Should you wait to get help for your pet?

Your pet is vomiting. Should you wait to go to the vet?

Your pet is limping. Should you wait to seek help?

Your pet has a mass. Should you wait to have it looked at?

These are common dilemmas, and the answer is… it depends!

Let’s keep our 3 examples.

. Many pets vomit every once in a while, and they are perfectly healthy otherwise.

Other times, repeated vomiting is a sign that something is brewing inside. And it could be anything: stomach problems, intestinal conditions, kidney disease, cancer etc.

. Some pets limp because of a sprain and get over it by the next day, just like a human.

Other times, ongoing limping is a sign of a problem: elbow arthritis, hip dysplasia or the most common cause of limping: a torn ACL.

. Many pets have skin masses. Most masses can only do one thing: get bigger. Very rarely does a mass get smaller. It would defy science: as cells divide, which they are genetically programmed to do, the mass gets bigger. It can be slow or it can be fast, but they usually get bigger over time. The only way to objectively know what is going on is to measure it.

So what’s a pet lover to do?

Should you keep an eye on it?

For a short while, possibly.

Waiting any longer is rarely a good idea.

. Repeated vomiting can lead to dehydration and electrolytes imbalances.

. An untreated joint problem invariably leads to arthritis, which can only get worse over time.

. A small mass is easier, less invasive and cheaper to remove than a large mass. This translates to longer anesthesia, higher surgery fees and higher chances of complications.

Occasionally, you will be a bit early and it’s a false alarm.

Most times, you will be right and acting early will save you time, money and frustration while avoiding pain for your pet.

At the very least, call your vet to ask questions. Many vets now offer telemedicine consultations, which means you don’t even have to take your pet to the vet. You can get advice from the comfort of your home.

Just keep in mind that vomiting may require X-rays or an ultrasound, limping may require X-rays and a mass may require lab testing.

Either way, don’t procrastinate, it rarely leads to good results.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!

Guess who had a nose job today?

This is Kasper, a cute 3 year old Frenchie (French Bulldog)


He had a classic case of “brachycephalic syndrome” (because of his smooshed nose) (yes it’s a technical word), that caused snoring and difficulty breathing.

Brachycephalic syndrome usually has 4 parts:

. A tiny windpipe, which we can’t do anything about.

. An elongated soft palate, which means that the back of the roof of the mouth is so long that it covers the opening of the windpipe. When it vibrates, it causes snoring. Surgery involves shortening it.

. Saccules are fleshy structures at the opening of the airway. When brachycephalic breeds have difficulty breathing, over time, the saccules are mechanically pulled out into the airway – and further block the flow of oxygen. Surgery requires removing them.

. Stenotic nares, aka tiny nostrils, also prevents getting enough oxygen. Surgery involved making them wider, aka “a nose job” or a rhinoplasty.

Kasper had all 4 conditions, and had all 3 procedures, including the nose job.

PLEASE BE AWARE, THE PICTURES ARE NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

Here are side-by-side pictures of this nostrils, before and after surgery.

The very next day, Kasper’s owner writes: “His breathing is soooooo good!!! No snoring at all. Maybe some light breathing noise but no snoring. He is very happy and I am a very grateful momma!! He is eating well. No discomfort at all.”

After 3 weeks of healing, Kasper will have recovered and will be able to have fun and enjoy a lot more oxygen.

This is typically a very rewarding surgery, with very good outcomes.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

www.DrPhilZeltzman.com

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!

4 things you should never say or hear about lumps

Removing skin masses is one of my most common surgeries.

Some skin masses are small. Some are in difficult locations, making the surgery tricky. Some are gigantic. Many were claimed to be “impossible to remove” – yet we still removed them. Some were supposed to be cancerous – and were benign. Some were supposed to be benign – and were cancerous. Yet others were indeed impossible to remove and required leg amputation.

What’s a pet lover to do? What is the right thing to do?

The problem with small skin masses is that they can be very misleading. I have come across multiple tiny masses, sometimes the size of a grain of rice, that were aggressive cancers.

Here is an example of a 1/3 inch mass, barely visible, hard to feel, under a cat’s fur. By some miracle, his owner found the mass and wisely decided to have it removed.

The biopsy revealed a fibrosarcoma, which is a notoriously aggressive cancer in cats.

Here are the 4 things you should never say or hear about lumps:

. “Just watch it.”

. “Keep an eye on it.”

. “It’s just a cyst.”

. “It’s just a fatty tumor.”

“Just watching” a mass grow bigger and bigger, or “keeping an eye” on a mass that keeps getting larger and larger, is exactly how we end up with masses the size of pumpkins.

By then, surgery is much more invasive, anesthesia is much longer, and the fees are much higher.

The “cyst” myth is just as unfortunate. A cyst is an actual diagnosis. It’s typically a benign mass that is usually filled with fluid. There are different types of cysts: follicular or epidermoid cysts, sebaceous cysts, dermoid cysts etc.

But the vast majority of so-called “cysts” I remove are not cysts. It was an assumption by the pet owner. “Cyst” is often used instead of “mass” or “tumor,” and it’s misleading at best.

“It’s just a fatty tumor” is something else I hear all the time. If someone tells you that, you should have a reasonable degree of doubt. NOBODY can assure you with 100% certainty that they know the diagnosis of a mass with further testing.

Why? Because I have never met anybody with microscopic vision.

You can only say what a mass is after testing it.

Case in point: a mast cell tumor is a very common skin tumor. It is nicknamed “the great imitator” because it can feel like anything – including a benign fatty tumor. As you can imagine, mistaking a benign tumor for a cancerous one can lead to really frustrating situations.

2 tests for skin masses:
There are 2 ways to test a mass.

1. A needle test:
During a needle test or Fine Needle Aspirate (or FNA), a needle is placed in the mass. Some cells are taken out and placed on a glass slide. It is then read under the microscope.
It can either be read “in house,” meaning by your vet, or ideally it is sent out to a pathologist, who reads the cytology (ie the study of cells).
My personal impression is that although cytology is cheaper and faster (a few days), it can provide misleading results.

2. A biopsy:
A biopsy is a way to take a sample of the mass, ie some actual tissue, and not just cells. Being able to study the cells’ architecture, organization and relationship provides completely different information and a much safer diagnosis.
The biopsy is always sent to a pathologist, who reads the histo-pathology (ie the study of abnormal tissue).
My personal impression is that although a biopsy cytology is more expensive and take longer to read (7-10 days), it provides the most reliable results.

So what’s a loving pet owner to do?

At a minimum, skin masses should get tested via a needle test. Occasionally, they should be biopsied before surgery. Ideally, they should be removed and biopsied. Admittedly, it can get expensive since some dogs seem to be covered in masses, sometimes benign fatty masses. That’s where pet insurance is so helpful.

Here is an example of a giant mass in a Lab, whose owner was told to “just watch it” because it was tested as a benign fatty tumor.

So why bother if a mass is benign?

Benign doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

I have removed benign masses that were the size of a tennis ball, or a grapefruit, that prevented the patient from walking normally. I have removed benign masses that required leg amputation. And I have removed benign masses that were the size of a pumpkin that caused pain (by stretching the skin) and made the patients lose their balance.

If you find yourself in a situation where your vet seems to be brushing something off that genuinely concerns you, you have the right to seek a second opinion and I would encourage you to do so.

Bottom line: waiting is rarely a wise option.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!

Your last surgery of 2020 was what???

I am perfectly aware that this is going to sound very weird to some pet owners.

I (still) wanted to share this because this surgery – the very last one I performed in 2020 – easily solves an annoying, itchy, ongoing “back end” problem…

Rigby, a super sweet 7 year old Pitbull, has had repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs).

The cause was an extra skin fold that covered her vulva.

The end result is a dark, moist, warm environment where bacteria thrive… then go up into the bladder, causing repeated infections.

This common (and under-diagnosed) condition is called a redundant vulvar fold, aka hooded vulva, vulvar fold dermatitis or recessed vulva.

The solution is a reconstructive surgery to remove the extra skin (vulvoplasty or episioplasty).

The main challenge in surgery is to remove just the right amount of skin. Not too little, and not too much.

Rather than a long story, here are before and after pictures.

On the left, you cannot see a vulva at all. It’s covered by the skin fold.

On the right, immediately after surgery, you can see the vulva.

Please be aware, this picture can seem graphic to some readers!

In 3 weeks, Rigby will be a whole new dog!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

www.DrPhilZeltzman.com

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!

A (double) Christmas miracle…

Once upon a time, there was a dog named Madeline.

The 7-year-old shepherd mix had had trouble urinating for about 2 months. She strained to urinate, with frequent attempts, and accidents in the house.

Long story short (you can read the entire story here: https://www.drphilzeltzman.com/blog/tag/leiomyosarcoma/), she eventually got an ultrasound which showed a mass at the junction of the bladder and the urethra (the tube between the bladder and the outside world).

Depending on its position, the mass would randomly block the urethra, making it physically impossible for Madeline to urinate. Not only is this incredibly uncomfortable, it can lead to various complications, including severe kidney damage.

Madeline’s owners went to several family vets and specialists to find a solution. They were told that the mass could not be removed or it would cause urinary incontinence.

The only treatment suggested was radiation therapy – for a mere $11,000 – and which might also lead to incontinence.

Madeline’s owners “felt hopeless. We couldn’t focus at work. Every day, we would wake up not knowing if this was the day that our dog would not be able to urinate and we would have to put her down. I felt like the vets gave our dog a death sentence with no answers and no option for her to have any help whatsoever. This did not seem right to us. It did not seem ethical. We asked them desperately what they recommended and they told us if there is one thing that they could recommend, “it is not to get surgery.” (…) She has no more than two weeks to live. We needed to monitor her closely to see when things got worse because then we would know when to put her down.”

Madeline’s owners found me through my website, and they reached out for help.

After reviewing her medical record and ultrasound report, I suggested a 2-step surgery:

Part 1. Remove as much of the tumor as possible.

Part 2. Place a “cystostomy” tube to drain the bladder through an opening in the skin.

About 1 week after surgery, the biopsy report came back. The mass was a rare cancerous tumor of the muscle of the bladder called leio-myo-sarcoma.

Madeline recovered well and immediately started urinating on her own.

Eight months after surgery, the tube became clogged and we collectively decided to remove it, rather than to replace it. It was a bit of a gamble, but Madeline was doing so well that we decided that the cons outweighed the pros. It was a judgement call, but so far it paid off: 4 months later, she continues to urinate on her own and is full of energy.

Madeline’s owner writes: “It’s truly a miraculous story and we still can’t get over it. We were so lucky to find you! Madeline is doing amazing! She has so much energy and acts like a puppy again. It was one of the best decisions of my life to get that surgery for Madeline.”

But wait! There’s more!

A few days ago, a desperate pet owner read Madeline’s story in my blog, and reached out to me. The subject line of the email was “I beg you for help.”

She wrote: “My dog Ninja, a 6 year old Siberian Husky, just had a ultrasound, and a CAT scan, then surgery to drain a cyst in his enlarged prostate (17 cm long – about 7 inches).”

“Because of the volume, it was pressing on the colon and the bladder. Ninja couldn’t defecate or urinate!”

“It was then discovered that the bladder has been so overstretched, that it couldn’t contract and enable Ninja to urinate. A urinary catheter was placed temporarily… and euthanasia was recommended!”

“I don’t want to put him down. He is eating, drinking and (now) pooping. He acting normal but can’t pee. Please help me, I am very desperate.”

We quickly scheduled surgery. Ninja had the same procedure as Madeline: a “cystostomy” tube to drain the bladder through an opening in the skin.

Of course, it’s a bit early to tell how Ninja will do long-term. So far, he is recovering well from surgery and is able to void through the tube. His loving owners are taking excellent care of him and got an unexpected, early Christmas present.

But wait! There’s more!

When I told Madeline’s owner that her blog may have saved another dog’s life, she shared:

“We are getting married on the date Madeline was saved a year ago: January 15!

And wait for it…

“Madeline will be the ring bearer in our wedding.”

So what’s the moral of the story?

You are your pet’s best advocate. If something makes no sense to you, don’t give up. Clearly, there isn’t a solution or a cure for every condition. But at least, explore your options.

This is exactly what Madeline’s and Ninja’s owners did. They didn’t take no for an answer, and saved their dogs’ lives.

Happy Holidays…

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!