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.
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!
Yuengling, a 7-year-old German Shepherd, had swelling along the left side of his tongue. The mass was so large that Yuengling was having difficulty breathing.
This is called a ranula, or a mucocele. It’s a large pocket of saliva often formed after trauma to a salivary gland. I performed surgery at Berks Animal Emergency & Referral Center and cut the pocket open and sutured the edges together.
But before I could close the incision, the thick, ropy saliva needed to be aspirated. You can see the mass and part of the surgery in the video below.