Well… We didn't expect THAT

Little Miss Olivia has thrown us for quite a loop this week.  

Over the weekend, Sundance noticed 2 bumps on her low belly, basically between her groin and her hind legs, one on each side of her midline. I felt them, poked and prodded and she didn’t seem to be in pain. She’s been eating just fine, having no problems with going potty, and has been her usually active self.

But the evil “google” told us she could have hernias, and that is serious, could be fatal, etc. I called the vet on Tuesday, and got her in for an appointment for Wednesday morning.

I told the tech what was going on, what I thought it was (hernias), and our concerns. Then Dr. Park came in and started examining her. He remarked that her vulva was more swollen than it should be, and asked a few questions about her recent habits, i.e. licking or scratching the area, frequency of urination, neither of which were out of the ordinary. He got up and started to chart (for what felt like hours… before he turned back to me, and my panic just kept escalating) and I asked, “Well… what do you think it is?”

You can understand the panic that was going on with me after all the heartache of losing Abby to cancer. I was now convinced that she was growing tumors and she had cancer and she was dying.

Well… it’s not cancer.

Dr. Park explained 3 possible options. 1 – mammory gland tumors, but explained how rare it would be to see in such a young dog, and more rare in a spayed dog, and even more rare to have side by side. 2 – swollen lymph nodes (or lymph node tumor), but again, rare in a young dog and in an abnormal area for lymph nodes, nor was she showing any signs of infection (which would be a reason for swollen lymph nodes). 3 – testes, as in, male testes, boy parts/hardware. There is a possibilty of hermaphroditism in dogs, though rare, it does happen.

He explained that Olivia, while in-utero, most likely, had developed both female and male parts, but the female hormones were more dominant, therefore she was born as a girl. However, once we had her spayed, the male hormones took over and caused the testes to develop. (I’m paraphrasing this… but you should get the idea…) As far as anatomy goes, Dr. Park explained that these “bumps” were in the right place, and that they ‘felt’ like testes.

(and in all honesty, when I first felt the bumps, that was my first thought. But of course, I pushed that thought right out of my head, because, HELLO! Olivia is a GIRL and could not possibly be growing testes!)

Dr. Park explained a few other cases of hermaphroditism that he’s seen in his career and that it is very rare. It occurs in less than 1% of dogs.

He explained that he could do a needle aspiration (biopsy) and examine the cells to confirm, but that he was very positive that this was a straight forward case of hermaphroditism. So, basically, Olivia needed to be neutered. I asked if we could just leave them because I didn’t want to put her through another surgery if it wasn’t necessary. Dr. Park explained that while we could leave the testes, she could possibly develop more male anatomy, like a penis, and it would cause problems with her vaginal canal, and that her personality could change, i.e. more male traits.

Are you guys still reading? Are you in shock? Jaw dropped to the floor? (yeah… us too.)

My initial reaction was basically relief. It wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t a tumor. She was just growing male sex organs. No big deal, right?! It’s almost comical, really. I mean, I was laughing. I just couldn’t believe it. We scheduled surgery for the next day (not that it was emergent, or even urgent, I just wanted to get it taken care of).

When we left the vet, I called Sundance and told him the news, and he seemed relieved as well. We were just so glad it wasn’t a cancer or tumor. He agreed with my decision to have the surgery. I called my Mom and told her (my parents were very worried, remember that their dog, Paisley, is Olivia’s littermate/sister) so if Olivia was developing a cancer or tumor, Paisley would be at risk too) and like Sundance, there was mostly relief, and a few laughs and “OMG, are you serious?!” It just seemed so bizarre and out of this world!

Throughout the day, I just kept thinking about it, and don’t bother googling ‘canine hermaphroditism’ because the stuff I found was NO help. Just a bunch of pet-owner forums with weird questions, and even weirder responses. I wondered about the psychological aspect of it, was she confused? hurting? etc. If this had been a person (especially a child) imagine the therapy they’d be going through, the medications, the doctors, etc. It may seem silly that I was (and still am) so concerned about Olivia’s mental well-being, but I am worried.

Thursday morning I did NOT want to take her to the vet. I just felt awful that she had to go through another surgery. When I got the vet I still had a few questions, Steve (one of the techs) offered to put us in an exam room so I could talk to Dr. Park. Steve had mentioned that Dr. Park wanted to take pictures during the surgery so he could write an article on Olivia’s case, hoping to get it published in a veterinarian journal. I told them it was totally okay with us (as long as we could get a copy) and I also asked if I could observe the surgery. (not because I was worried but because I just really wanted to watch and see what it looked like) Dr. Park was gracious enough to allow me to watch! He told me that they would start surgery in a couple hours, so I headed back home and finished up getting ready and did some laundry. I headed back to the vet around 9:30 and ended up going back to the surgical suite after she had already been put under anesthesia. I thought it might be hard to see her in that way, but it actually wasn’t too bad.

The surgery itself was pretty straightforward. It seemed pretty similar to other cyst removals that I’ve assisted with in my own office. As Dr. Park was removing the testes (or bumps) he mentioned that they weren’t popping out like they usually do. Size wise, they were larger than what a “normal” testicle looks like. He finally got them both out and closed up Olivia’s wounds. Dr. Park explained that he wanted to send the ‘specimens’ to the lab to run histopathology tests on it. He’s still pretty sure that they are testes, but still seem abnormal. I specifically asked him if he thought it was cancer, and he told me no.

So now… we wait for the histopathology to come back.

Dr. Park had the specimens overnighted to the lab in Salt Lake City and we could possibly know today, or Saturday, and at the latest, Monday. Everyone at Park Animal Hospital is super intrigued by Olivia’s case and can’t wait to get the results.


So yeah… that’s how Olivia has thrown us for a loop this week. Betcha didn’t expect that at all when you clicked on the link, did you?

Now… I must tell you that I had some reservations in sharing this post. I don’t want my puppy to be laughed at, or name called, or made fun of, she truly is like a child to me. After voicing my concerns about Olivia’s psychological well-being to Dr. Erickson, she said something kind of profound. “Dogs don’t care.” Basically, dogs don’t care who is female or male, or what ‘hardware’ they have. They don’t have gender roles. So… while you (the readers) can’t hurt Olivia’s feelings (she doesn’t care what you say about her, all she wants is love, food, and shelter), but MY feelings can be hurt. So please remember, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

***edited to add***

THE PATH RESULTS ARE IN! Turns out, she’s just a normal female puppy, no boy parts after all. Read the post, “Update on Olivia” for more info!


26 thoughts on “Well… We didn't expect THAT

    • Ashley says:

      Thanks Jayci! I know… the whole penis thing… I think my jaw hit the floor. She’s recovering great though (just a little post op swelling and bruising).


  1. nlundberg says:

    Wow! Who knew that could even happen? Thank you for sharing so much information. Really an educational read this morning. Good thoughts, best wishes and prayers to you, Sundance and of course your beautiful Olivia.


  2. Megan D says:

    I would have NEVER thought that is what it would have been either. Craziness. But I am so glad you got it looked at. The part of growing a penis! What the wha?! That would have freaked ya out if you didn’t know what was going on. lol. And of course she is like a kid to you. Aren’t all pets that way? (They should be) And I wouldn’t want anyone talking smack on my kids. What a good mom you are 😉 I hope that with the test results you are able to get your questions answered and some closure. Keep us posted! And I hope Olivia heals up quickly after this surgery!


    • Ashley says:

      Thanks Megan! She is my BABY! We’re still waiting on path, but crossing our fingers that she can go back to being a normal (without extra parts) puppy ASAP! 🙂


  3. MegG says:

    Wow, I was SO worried when I saw your pic on IG, I rushed over to read. Thank goodness it’s not a tumor and she is okay. phew. I completely get being concerned about how she was psychologically feeling, she’s your baby, of course you’re going to be concerned! Hoping for a quick recovery for Olivia, she seems like such a sweet, good dog!


  4. amberwalunas says:

    So happy that it isn’t anything life threatening. That is the craziest thing ever, but it doesn’t change sweet Olivia. These little dogs truly are members of our families and I am so happy to hear that it’s something they can take care of. Plus your little Olivia will be famous.

    Thinking of you guys, hope she recovers from surgery fast!


  5. Steph @ Water, Extra Ice says:

    Aw! What a scary thing to have to go through as a pet-owner. I’ve never heard of anything like that before, but am happy to hear that things seem to be okay! I will pray for a speedy recover for your adorable pup! 🙂


  6. Rachelle says:

    Holy Wow Ash! What an incredible story and I am just so glad that Olivia is okay and that you and Sundance are too. That picture of Olivia should seriously be in a magazine or a Calendar. She is the cutest thing alive and thank god she is okay!


  7. Anna says:

    First, I 100% agree with Rachelle that the picture of Olivia could be in a magazine or a calendar. It looks so professional and adorable! Anyway-I got really nervous reading the post title! As a fellow pet parent, my heart was sad thinking it could be cancer. I’m SO happy to hear it’s not! Although I definitely scratched my head when you mentioned what it really was…I’m just happy to hear she’s well, you two are well (you and Sundance), and you can all enjoy the holidays together!


  8. alexjcant says:

    That is crazy! I hope that Olivia is feeling better from her surgery. I’m so glad to hear that it wasn’t cancer! Thank you for sharing Olivia’s story – & from a fellow pet owner, it is clear that you love her very much & the fact that she is healthy is the most important thing! & I agree with Courtney – that is some story 🙂


  9. Kassidy Faulkner says:

    Wow what a crazy story…I have never heard of somethign like that! So Glad she is okay…Don’t know if you read any of my FB post but our dog Sadie was super sick this past week as well…We spent the entire week in the vet, she is now doing much better! Glad both our girls are fine! We still need to get them together to play! ps I LOVE your Chrismas card don’t be mad if I copy you next year 😉


    • Ashley says:

      Kass – I had no idea Sadie was sick! I’m glad to hear she is doing better! Once Olivia is all healed up from surgery we should definitely have a puppy play date! 🙂


    • Ashley says:

      Thanks Jess! I’m not sure why I was so worried that people would say mean things… so far everyone has been super nice and I haven’t had one negative comment. (thank goodness. Or I’d go all (dog)Momma Bear on them. 😉
      Olivia is recovering well (except the swelling) and we should have the pathology back in a few days. We’re hoping for the best. 🙂
      Thanks for your kind words as always! 🙂


  10. courtney says:

    if anyone made any mean comments about your sweet olivia i might have to do some swinging too! how horrible to have to go thru as a dog momma! i’m just thankful it wasn’t life threatening and that she’s good now!


  11. Pingback: hoping & wishing
  12. Pingback: Update on Olivia!!

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