April 05, 2012 07:00 PM

Pauley Perrette knew something was wrong. Her elderly dog Little Joe was lethargic, his skin was cold and his gums were white. It turns out they were signs of something very serious: internal bleeding.

The elderly Chihuahua mix, who is “about 237 years old,” Perrette told PEOPLE last year, is now recovering from emergency surgery and the actress considers herself lucky that she recognized the warning signs.

“#LilJoe is out of surgery, not out of the woods, had spleen removed & lemon sized tumor. I love you all for your prayers,” she wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “#LilJoe was lethargic, skin was very cold & gums were white. Internal bleeding, watch for symptoms, got him there just in time.”

In 2011, Perrette revealed to PEOPLE the secret to the longevity of her senior rescue dogs, Little Joe and Cee, a brain-damaged rat terrier Chihuahua. “It’s because I talk to them all the time,” she said. “I really think it’s talking to them all the time and giving them that kind of love. They want to stay.”

The actress is using Little Joe’s health scare as an opportunity to spread the word to other pet lovers. “Watch your pets closely,” she Tweeted. “Cold skin & snout, white gums, lethargy, not eating… TAKE THEM TO ER ASAP!”

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