Sunday, April 07, 2013

My own dog's battle with a Mast Cell Tumor

One day I felt a pea-sized lump on the back of Tiki-Granger, my 9 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Tiki often gets small skin reactions, and being short-furred, it’s easy to feel every little scratch and scrape. However, this lump happened to swell after being prodded, which can be a sign of a mast cell tumor. The next day I took Tiki to work with me, and tried to find the lump, in order to do a fine needle aspirate (FNA). I had to shave her fur in that area in order to find it and to be certain I was aspirating the right area, as it had shrunk down smaller than a pencil eraser. I sent a slide of cells to Idexx for analysis. Later that weekend, I logged on to the Idexx site and read the words I’d be dreading: mast cell tumor.

That night, I arranged for Tiki to have the lump removed the very next day (ahh, the perks of being a veterinarian). My boss did the surgery, as I have too much of a mental block to operate on my own dogs. The incision stretched 8 centimeters down Tiki’s back, and went one tissue layer deep under the skin. 

Mast cell tumors can be deceivingly invasive, and can send tumor cells in all directions like tentacles. They can also metastasize (spread), so Granger also had blood taken for analysis and, a week after surgery, had cardiac and abdominal ultrasounds done (did I mention the perks of being a vet?). 

Granger recovered uneventfully from the anesthetic, and her dad was right there holding her. 

In order to keep her incision safe from her and from our other dogs, she wore a nifty pair of dog pajamas.

After a few days on pain control, Granger was pretty much back to her old self, bugging us to take her on walks and trying to jump on and off the furniture (bad post-op behaviour!). Her incision healed beautifully, thanks to good surgical technique, and I began applying coconut oil once or twice a day when the incision was dry. After 14 days, her stitches were removed, and she was happy to be able to do her rolling-back-scratch-happy-dance once again.

Her bloodwork and ultrasounds were normal, and the histopathology report on her tumor indicated a grade 2 (low) tumor with clean margins. I also ran Idexx’s Mast Cell Tumor Prognostic Indicator panel, which looks at the DNA of the tumor sample. This again revealed a low-intermediate grade tumor with only small risk of metastasis and death from mast cell tumor disease. It was not the perfect result I was hoping for, but I couldn’t have asked for a better surgical outcome for my precious little girl.
Taken 18 days post surgery