A Great Substitute for Canned Spray Cheese for Dog Treats

A Great Substitute for Canned Spray Cheese for Dog Treats

If the idea of giving junk food to your dog appalls you, don’t read this. But I will say that my concoction of goopy stuff is healthier than the original.

I won’t make you read the history of the world before presenting the recipe. To save some of you from scrolling down, here’s my best substitute for canned spray cheese. But feel free to read the story of my experimentation. It will probably help with your own. Also, Cheez Whiz is a U.S. product; I have ideas for my friends in other countries at the end of the post.

Recipe for Canned Spray Cheese Substitute

  1. Mix Cheez Whiz, the commercial stuff that comes in a jar, approximately half and half with pure (unseasoned, unsweetened) canned pumpkin in a bowl. You can raise the proportion of pumpkin, but you will eventually lower the value of the treat. Your dog will tell you.
  2. Put it in a food tube (I use Coghlan’s).
  3. Keep it refrigerated when not in use.
  4. That’s it.

These proportions make it the right texture for a Coghlan food tube: not too thick, too runny, or too sticky.

High Value Treats

I have done a lot of counterconditioning over the years with my formerly feral dog, Clara. Her very very very favorite thing in the world is canned spray “cheese.” (The brand name is Kraft Easy Cheese.) I’ve always thought it was the thing that tamed her. Her attitude toward me, that first night she crept into the house, changed completely after I offered her some.

I haven’t used it for a couple of years, but we now have a situation where it would be super helpful, and it has become unavailable. Besides being very tasty, according to my dogs, it is very handy, because it doesn’t have to be refrigerated. You can keep a can around any “hot spots” where you might suddenly need a treat. I kept a can in the back yard, ready for untoward events. Now I can’t get the spray cheese, but we still have untoward events.

New Dogs

What doodles? The power of yummy goop in a tube

We have new neighbors on one side next door, and they have goldendoodles. Two big, tall, confident, sociable doodles, plus assorted other medium- to large-sized dogs who come and go. They are mostly doodles and retriever types.

Clara is not dog-aggressive, but she is a bit reactive and doesn’t handle change well. She has habituated well to the dogs on the other side of us (including the enormous, loud-but-sweet Dane mix). That took a lot of work by me, I might add, but she now pays them little heed other than a neutral wag or sniff now and then. But the doodle crowd is going to be tough because there are often four dogs in the yard, and it’s not even the same ones all the time.

So now I need some spray cheese. Since the pandemic (though I don’t know if it’s connected) it started getting hard to find. The brand name stuff first became unavailable, but I could get the cheap store brand. (The cheap cans lasted only about a third as long as the name brand, so weren’t cheap after all.) Then the store brand became unavailable as well. I don’t know if this is just in my area, or whether the product is being discontinued, but I suspect the latter since the mail-order price has shot up past what’s reasonable. I needed to start making something similar.

Food Tubes

So this was a job for a food tube, a great way to dispense treats of this consistency to your dog. I already have a post about mixing ingredients to use in food tubes for dogs. There are tons of possibilities, but the density and texture have to be just right.

After gathering some ideas from some Facebook friends (thanks, folks!), I decided to start with a base of Cheez Whiz, the jarred “cheese” dip you can get in the States. U.S. people will know why I keep putting “cheese” in quotes. These products don’t have a ton of cheese in them. They comprise oil and milk solids with a little bit of cheese and a lot of artificial flavoring. Cheez Whiz is a thick liquid at room temperature, so I thought it could be a good start.

Experimental Recipe Results

Here are my three experiments to replace spray cheese, the last of which was a success.

1. Cheez Whiz with Added Milk or Water

I added a couple of teaspoons of milk to some Cheez Whiz, just enough to thin it a little, and mixed it up. Then I put it in a food tube. Even though adding some liquid helped, the mixture was way too viscous. It didn’t even drop down to the bottom of the tube; it clung to the sides. The stuff was usable if I wanted to take the time to work it toward the opening, but not handy. It was also hell to clean. You can see the picture below on the left. What a mess.

2. Cheez Whiz, Cream Cheese, and Milk

I knew from experience that cream cheese has a helpful consistency, so I tried the following:

  • 2 ounces Cheez Whiz
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon milk (1/2 ounce)

This worked pretty well. Most of it did slide down to the bottom of the tube when filling it, though it was still messy. Cleanup was a little easier. Clara liked it fine. That amount didn’t fill the tube, though. I’d raise the amounts a little while keeping the proportions constant.

Here’s a photo of those two experiments: the mostly pure Cheez Whiz on the left, and the mixture with cream cheese on the right. You can see that the one on the left even oozed out of the flap before I cleaned it up. Yuck! Adding the cream cheese made the whole thing less sticky and viscous. But the texture still wasn’t perfect, and it was very high calorie.

3. Cheez Whiz and Pumpkin Puree

This was the winner for me. The pumpkin is much lower calorie than the dairy products I was adding, and the texture mitigates the viscosity of the Cheez Whiz. And Clara liked it!

I used the following:

Mixing Cheez Whiz and pumpkin
  • 3 ounces pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 ounces Cheez Whiz

That gave me almost a fill-up of the food tube.

See below for how much better it behaves in the tube. It was much easier to get in there, too.

Dietary Caution

Cheez Whiz is super high in sodium and artificial ingredients that are probably not great in large quantities. I use things like this because my dog defines high value, not me. And “cheesy” stuff like this is ultra-high for her. But I make an effort not to overdo it. She gets only a few licks (when she has it at all).

This concoction might not work at all for some dogs, since adult mammals are naturally lactose-intolerant. Response seems to vary among individual dogs.

I’m glad I worked out a way to dilute the Cheez Whiz. This improved the texture, lowered the calories and the milk content, and cut down the sodium. Oh yeah, and the pumpkin made the mixture cheaper. As I mentioned above, you can dilute the “Cheez” stuff with a higher ratio of pumpkin. In my experience, though, there will come a point where the value lowers, even for dogs who like pumpkin, as Clara does. Sure she does, but it doesn’t compare with a delectable mixture of whey, milk, canola oil, and artificial flavors…..

The winner: Cheez Whiz and pumpkin!

For My Friends Outside the United States

I took a little straw poll on social media and found out that some other countries have a rough equivalent of Cheez Whiz. It’s kind of the key to this recipe because you need a cheeselike substance that is a thick liquid at room temperature. If you want to try to make it from scratch, I’d take a soft spreading cheese like cream cheese or Neufchâtel or maybe even ricotta, add some very finely grated or crumbled stronger cheese, then dilute with enough milk or another liquid to get it to the right consistency.

Remember: I’m describing how to mimic an existing product in this post. But if you are just experimenting with food tubes and want to make something cheesy, it’s easy. My other food tube post has the proportions for a cream cheese and peanut butter mixture, for example.

It anyone plays around with Cheez Whiz (or anything else) in a food tube, tell me how it goes!

Related Posts

Copyright 2020 Eileen Anderson

In Zani’s Honor: Help Your Dog Get Close

In Zani’s Honor: Help Your Dog Get Close

I made a mistake. I did Zani wrong.

I’m not looking for reassurance. I’m not down on myself, just very sad. And as usual, I want to share my cautionary tale.

This is the second time I’ve made this mistake, and I plan to never make it again. I’m going to begin by telling you about the first time I made this error, long ago with different dogs.

Cricket and Gabriel

I tell the story of getting Cricket from a rescue in my book Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. She was a middle-aged dog when I got her as a companion for my slightly older dog, Gabriel.

Gabriel in 1995, about a year old

Gabriel was a rat terrier or a mix. He also resembled a Teddy Roosevelt Terrier. He was an easygoing guy with a ton of personality. He got under the covers of the bed every night with me. He would look at me and paw at the covers, and I would hold them up. He would go under and cuddle with me. In the summer he was the first up in the morning, wanting to go check the yard. But in the wintertime, I had to coax him out from under the covers. I would sing to him, “Oh Gabriel! It’s time to get up!” and he would snuggle down further a few times before finally emerging.

I picked Cricket from a rat terrier rescue online because she looked retiring and “demure” (that was the word I used then) in her rescue photo. I fantasized about having these two cute terriers who could hang out. Her fosterers were so crazy about her that even after the rescue approved me, I had to launch an email campaign to get them to let me have her. They reported that she got along with the other small dogs in their home. When I saw Cricket for the first time in a parking lot in the small highway town where we met I was smitten, and by the time I got her home she was my dog.

She hated Gabriel.

It turned out Cricket was neither retiring nor demure. She was a strong-willed little bitch, and one of her goals in life was to have me all to herself. The first and most dramatic thing she did was to tell Gabriel, dog-to-dog, that he could no longer sleep under the covers. I did not see her do this, and to this day I don’t know what element of doggie language she used. There was never a lunge, never a growl or curled lip. There was probably a lot of stink-eye, but I didn’t see it. In any case, once Cricket was there, Gabriel never got under the covers again, not once. Even though Cricket would be on one side of me and I would invite him under on the other side, he refused. They also fought regularly. I would not allow this now. I didn’t know the dangers of that then. Scuffles can escalate.

My little fantasy idyll of two terrier buddies didn’t happen. But worse than that, Cricket bumped sweet Gabriel from one of his favorite things: sleeping under the covers with me. I hated it, but I had no idea what to do about it, so I let it happen. Gabriel did benefit from Cricket’s arrival in many other ways. After I adopted Cricket, I decided I needed to step up my dog caregiver game—it was even in my contract! So I took Cricket on a walk down my street every day. And Gabriel, too! Separately, of course. And it was lovely to have a normal walk with Gabe after being dragged by Cricket, the tiny draft animal, down the block. It also meant more toys and more chewables. So Gabriel’s life wasn’t ruined, by any means. He had another member of his species with common interests in the house. He had more stuff to play with and chew on. But I will never stop feeling that I betrayed him.

Gabriel in 2003

Zani, Clara, and the Other Dogs

This is harder to write about.

When I got Zani, I already had two dogs: Cricket and Summer. They hated each other too, but that’s another story. The focus here is that I had intense love affairs with each of them. Cricket was…Cricket. My little feisty darling who I picked out of a lineup. And Summer and I went through hell together and came out the other side. She was my crossover dog, calm and patient with me, the one who brought me to this world of dog training.

Frenemies Cricket and Summer

So in 2009, here comes this beagle/terrier mix with the sunniest disposition in the world. She wasn’t afraid of anything and was ready to love every person and every dog. I almost didn’t know what to do with such a charming, easy dog. But she wasn’t a pushover. She let Cricket’s stink-eye roll over her, and she pestered Summer the grump endlessly into playing with her. She carved a niche in our household, including that, over time, she claimed her chunk of me. Oh yes, she got my heart. And she sat in my lap, sat behind me in my chair, solicited play with me, and yes, got under the covers in the bed. (I don’t remember whether this was before or after Cricket stopped doing that. As her dementia progressed, she stopped getting under the covers.)

Zani in my lap in 2015

Two years later, Clara arrived. My first puppy, and one with extreme needs, to boot. This is not where the story gets sad. I didn’t neglect anybody (and never have). We again settled into niches. Cricket maintained her niche, even as she sank into dementia. I kept her separate from both Summer, who hated her, and Clara who was hulking and careless. I introduced Summer and Clara very slowly, since I was concerned that Summer wouldn’t grant rambunctious Clara a puppy license. And Zani became Clara’s nanny, helping me raise her, while still remaining friendly with everybody else.

Zani is mildly Internet-famous, being the dog in an educational video I made who didn’t want to be petted. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t affectionate. She sat on my lap when I was in a big kitchen chair or on the couch; she pressed up close to me in bed, on top of or under the covers. She didn’t always want to be petted, but she enjoyed being close, and would claim her space with me.

Zani was sound phobic. And in 2016, she also got generalized anxiety and suffered strange panic attacks, whose trigger we never discovered. With the help of a great vet behaviorist, she bounced back well, but her mental health was always a little tippy after that.


Fast forward to 2018. In February, Clara ran Zani into a fence when they were both chasing a squirrel. Zani suffered a spinal cord concussion and was temporarily quadriplegic. After she was able to walk and navigate again, we moved, combining households with my close friend and her dog. All of us benefitted, but Zani probably most of all, as sociable as she was. She adored my friend and built new habits, hanging out with both of us.

As she aged, she got eye problems, a very acute case of keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), which didn’t respond well to the standard meds. She required a lot of care (many eyedrops per day). Her anxiety re-emerged with a new set of sounds to deal with, but she stayed mostly steady, with a lot of management and situational meds. She slept with Clara and me in our area of the new house.

But in 2020 she got scared a couple of times of something in my room, probably a sound outside, but I’ll never know. She started acting anxious and wanting out of my room. I set up the baby gate so she could get out, and at night she started sleeping first in the living room, then later at the far end of the house, away from everybody. This saddened me, but it was not the first time she had exerted this much independence. Zani, as sociable as she was, also valued her alone time. She slept separately sometimes at the old house, too. I remember that after Cricket died, I gave Clara and Zani more freedom in the house, and Zani promptly started sleeping in the den for a while. I’m not playing down the fact that she was scared in my room in the new house, but sleeping elsewhere seemed to address it. She was happy every morning when I got up and she would come from the other end of the house, wagging her tail.

Clara could also have played a part in Zani’s ceasing to sleep in bed with me. Clara resource guards me, not in any kind of aggressive way. She does it by proximity, body blocks, but also by means invisible to me, similarly to Cricket. In day-to-day life, though, Zani was a match for her, even though so much smaller. So if I had to guess, Clara didn’t play a big part in Zani’s exodus at night.

I saw to Zani’s health needs, which were extreme in this, her last year. Meds, eyedrops, and cleaning up her eyes and nose, all multiple times a day. Brushing her teeth religiously so as to prevent or delay her from having to have a dental treatment. I stepped up the care even more as she became ill with lymphoma.

She continued to sleep in the other part of the house. I put one of her favorite beds and my own baby blanket in the area of the pantry she had chosen.

It was only a few weeks after she died that I realized something. I’d been going through my old digital photos. My photo library is large, and I wanted to make sure all my dog photos were tagged and searchable. (Only about 5,500 out of 25,000 to go!) Going through my photos of Zani, I saw all these selfies that I had taken of Zani and me. Zani on my lap, Zani between my feet, Zani pressed up against me on the couch.

I had forgotten that she used to like to spend time pressed close to me before me moved. I had forgotten.

Why didn’t she do it now? Because I had ceased giving her the opportunity.

I had let the environment change my behavior such that Zani no longer had a chance to sit on my lap or settle in next to me during the day. We have couches, which the dogs spend a lot of time on, but I don’t. During the day I hang out at the kitchen table, which has chairs that are less dog-friendly than Zani was used to.

One time recently when I did sit on a couch, Clara immediately jumped up and got on one side of me. Then Zani got on the other, pressing herself companionably by my side. One time. I even remember thinking, “That’s unusual!” But I rarely sat on the couch, so the opportunity to hang out with me and have pleasant physical contact was gone from Zani’s life, and I didn’t even realize that I had changed my behavior. I didn’t remember that she had formerly been affectionate in that way.

I wasn’t freaking giving her the chance anymore.

I could have done something. The situation with Cricket and Gabriel would have been hard to address, even with better training abilities. But it’s likely that I could have enriched Zani’s life—and mine—merely by sitting on the couch sometimes.

First World Problems

Tragedies abound in our world. People are dying needlessly and cruelly in the pandemic. My standard of living, even as I live in these currently dangerous United States, is good. We are safe and have shelter, enough to eat, and I have work I love. I’m immensely privileged. That being said, Zani was part of my family and always will be. I think I’m permitted my grief, and I think others may benefit from my sharing it. I won’t forget this stupid, unmindful mistake I made, a mistake that deprived her of one of her simple pleasures in life. She didn’t ask much, even though she was medically high maintenance. She lived her little parallel life in my house, going her own way. One of my nicknames for her was Different Drummer Girl, a play on Thoreau’s comment about marching to the beat of a different drummer. She was mightily independent.

But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have readily snuggled up to me, if given the chance.

I debated posting these pictures. I was worried that it was some kind of self-flagellation. But I gained some peace going through them. I just wish they had continued after 2018.

Again, I’m not looking for reassurance. I know I gave Zani a good life. But this realization about the lack of closeness was a blow to me. I don’t have a chance for a do-over with Zani. But I needed to write this. Of all the things I could write about my life with Zani, this is what came out. Perhaps it will help one of you.

If your dogs enjoy being close, facilitate that. If one dog is hogging you, or there are other circumstances that prevent a dog from having all the access to you she might want, do something. I wish I had.

Copyright 2020 Eileen Anderson

Goodbye to Zani

Goodbye to Zani

Zani: July 14, 2008 – September 28, 2020
Taken too soon by lymphoma.

I am not up to writing about this dear, remarkable dog. Here are some best memories.

Photo Gallery

  • Head shot of a black and rust colored dog that looks like a small, slim beagle. She looks (and is) very friendly. Her mouth is open and her teeth are crooked.
  • A small black and tan colored hound is looking up. She has flecks of snow all over her face

Favorite Videos

Negotiating for attention and treats in July 2020

Some clips from her final days

Brilliant problem solving

Figuring out the flirt pole

Beautiful Open Jumpers run in Little Rock, November 2012

More agility: Qualifying runs (even with my mistakes) in Novice FAST and Standard

The very first time we tried side-stepping for one of Lori Stevens’ courses

Zani teaching me a thing or two about training

Zani showing predatory aggression

The video that made her Internet-famous

Stopping and picking Zani up off the street in July 2009 was one of the best things I ever did.

Copyright 2020 Eileen Anderson

Create a Custom Quality of Life Scale for Your Dog

Create a Custom Quality of Life Scale for Your Dog

If you create a scale for your dog, please do it in consultation with your vet. I’m providing a simple form on Google Sheets and sharing my own experience, not medical advice.

Template for custom quality of life scale or symptom tracker

You know generally what’s coming when we talk about quality of life.

In this case, the news is that Zani is terminally ill.

In early August, she started to cough. Clara and my friend’s dog had both just suffered a respiratory infection in sequence, so I assumed it was the same thing, but it didn’t go away. I talked to my vet and she prescribed Zani some antibiotics. About two weeks later Zani started having a GI problem. I talked to the vet and we discussed some options, including a minor surgical procedure. But with her ongoing respiratory problem, she didn’t want to put her under unless she had to, and the condition did seem to stabilize.

Then in the first week of September, something started changing in Zani’s right eye. She already had keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) in that eye—but this was new and different, and the vet said to come right in. There was some color change on the side of her eye. She also noticed swollen mandibular lymph nodes, which I had not. She performed a chest X-ray and Zani’s lungs were full of nodules. These conditions, along with the eye and GI problem, spelled probable lymphoma or one of the deadly fungal diseases dogs can get here in Arkansas. The eye problem is likely caused by an orbital tumor (tumor behind the eye). The symptoms between the fungal infection and lymphoma are oddly similar. The fungal test came up negative.

I wanted to keep my options open in case, for some wild reason, chemotherapy would be appropriate, so they did a needle aspiration biopsy to confirm. But it came back negative for anything—cancer cells or infection. Yet this stuff was growing inside her.

So Zani has something that is very likely cancer, and probably lymphoma, but not definitively diagnosed. The other affected areas of her body would be difficult, impossible, or painful to biopsy. Behind her eye? No thanks. Rectal tissue, lots of bleeding and discomfort, and the area is already being stressed. An ultrasound-guided needle biopsy of her lungs would still be a shot in the dark, trying to hit a nodule and gather enough cells. And it would be risky to anesthetize her for any of this. But these locations: lungs, GI system, and eyes are typical places for lymphoma to develop.

We are proceeding as if it were lymphoma, which is actually the best-case scenario at this point. But it’s not a good prognosis, especially because of the eye involvement. Chemo is generally not as hard on dogs as it is on people, and there are a lot of choices for lymphoma, but it’s still not necessarily easy. I wasn’t crazy about the idea even when it was on the table, and without a definitive diagnosis, the vet and I agreed not to go that route, Zani is getting palliative care: steroids. If what she has is lymphoma, prednisone may even create a remission.

She loves being outdoors

By the way, Zani has no clue how sick she is. She has shown no evidence of pain (the vet agrees). Her appetite has never flagged; she hasn’t had diarrhea. She is doing her usual activities, only at a lower energy level than usual. And while we waited for the results of the fungal test, which seemed to take forever, she got a dexamethasone shot, which took away her coughing and made her very peppy indeed.

An Individualized Quality of Life Scale

Inspired by the two major quality of life scales available online (Pawspice HHHHHMM Scale and Journeyspet), and my friend Blanche Axton’s excellent methods of tracking symptoms and behavior in her dogs, I decided to create a custom quality of life scale for Zani using Google Sheets. Her situation is complex with a lot of factors, but I realized some of them were quantifiable.

You can do this, too, should you need to. Here is my Google sheet: it is shareable. You can make a copy and customize it, or use the idea to make a scale that suits your needs better.

One of the reasons I’m doing this is that I know how badly I have been misled when I haven’t used any recorded observations over time.

I’ve written previously about the tragic death of my cat Alex. What I didn’t mention is that as Alex wasted away with what turned out to be stomach cancer, I did not perceive how much weight he was losing. I saw that he was gaunt, but many days I convinced myself he was “better” and gaining again. (I didn’t have a scale at the time.)

I never want to do that to an animal again. I know a little more about combatting biases now, 20+ years later. I will not let an animal waste away, in pain, as he doubtless was. One ultrasound would have told us what was happening, but those machines were rarer in general practices back in those days.

So I have been thinking about the ways I can help make sure Zani doesn’t suffer, that nothing evades my gaze because of hopes. And I’ve talked to my vet about all her symptoms and what to watch for.

I am shocked and heartbroken, but this is something I can do to help Zani, and possibly some other people and animals out there.

What the standard quality of life scales I’ve seen neglect to discuss is the many ways you can actually measure changes, rather than assigning a numerical score the best you can.

Some Standard Metrics for Quality of Life

The combined issues from the two QOL scales I know are pain, appetite/hunger, thirst/hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, respiration, sociability, and “more good days than bad.” (I reworded these a little.) One of the scales also includes two categories scored for the human: uncertainty about the condition of the animal, and the stress of caregiving. I probably won’t include categories for those last two, though I am grateful they are included. I will also not have a row for “more good days than bad,” since I will score every day and it doesn’t need to be a separate row.

We’re still doing our exercises

Zani’s Individual Quality of Life Issues

The following are Zani’s unique issues that are variants on or additions to the basics such as breathing, eating, and not being in pain. Some of them, such as mental health, are considerations in their own right. Others, such as lymph node size, are symptoms of bigger issues. I’m going to share my thoughts on them here.

  • Mental health. Zani is sound phobic, which is well controlled with meds and counterconditioning (check out the video below where she gets on the scale—that beep used to terrify her). In the past, she had almost a year where she also had generalized anxiety and panic attacks. So I will be watching for any precursors or wobbliness in her mental health.
  • Weight. I will weigh her at least every other day. Right now she is gaining. Even before the prednisone, her appetite was excellent.
Zani stations to be weighed
  • Respiration. I have been counting Zani’s respiration since the lung problems started because her breathing was noticeably fast and labored. Here’s a tip: rather than watching your dog’s chest rise and fall while simultaneously checking a stopwatch app, or setting a time with a ding (we avoid dings around here), just take a video of your dog that is an exact length and count at your leisure as you watch the video. I usually use 15 seconds, then multiply the number of full breaths by four. (There are also dedicated apps for this purpose.)
  • Eye with the tumor: appearance. Is the appearance changing? Any abnormal discharge? Her “normal” discharge with that eye is already pretty weird because of KCS and its treatment. Is her eye more or less exophthalmic? Less turned in the socket?
  • Eye with the tumor: irritation. Is it bothering her? Is she pawing at it or trying to wipe it on the grass or upholstery? (She has not done this at all so far.) Orbital tumors are often not painful.
  • Rectal prolapse: appearance. How long after defecation before the tissue retracts?
  • Rectal prolapse: irritation. Is it bothering her? She has never tried to scoot on the ground after it happens. She turned and tried to investigate it a couple of times early on, but I haven’t seen her do that since the beginning. So far it hasn’t been tender when I’ve cleaned it up for her.
  • General GI system. Any blood when I wipe her butt? Abdominal tenderness?
  • Repeated defecation. This is probably tenesmus, the urge to defecate even when bowels are empty. I’m treating repeated straining as a bad sign because it may both be symptomatic of something bad happening internally and also exacerbate the prolapse. But she has seemed to learn when she is done, even though the prolapse must complicate the sensations.
  • Stools. Look for constipation, diarrhea, blood in stool. So far her poops have been great.
  • Vomiting. None so far.
  • Her right mandibular lymph node size. This one is tough for me, but mostly because her nodes are not all that swollen compared to many dogs with lymphoma. I think I will be able to tell if they start to swell, though.
  • Her left mandibular lymph node size.
  • All nodes. Check for anything new.
  • Likelihood of a sudden adverse event with her GI system. See next entry.
  • Likelihood of a sudden adverse event with her eye. I’m using separate categories for these sudden adverse events, separate from the individual tracking of these areas. I don’t want to forget that even if I envision a slow, measurable decline, Zani has at least two conditions that could cause a sudden medical emergency.

New Symptoms to Watch For

  • Limping. This could indicate bone marrow involvement.
  • Excessive balance problems (beyond what is normal for her, due to her spinal cord trauma), seizures, or paralysis. Changes here could indicate central nervous system involvement. That’s my biggest worry because of the orbital tumor.

But in the meantime, her balance and coordination are looking great for her!

See the “Exercise and entertainment” video below for a live demo of backing to the platform

Possible Med Side Effects

Prednisone can cause quality of life issues itself. These are some of the things I’m watching for.

  • Behavior changes such as depression or aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Panting
  • Nausea or other GI problems


This is the “Second breakfast is late!” look

Some of the scoring will be counterintuitive any way you look at it. That’s because we naturally want to give high numerical scores to intensity, whether they are positive or negative indicators. But we can’t have an additive system where happiness is a 10 on a scale of 0 to 10 and also extreme pain is a 10 on a scale of 0 to 10. One of them is going to have to be scored in the other direction. So a certain number of categories will be scored counterintuitively. I went for high scores for intense good indicators. Which means on the pain scale, 10 means complete lack of pain.

Also, there will be factors that have actual numerical metrics, such as weight and respiration. I may write a couple formulae to convert the numbers into the 0–10 system. At the very least I’ll write a conversion table.

I’m sharing these thoughts for people who are in the sad position of doing this themselves, but I’m not going to publish my exact scoring system. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to copy my sheet exactly. But above are the concerns I’ll take into account.

I have, however, created a downloadable Google sheet that has a basic setup for symptom tracking. You can view the sheet and make a copy for yourself to edit as you please, putting in the symptoms you need to track for your dog. Be sure to check with your vet about what will be best to track for your dog. I’m sure there are people out there who can make a more sophisticated numerical tracking system. My goal here is to plant the idea of tracking symptoms as objectively as we can with the purpose of noting trends. We can do this successfully even if we have to make a lot of approximations.

Tracking such as this is useful for any dog with a chronic condition. Its use is not limited to dogs who have terminal conditions. For a dog with a chronic, non-terminal condition, the score can be used to determine when a vet visit is in order to discuss a change in treatment or when it’s time for a planned intervention.

Exercise and entertainment


Part of my reason for writing this is therapy. It lets me feel a little bit of control of the situation. But to be honest, I don’t think I will be using my chart for long. Both the GI problem and the eye problem could take a turn for the worse very fast. Her eye has improved from the prednisone Zani is taking now. But eye involvement worsens the prognosis for dogs with lymphoma. And an eyeball that is turning in the socket because of pressure from a growing tumor is going to cause problems sooner rather than later.

Please keep my little dog in your thoughts. This post may come off as cool or detached. Concentrating on symptoms and tracking and making each day a great one for her is how I’m coping right now. But don’t think for one minute that I am not collapsing on the inside at the thought of losing my sweet friend.

Fun in the stump

Copyright 2020 Eileen Anderson

Wipe Your Chin! How My Dog Cleans Up Her Own Drool

Wipe Your Chin! How My Dog Cleans Up Her Own Drool

Clara and Zani sharing the prime part of the couch. Note Zani’s droopy mouth on one side.

Training husbandry behaviors with positive reinforcement is one of the kindest things we can do for our dogs. We have to do stuff to them; why not take it out of the battleground, past neutral, and into the “fun” territory?

One of the things I’ve trained of which I’m inordinately proud is Clara’s pill-taking behavior. I always have to credit Laura Baugh here, because her blog and video were what introduced me to pill-taking as a behavior, rather than as an event centered on “how well can I hide this pill from my dog?”. I was blown away. We’re talking about a dog voluntarily swallowing medicine, then, of course, getting a grand treat if possible. I say “if possible” because this behavior can also help when a dog has to take a pill without food. But in training, the great treat always followed.

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Does Walking Your Dog Up to Something Scary “Cure” Their Fear?

Does Walking Your Dog Up to Something Scary “Cure” Their Fear?

Animal statues can be pretty scary for dogs

Will walking your dog up to something scary make their fear go away? Possibly, if your dog is not very scared in the first place. But it’s not a good method for helping a fearful dog.

Fear Rarely “Goes Away”

I am afraid of flying. I hate it but I do it if I have to.

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6 Ways to Prepare Your Dog for Fireworks Starting TODAY

6 Ways to Prepare Your Dog for Fireworks Starting TODAY

firecracker exploding in the air with lots of orange sparks

Is your dog scared of fireworks? Don’t wait until the holiday hits, be it Canada Day or US Independence Day. You can make a plan and take action now to help your dog be a bit less afraid of the unpredictable scary sounds of fireworks, firecrackers, whistles, and even guns.

Get Ready

Here are some things you can do today.

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If Your Dog Is Afraid of Fireworks, See Your Vet Now

If Your Dog Is Afraid of Fireworks, See Your Vet Now

What are we here for this time?

Every year I post an article about last-minute things you can do to help your dog who is afraid of fireworks. We are coming up on Canada Day and U.S. Independence Day, and that means bangs and booms. Over the years I have tweaked my list. I’ll be posting it in a few days.

But here is an early reminder with the most important tip of all.

  1. See your vet.

If you see your vet now to discuss prescription drug possibilities, you have time to make sure they work for your dog and your vet can adjust them if necessary. There are new products on the market, as well as several options that have been around for years.Here is what Dr. Lynn Honeckman, veterinary behavior resident, says about the benefits of medications.

Now is the perfect time to add an anti-anxiety medication to your firework-preparation kit. The right medication will help your pet remain calm while not causing significant sedation. It is important to practice trials of medication before the actual holiday so that the effect can be properly tested.

There are a variety of medications or combinations that your veterinarian might prescribe. Medications such as Sileo, clonidine, alprazolam, gabapentin, or trazodone are the best to try due to their quick onset of action (typically within an hour) and short duration of effect (4–6 hours).

Medications such as acepromazine should be avoided as they provide sedation without the anti-anxiety effect, and could potentially cause an increase in fear.

Pets who suffer severe fear may need a combination of medications to achieve the appropriate effect, and doses may need to be increased or decreased during the trial phase. Ultimately, there is no reason to allow a pet to suffer from noise phobia. Now is the perfect time to talk with your veterinarian.

Dr. Lynn Honeckman

Sound phobia is a serious condition. The best way to help your dog get through the coming holidays in the U.S. and Canada is to contact your vet for help. Call now.

Copyright 2019 Eileen Anderson

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Trump’s Ellis Island Award for Being a “Developer” of German Descent

Trump’s Ellis Island Award for Being a “Developer” of German Descent

Two views of an award medal, front and back. The front says, "Donald Trump, Grandson of a German." The back says, "Oh yeah, and a real estate developer."
This is not the actual medal, but does present the truth about the reason for Trump’s award

In 1986, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor was established. The goal of the Ellis Island Honor Society, which sponsored the award, was to “herald the importance of immigration to America’s prosperity and celebrate the contributions immigrants and their progeny have made to our nation.”

Eighty people received the award that introductory year. Among them were Victor Borge, the comedic Danish-born pianist; Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; the singers Andy Williams and John Denver; athletes Martina Navratilova and Joe DiMaggio; the activists Rosa Parks and Aloysius A. Mazewski; businessman Michel C. Bergerac; and 70 more.

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Response Latency in Dog Training: What’s Your Dog Telling You?

Response Latency in Dog Training: What’s Your Dog Telling You?

A small black and tan dog is standing and looking up at the person. This is during a period between she heard a cue and responded to it. Her response latency was high.
This photo is from a period of high response latency

What happens when you ask your dog to do something they don’t care for? We are not all perfect trainers, plus sometimes we are forced to compromise. Let’s say you’ve worked on teaching your dog to get her nails trimmed and teeth brushed but suddenly she has an ear infection and needs ear drops. You haven’t gotten to ear handling yet.

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