Golden Retriever, Health

Learn about your pet’s body systems

A recent article on Dr. Plotnick’s blog about the feline lungs describes the functions of a cat’s lungs, some common diseases, and some words or phrases that are commonly misused to describe a cat’s breathing. It’s very interesting and Dr. Plotnick does a great job of explaining veterinary topics for pet owners.

Our Golden Retriever Bentley didn’t have lung disease. But realizing that he wasn’t breathing normally and getting him to the vet saved his life.

It was June 2005 and Bentley was 13 years old. The springtime weather was getting warmer, but it wasn’t so warm that Bentley should be hot or panting. But he was panting for no reason. He’d be lying around the house, or wake up from sleeping and start panting. This didn’t seem right to me so I took him to the vet.

Bentley’s lungs sounded fine, but the vet could feel something in his abdomen and an ultrasound showed a large mass on or near his spleen. Because a ruptured mass or spleen can be life threatening, Bentley was in surgery two days later. His spleen was twice as large as normal and was taking up so much space that it was pressing up towards his lungs and interfering with his breathing. Luckily, the enlarged spleen was not due to cancer, and Bentley recovered very quickly from surgery.

The photo above is about a year after surgery, with Bentley getting some attention from Felix. Bentley lived 4 years after surgery until he was 17 years old!

The only indication I had that something was wrong was that Bentley was panting and he shouldn’t have been. This shows how important it is to know what’s normal for your pet and to get your vet’s advice when you suspect a problem.

Check out some of Dr. Plotnick’s other articles. His previous articles include the bladder, spleen, heart, esophagus, claws, and more. He’s a feline specialist but you can learn a bit about dogs too, and how dogs and cats are different.

20 thoughts on “Learn about your pet’s body systems”

  1. WOW, that is scary. You are so right, one has to observe their pets all hte time to make sure things sound right. What a beautiful Dog Bentley is too. Do Goldens normally live as long as he has? We have local friends who have had Goldens, and it seems like 12 years was about the normal age. They are such great dogs.

    1. Golden Retrievers used to live longer, but 17 years is unusual now. 10-12 years is, sadly, the “new normal”, and there are studies to try to figure out what’s gone wrong.

      We were very lucky with Bentley. I adopted him from the neighbors when he was 9 years old and retired from hunting. Other than the problem with his spleen, he had some skin/allergy problems that required a special diet, then arthritis as he aged. Overall, he was very healthy.

  2. This is extremely important. Our Collie died at age nine of a ruptured tumour on his spleen. He had no symptoms. But, that night, he would not eat. I planned to try again before bedtime. He was gone by then. But, this illustrates how critical vet checks and owner observance both are. Cody passed in his sleep, with no signs before. I knew he was off that night, but the vet said there was no way he could have been saved. By the time Cody knew, it was too late. Sometimes, there is no warning, and sometimes there is. We need to pay attention. Thanks. I am glad Bentley is okay. Hugs.❤

  3. What a handsome guy Bentley was!
    I tend to be a worrier, and sometimes it’s difficult to know when I’m overreacting and when something should be checked out by the vet. You did great figuring that out with Bentley. I think you’re right that it’s important to know what is normal, and that means being observant of your pets all the time.

    1. I’d rather err on the side of caution and call the vet for advice. When it’s something like breathing, I’m not taking any chances and I call right away. If there’s a big change in eating, drinking, vomiting, peeing, diarrhea – two days is my limit before getting an appointment. For something minor like a little limp or just seeming “off”, I’ll wait 4-5 days before calling the vet.

  4. We agree. It is important to know your pets and their behaviour.
    That way, it is easier to notice when something’s not right.
    We are glad it worked for Bentley and gave him more time.
    Purrs Georgia,Julie and JJ

  5. Bentley had a good, long life for a large dog – and how great that you were able to figure out something was wrong so he could have those last four years with you. Humans need to always keep an eye on us four-legged (or finned or feathered) family members, and take us for a vet visit when something isn’t right.

  6. Since Chuck has heart problems, I watch his breathing all of the time. If he starts breathing too hard, that means there is fluid building up, meaning his heart is not working right. We have an appt with the vet next week, to make sure all of his heart meds are at the levels they need to be. In addition, Sweetie The ‘O’ Cat does a lot of coughing. Since she was feral, I felt there wasn’t much I could do. However, now that she allows petting, I think it’s time to trap her and get her to a vet that can handle a feral, and take a look at her lungs, airways, and such. Thanks for this post!

    1. He has a fantastic site. He also travels and writes interesting articles about the places he visits and the cats he encounters.

  7. Wow, that’s awesome that Bentley had 4 more long years after his surgery and lived to be 17! Our Lucy dog will be turning 17 in a couple of months. Paying attention to our pets and changes in their bodies is so important – it can mean the difference between life and death!

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