Dr. Phil Zeltzman’s Blog
Jessie, a 9 year old Border Collie mix, came into Brodheadsville Vet Clinic to have an ugly mass evaluated on her belly (see picture 1).
It had appeared a few months prior and grew fairly quickly. It was also starting to look bumpy, oozing and hairless. Jessie’s vet was concerned that it could be cancer due to its appearance and quick growth (see picture 2: compare the size of the mass to the thermometer in her behind).
Jessie was scheduled for surgery the following week. The owner was well aware that the mass could be cancerous, but she was ready to do anything for her beloved dog. Chest X-rays did not show any sign of spreading of the tumor to her lungs.
Jessie was put under anesthesia and went to surgery. The mass was about the size of a pineapple. It started just under the skin but it was now actually invading into the wall of the belly! The mass was carefully removed, both from under the skin and from between the muscles (see picture 3 – the coin is a quarter).
Everything was stitched up and Jessie was recovered from anesthesia (see picture 4).
She was sent home with an E collar (plastic cone) to prevent her from licking the incision. She received antibiotics and pain medications for a week. The mass was sent to the lab for biopsy. After about a week, the results came back. Amazingly, the mass was not cancerous! It was a benign, fatty tumor called a lipoma!
Jessie’s owner was thrilled and relieved. By then Jessie was walking and feeling great, enjoying her new life without a big mass interfering with her walking.
Moral of the story: just because a mass looks “ugly” and grows quickly doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s cancer.
Willow, a sweet 18 month old cat (see picture), had been battling repeated upper respiratory infections ever since she was a kitten. Antibiotics helped for a while, but the infections kept coming back. Her breathing started to sound noisier. Breathing became harder and harder. Until she was suffocating.
When I was called by Brodheadsville Vet Clinic to examine Willow, I suspected that she had developed a polyp. A polyp is a benign tumor that can grow in a cat’s mouth (or ear) because of ongoing irritation or inflammation. It can be tricky to see when it’s in the mouth, because it grows over the roof of the mouth, aka the soft palate.
Under sedation, I pulled her soft palate forward and sure enough, we found a huge mass (see video if you think you can stomach it!!!). I gently removed the mass. Willow was carefully monitored for bleeding and difficulty breathing.
The mass was sent to the lab to confirm the diagnosis (see picture). She recovered smoothly from sedation and went home with a few days of pain medication. She was also prescribed some cortisone to hopefully prevent the polyp from coming back.
One week later, the biopsy confirmed that the mass was a benign nasopharyngeal polyp. By then, Willow was feeling great and was thrilled to be able to breathe normally!
In June 2016, Rori, a 12 year old Westie, had visited the emergency hospital because she wasn’t feeling well. She was depressed and coughing.
Chest X-rays revealed a mass in her left lung. She did well for a few months, until her next set of X-rays in February 2017.
They revealed that the mass almost doubled in size (the round mass is at the end of the arrow on the X-ray below)!
Because of the high risk of lung cancer, surgery was recommended to remove the part of the lung that contained the tumor.
The odds were definitely against us: about 85% of lung tumors are cancerous. In addition, lung cancer is aggressive: the average survival after surgery alone is around 1 year. Lastly, a tumor that doubles in size in a few months is a definite concern.
Despite the odds, Rori’s owner wanted to provide the best possible quality of life for her dog and elected to move on with surgery.
To remove the tumor, we don’t “crack the ribs” like they say on TV. Rather, we go between 2 ribs. After entering the chest, the mass was found exactly where the X-rays showed. The mass was approximately the size of a nickel (the coin shown below is a quarter).
Below is a video during surgery. Warning !!!
THIS VIDEO IS VERY GRAPHIC, SO IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART !!!
That part of the lung (called a lung lobe) was sutured and removed. We did not see any other problem, so the chest was sutured closed.
The evening of the surgery, Rori ate her first meal !
The next day, she felt much better and was amazingly comfortable. She eventually went home.
A few days later, the biopsy report came back.
Despite the very high odds of cancer, unbelievably, the mass was… benign!
This was fantastic news. It meant that the mass should not affect Rori’s lifespan at all.
Few pet owners would have put their 12 year old dog through open chest surgery, knowing the risk of cancer was so high. But Rori’s owner chose surgery… and was rewarded in an unexpected way.
APRIL 2017 UPDATE:
It’s been 6 weeks since surgery, and Rori is doing very well during her recovery.
I explained to her owner how to slowly increase her activity level over the next month.
Both are thrilled with the idea!
Dakota, a 7-year-old female Boxer, was brought to her family vet because she hadn’t been acting herself for about two weeks. She was drinking more, eating less, and seemed weak.
X-rays revealed that Dakota had a very large uterus. Her classic symptoms and the X-rays confirmed that Dakota had a pyometra. This means that her uterus was filled with a large amount of pus.
This can be deadly.
Emergency surgery was performed that same evening at Brodheadsville Veterinary Clinic. Removing a pyometra is essentially a complicated spay procedure. The main difference is that the uterus is huge and filled with infected fluid. Care must be taken to remove the infected uterus without any spillage to the rest of the belly. After surgery, the uterus weighed in at 7 pounds.
You can see a video of part of the surgery below. Just know that it contains graphic footage of a surgical procedure, so if you’re sensitive to that you may want to skip the video.
Dakota recovered quickly from surgery and anesthesia, and started eating and drinking normally shortly after that. She was back to her lovable self in one week.
Spaying your pets is essential! If you spay your cat or dog at an early age, you help reduce the risk of uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and pyometra. Plus, spaying your pet before the first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of mammary tumors (including breast cancer).
If you are not planning to breed your female pet, please plan to have her spayed before she ends up in a life-threatening situation!
Phantom is an 11-year-old cat. 9 years ago, he was struggling to urinate. After several episodes of urinary blockage, which prevented him from peeing, he had a perineal urethrostomy, or P/U, to widen the opening of his urethra.
Over time, he has a few more episodes of blockage. The previous P/U site had scarred down and was so tiny that he couldn’t urinate at all.
I was called to perform surgery to allow him to urinate again.
I recommended performing a prepubic urethrostomy at Animal Clinic of Morris Plains. This is a procedure done inside the belly. The urethra is cut off and rerouted to the skin of the belly. A new opening is created, which means that Phantom will pee like a male dog.
Phantom urinated nicely overnight and went home the next day.
In the right hands, a perineal urethrostomy is a life-saving and reliable surgery. Even if it fails, which should be very rare, there is hope. Please don’t euthanize your cat if you end up in this situation. Sometimes the initial surgery may be repairable. If not, a prepubic urethrostomy is a great option to help your cat!