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Anna's Story

Anna’s Story
29/03/2017 The Neighbourhood Vet

“My dogs got a lump”

If you’ve got a golden oldie dog at home then you are probably well versed in checking their lumps and bumps. They are one of the most common things we see in dogs and can range from being absolutely nothing to worry about, to nasty aggressive cancers.
I’m going to tell you a story about Anna, who came in to see me a few months ago, with a new lump that her vigilant owner, Imogen, had spotted just the day before.
“We were just stroking her last night and found this small lump on her side. Its probably nothing but I just wanted to get it checked”.


I had a feel and just as she had said, there was a small raised lump in Anna’s skin on her left side. It was slightly red and looked a little angry so I said to Imogen that it was definitely worth taking a needle aspirate and having a look under the microscope.
Getting a sample was relatively easy, as Anna is a lovely dog with a big smile and happily stands still with a bit of a fuss.  But my stomach sank as soon as I looked through the eyepiece – it was a mast cell tumour.
A mast cell tumour is a cancer of the skin and makes up about 20% of all skin lumps in dogs. They are often aggressive and can quickly spread to other organs in the body. The first step for treatment is surgery to remove the entire tumour. The lump itself can’t have been more than a few cm across but after the surgery her wound must have been about 10cm top to bottom (you have to be aggressive when dealing with this sort of tumour).  An ultrasound scan and x-rays had shown no evidence of spread which was excellent news…. we were just hoping the pathologist would tell us it was a non-aggressive form.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
I had got the whole lump, that was fine, but one of the tests they ran suggested it could be very aggressive.
So next step…. Chemotherapy… the dreaded word.
Or not perhaps?  Anna is currently on week 6 of a 12 week protocol and you wouldn’t know it. She has been running around and smiling away as if nothing is happening. She was originally coming in weekly for a slow injection into her leg vein and now she is down to every other week.
When chemotherapy is mentioned to people you can visibly see their faces drop, but let me re-assure you. Chemo in dogs, or cats for that matter, really isn’t that bad. Generally (and yes there are exceptions) they cope really well. They don’t normally get the hair loss, they occasionally feel sick, but really thats it. As a rule, you wouldn’t know they had cancer in the first place!


Yes, I know it was a long story but hear me out. If your dog gets a lump, get it checked by a professional, they know what they are looking for. Also just think; if I hadn’t stuck a needle in that lump and had a look under the microscope, Anna might not be been smiling so big anymore.
Written by Dr Rory Cowlam
Veterinary Surgeon

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