Pawsh-Magazine-impacted-dog-anal-glands-1In February while out for a walk with Rory I noticed a small lump on her rear end. Upon closer inspection I decided it looked like an unfortunate spider bite so thought nothing of it. Then later that same day while giving her a bath I noticed that the small lump had swollen up at an alarming rate to the size of a golf ball!

Not sure what to make of it, my guy and I rushed her to the 24-hour emergency vet clinic. The vet told us that she had an impacted anal gland and that if we hadn’t brought her in when we did it would have ruptured.

The vet had to take Rory in for a procedure to lance the glands (yes, both, because by this time the second one was also swelling) and listening from the waiting room to my sweet little dog yelp and scream as it was done* I cried. I felt so guilty, so helpless – why did this happen? Could it have been prevented? (*despite numbing the surrounding area, draining an impacted gland is still quite uncomfortable and scary for a dog.)
Impacted anal glands were something I was completely unaware of, so once Rory was completely recovered and off her medication, I reached out to Dr. Aleksandra Milaszewska MS, DVM of Queen West Animal Hospital in Toronto for an interview about this condition. Here are her professional thoughts and advice:

1) What are the dangers of an impacted or infected anal gland?
Anal glands can get big enough to literally block the stool from coming out. While they won’t be able to render the dog not being able to defecate completely, it makes for a painful and a very unpleasant experience for them. Once the glands get very full, the contents are thick and cannot empty themselves, so anal glands will physically rupture through the skin, which is extremely painful and often bleeds.
Pawsh-Magazine-impacted-dog-anal-glands-32) What are some common causes of this ailment?
No one seems to know for sure and there is no scientific proof of any theories out there as to what causes impacted anal glands. We suspect diet and genetic predisposition, but nothing has been definitively proven right or wrong. I do tend to see this more commonly and to a more serious extent in obese dogs, but that is just what I am personally seeing in my practice. This in no way means that impacted anal glands do not effect dogs of normal body condition.

3) What are the signs of an impacted anal gland?
Signs can be scooting on the floor, chewing, licking, defecating soft and ribbon like stools. However, sometimes there are no signs until the glands swell, rupture and are bleeding.
Pawsh-Magazine-impacted-dog-anal-glands-44) What are the dangers of an anal gland that erupts?
Ruptured anal glands are painful, infected and swollen. Usually the hole in the skin that the glands make while rupturing is large and may need surgical cleaning and closure. If an infection goes on too long, I have seen them getting necrosis all the way into the muscle layer which requires a major surgery. Difficulty defecating is another problem as it may be too painful to poo.

5) What can owners do to prevent this condition?
Since we don’t know what causes it, it is hard to say what to do to prevent it. There is some anecdotal evidence that increasing fiber in a dog’s diet helps. I have seen it work, but not in all dogs. The best thing to do is to be vigilant as to signs of a problem and check the glands regularly if you think something may be wrong or you know that your dog is prone to this problem.

With Rory, we still don’t know what caused her impacted anal glands. But in an effort to prevent a recurrence, I have boosted her daily fiber intake and I take her to the vet about once a month just to have her glands checked out – it’s a quick two minute exam and helps to keep my mind at ease.
Pawsh-Magazine-impacted-dog-anal-glands-5I would also recommend that you specifically ask your vet to check your dog’s anal glands whenever you take them in for their yearly checkup, as some vets do not automatically check during the physical.

Needless to say, it was an extremely scary experience and one that I do not wish for anyone, so please keep an eye on your dog’s rear end. It sounds funny, but it is actually a serious issue.

{Special thanks to Dr. Aleksandra Milaszewska for speaking with Pawsh about this ailment and to the wonderful Tonya Pet Photography for the adorable photography,}

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Pawsh-Magazine-Fall-2014-Redesign-2 I think I’ve written this blog post about a dozen times, trying to find the right words to express what I’ve been feeling about Pawsh lately, its future, its current path and how to make it better. Well, I have at last figured it out and today I am ready to share… (more…)


I am playing catch up with my pet photography sessions. Can you believe I haven’t really shared any since January? Craziness!

To begin with, I would like to share this beautiful boxer shoot. It was booked through Pawsh Studio’s Soulmate Session special in February (spoiler alert: this event will be hosted again in February 2015 and yes, you can book now if you’d like) and was created as a simple, timeless session to celebrate a very special friendship between man and dog.

This beautiful boxer — a senior girl called Zoey with a heart of gold — was an absolute joy to work with. She was a little nervous at first, but after some tasty treats, belly rubs and lots of ear scratches she soon warmed up and had a blast trotting on and off set for her close ups. She was a pro!

Toronto-pet-photography-Soulmate-session-3It is always fascinating to photographer people with their dog, because you start to see similar mannerisms and behaviours unfold through the camera. The shot of these two best buddies looking at one another absolutely melts my heart — the mutual adoration is obvious!

I had the great pleasure of creating a custom 16×20 fine art canvas for the pair — a piece that shows off the manner faces and expressions of Zoey to be enjoyed forever. I especially liked the cool colour palette, as it lends itself wonderfully to wide variety of decors. You can see it below (of course, the studio’s logo was NOT on the final product).
Toronto-pet-photographer-Pawsh-Studio-Canvas-DesignI feel so lucky to have met this beautiful lady and her wonderful owner. Tragically, a mere two weeks after our session, Zoey’s parents called me to say that their beautiful girl had passed due to sudden illness.

The news was a tremendous shock and, as you can imagine, heartbreaking. I got chills thinking about the fact that I was lucky enough to be able to capture some of Zoey’s final healthy and happy moments for her family to look back on. It was a sad reminder that our pets are only with us for a relatively short time and that documenting their gorgeous souls is truly priceless and something that shouldn’t be put off.

Photographing true love is always a tremendous delight and I look forward to inviting more pet parents and their furry friends into the studio this season!

Don’t forget, if you’d like to sign up early for Pawsh Studio’s 2015 Soulmate Sessions taking place in February, or if you’d like to book a regular pet session, please email to reserve your spot!

My assistant and I have worked with all sorts of pet personalities from super shy to very hyper and we always make sure each session is a wonderful, relaxed and joyful experience. Don’t believe it? Find out what past clients are saying here!





Pawsh-Magazine-understanding-dog-barks-3Trying to figure out what your dog ‘saying’ when they bark can be as tricky as trying to solve a Sherlock Holmes’ case! So today we’re going to spend a little time learning how to be better listeners for our canine friends. Here are a few insights into what a dog’s barking really means — and why trying to shush them may not always been the best idea.

1. Very fast, non-stop, serious sounding bark
Rory is notorious for this type of bark. She’ll hear ‘something,’ leap to her furry feet and bark, bark, bark, bark, bark for what sounds like forever, punctuated by some growling. Most behaviourists agree that this type of barking translates to something along the lines of “Alert! Alert! There is danger approaching!” In other words, your dog is raising the alarm to put the family on guard. (Does your dog ever do this in the middle of the night and it makes you jump out of your skin?)

2. Drawn out, continuous barking with longish pauses
Growing up, one of our neighbours had a hound who would bark this way all summer long. It usually is a form of self-entertainment or complaining: “I’m bored. I’m lonely. Is there anybody out there?” Making sure your dog gets frequent and regular exercise and has all sorts of fun toys to play with when alone can help address this particular barking issue.

3.  Strings of serious barks with small pauses
This is Lucy’s barking style at the moment. She’ll offer a few little ‘woofs,’ pause, look around, tuck her tail and then ‘woof’ a little more. Unlike bark #1 above, it is usually safe to say that this bark means “I think there’s something coming? I’m not quite sure, but I think there might be? Can somebody come with me to check?” They are trying to raise the alarm, but aren’t quite sure.

4.  Series of yelps
This is a no brainer (or at least, it should be). If a dog makes this sound, they are in pain or are very afraid.

5.  Uneven, high-pitched, frequent barks
This type of ‘voice’ can be heard at any dog park. It’s the “I’m so excited! I can’t believe it! Oh my gosh, a squirrel! A treat! A ball! A Frisbee! An empty water bottle! A new person! My tail!” exclamation. Most dogs have something that they get really super-duper excited about and some pupsters simply cannot contain their joy. Little Lucy, for example, gets this way whenever she hears the kibble bag rustle (we’re working on it).

6. One or two short, sudden low pitched barks
This sort of vocalization is a little more serious sounding and usually means “Stop that!” It’s a warning to be sure and is frequently heard between older dogs telling off little pups. Rory, for example, has been doing this lately teaching Lucy that jumping on her mid-nap is not cool.
Pawsh-magazine-understanding-dog-barks-27. A loud, high-pitched, non-continuous bark
A high-pitched bark, that is not a yelp, but not their usual ‘alert’ bark, is often a sign of “Let’s play! Wanna play? I wanna play! Playing is FUN!” Of course, to be sure, one should be mindful of a dog’s body language too. If the body language is loose, if the tail is wagging and you see some play bows happening, fun is the name of the game! This bark is similar to the human voice jumping an octave when the person gets excited (I am definitely known for this whenever I answer the phone and it’s someone I love!)

Barking outside of the box
It is important to keep in mind that sometimes a dog will develop its own unique barking habit. For instance, one of my relative’s dogs, a mastiff mix, will always growl and bark very low when she plays rough house with her owner.

If you didn’t know this dog, you would swear it sounds like an angry interaction, but she LOVES the game and is bouncy, wagging her tail, flipping over for belly rubs. Similarly, Lucy has a little ‘wookie’ noise she makes quite frequently and while at first I thought it was a sound of protest, it is actually a sound of excitement and she makes it whenever she is really into a game, a toy or an ear scratch.

In short, while the above dog bark key is a great guideline, ultimately it is up to each individual owner to listen to each individual dog so that they may understand each unique voice.

What to do if a dog barks too much?
Barking is a natural part of dog life. They are going to do it. But sometimes a dog’s excessive barking can become an issue, especially if it bothers neighbours. However, there are positive-reinforcement methods to train a dog not to bark that you can try at home or you can speak with a professional dog behaviourist or certified trainer to help you get a handle on your canine chatterbox.

Whatever your dog’s barking habits are, keep an ear open for their little nuances and subtlties to help you better understand what they are trying to tell you.

(Illustrations by Deidre Wicks of Water In My Paint. Be sure to check out her links below for your very own custom watercolour pet portrait!)


Water In My Paint Custom Pet PortraitsWithout question our pets are an essential part of our lives. They help us heal from heartbreak, comfort us when we’re sad, make us laugh uproariously and help us burn off that extra chocolate chip cookie. Why not immortalize your beloved pet in watercolour with a custom painted portrait? You can request accessories that illustrate your animal’s personality or choose a more traditional portrait. And they make the perfect gift!