paper.

It’s been an expensive experience to say the least and not because of the  very necessary core vaccines and general checkups but some of those trips didn’t have to happen if I had been paying more attention to her little body. As for her chewing, I’ve curbed significantly through exercise, if I had understood that whatever I was doing for exercise was not enough, I would have better looking furniture.

Ear Infections

It began with an ear infection. I had never seen an ear infection in a dog. Argos has never had one and I love kissing their ears and that’s when I noticed something was off with Ellie’s ears, they smelled really bad. I noticed this the night before her spaying surgery and when I got to the clinic, I asked about the ears. The vet tech informed me immediately that Ellie had a bad ear infection and scoffed at me for not knowing this. So Ellie had surgery, got her ears cleaned and medicated and I was sent home with a coned dog and a bag full of painkillers and antibiotics.

Two weeks later Ellie was pretty much healed, off painkillers and antibiotics and her ears smelled wonderful!

Two weeks after that…another ear infection. I smelled the signs and I rushed her to the Vet. The first time around I had not asked about ear cleaning and infection prevention and was not given any helpful information from the Vet on the subject. This time I made sure the Vet told me as much as he could, I was leaving behind $60 dollars of my money and I was gonna get some good information out of them. Veterinarian cleaned her ears in front of me, showed me how to do it and then told me to alternate cleaning her ears and medicating them with antibiotic every other day for two weeks. After she was done with her medication I was to continue cleaning her ears with ear cleaning solution 2-3 times a week to prevent any more infections.

Skin Irritation

I had been using Frontline Plus on Argos since I adopted him to prevent and kill fleas and ticks. This summer though, somehow they were both scratching like crazy. Sure enough, they had flees on their coats. Because paranoia is a word that describes me fully, I washed everything I could throw in the washer with scolding hot water, scrubbed the floors, and vacuumed the room carpet five times a day. As this was happening Ellie was scratching the heck out of her belly, the area between her hind legs, and it was red, bumpy and scaly.

Went to the Vet because the scaly, red bumpiness started spreading to her genital area. The Vet determined it was fleas and that she might be exacerbating the flea bites with her sharp teeth.  He told me to switch to Revolution instead because, in his opinion, Frontline Plus didn’t work anymore.

Revolution is expensive, much more expensive than Frontline Plus. The dogs don’t scratch anymore, while I do pluck out a couple of fleas every time we come back from the dog park, its nothing terribly concerning. However, Ellie’s bumps continued the same. I did a general search of her symptoms and a lot of people with dogs having these problems attributed them to dog allergies.  I try no to self diagnose my dogs, its just not a good practice. So I kept that in the back of my mind. Then one day I noticed Ellie’s skin was significantly clearer and the only thing I had done differently was that  I had stopped feeding them some chicken stick treats I would buy for them from Trader Joe’s. I will definitely continue to observe her and see if this correlation turns into anything else.

The Smelly Butt Incident

One evening Ellie sat on my lap and took a nap. Later that night I smelled a fishy, outright nasty smell coming off my pants. I ran to the shower and scrutinized, to say the least, my own personal hygiene routine. Then, while playing with Ellie, I noticed the awful smell coming off her rear end. I took to the Internet for information and everything I read seemed to point to full stinky anal glands.

I called my Vet’s office, and I asked before making an appointment what could possibly cause a dog’s butt to smell like that and they said, if it’s her anal glands, they are probably full. They told me they could express her glands for a nominal fee or I could do it myself. They assured me it was no big deal and because they knew Ellie quite well by now, they told me I could try expressing her glands gently and see if that alleviated the smell.

"Yeah, just as I suspected. Clean as whistle"

“Yeah, just as I suspected. Clean as whistle”

I watched a couple of YouTube videos on gland expression, because I lacked confidence, put on a glove and went to work. I put my right thumb and forefinger at 8 and 4 (pretending her anus is a clock) respectively and pushed inward and upwards. What came out made me want to vomit. I quickly took some baby wipes I had laid out, cleaned her up, took my disposable gloves off and tossed everything in the trash. I bathed her to make sure none of the nasty stuff stayed on her fur.  This was end of the smelly booty. Every time I catch a whiff, I pull out my gloves, pull up her tail and I get to work. I try not to breathe through the process.

While these issues, trips and phone calls were exhausting, it’s all for the love of a dog.

Lessons Learned

The lessons I learned this Summer:

  • When the dog acts differently, smell differently, pukes, slobbers excessively out of the ordinary, and scratches; pay attention! Look up the symptoms on the internet, not to self medicate your poor pooch but to inform yourself. When you make that Vet visit, now that you are equipped with basic knowledge and understanding, ask away! Make your money count.
    • Ellie’s second ear infection and ensuing Vet checkup fee + medication, not to mention whatever discomfort she was feeling, would have never happened if I had stayed longer and asked how to make sure I properly cared for her ears.
  • Dog’s are not cheap. They are also not for everyone and they do come with chores all their own. Think: feeding, walking, playing, grooming, cleaning and washing after them. They are children who never grow up and move out of the house.
  •   When you suspect something is going on, call your Vet’s office. If they are worth having your business, they’ll try to give you as much information as they can over the phone. Most of the time, you just have to take the dog in, but as the smelly butt incident proved, sometimes they can give you advice if something is not serious health-wise.
  •  Core vaccines, Bordatella, Parainfluenza and Rabies vaccines are an absolute must. published a vaccine schedule that can be helpful if you don’t really know what is due. If money is an issue find low cost clinics in your area. For my region of Los Angeles County, I go to Los Angeles Animal Services website for important information on licensing, low cost clinics, low cost vaccinations, pet adoptions and other very useful information.
    • All of Ellie’s & Argo’s vaccinations have been done at one of these low cost clinics. The clinic I go to have low cost vaccinations every Sunday morning. This same clinic also has low cost spaying and neutering every second Monday of the month. When I say low, I mean low cost neutering and spaying compared to boutique Veterinarian offices.


  •  Feel free to shop around when it comes to expensive procedures such as spaying, neutering, teeth cleaning etc. When Chris and I decided to adopt Ellie, we never imagined that neutering was a very expensive procedure.
    • I wanted to make sure she was neutered for her safety (don’t want her knocked up by some random dog at the park). Some Veterinarians in my area charge upwards of $400 dollars for the procedure and I thought…how can this be so expensive?! No wonder we have a canine over population problem. I called Lange Foundation where I had adopted Ellie and they gave me a list of low cost clinics I could call. I paid $150 dollars for her procedure and medications that eventful second Monday in July (I got into a minor car accident that morning after I had dropped off Ellie for surgery).
  • When looking to adopt a furry family member, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting into.If it’s a female dog, understand what special needs she’ll have such as spaying or if you decide not to spay, understand you’ll have to manage her birth control and estrus cycles.
    • Ellie is a cocker spaniel and poodle mix and I think she inherited the ear problems from cocker spaniel lineage. She also has an excited urination problem generally recognized a cocker spaniel attribute. Or so I read.
  • If you already have a type of dog in mind, understand what grooming and caring needs he or she will have. If it has a long coat, frequent grooming is an absolute must to prevent knots and clumping of hair. If the dog you have in mind is a short coated dog, inform yourself as to how to groom their coats. Some dogs shed, some don’t.
  • Some dogs eat to live and others live to eat. Understand dietary needs. Learn what food is ideal and how to curb their appetite if you get a kibble enthusiast.
  • Exercise both body and mind, it is essential to dog owner sanity, dog’s health and a peaceful home. Have a breed in mind? Research the types of activity levels they require and if you can provide that for them.
  •  Flea prevention is not an option either. Fleas bite both humans and dogs alike and they can transmit the same diseases to each. Invest in good flea medication, even if it costs way more than the stuff you buy off amazon prime. I’ll miss the convenience but my dogs and I deserve the good stuff.