Thankfully it’s not too often that I find myself on the other side of the consulting table but just before Christmas I found a tumour on my Labrador, Sasha.
Sasha is ten now but, like so many labs, neither looks nor acts her age so it was a bit of a shock to suddenly find a small, red, raised, hairless lump over her hip. This is the typical appearance of a mast cell tumour so it needed looking at. I brought her into work later that day and we did a fine needle aspirate which is where we use a needle to extract a few cells and examine them on a slide to see what we’re dealing with. Mast cell tumours have a very distinctive appearance and we were able to examine the cells in our lab and confirm the diagnosis.
Mast cell tumours can vary from benign to extremely malignant tumours and there’s no way to tell them apart until you’ve removed the mass and sent it to the external laboratory for analysis. They spread first to the lymph nodes, then the liver and spleen and finally to the bone marrow.
As Sasha is officially an ‘older’ dog now (just don’t tell her that!) we ran bloods to check her liver and kidneys were ok to cope with an anaesthetic and then the next day admitted her for intravenous fluids and surgery. It doesn’t really matter how many years you’ve been in practice or how many owners you’ve talked through exactly the same procedure, when it’s your own dog you worry just as much over them as any owner would. It’s at this point that you suddenly see the practice and the staff who work here through an owner’s eyes. Their compassion and professionalism was amazing. Sasha’s surgery and anaesthetic recovery went smoothly; as soon as she woke up her only concern was who was going to feed her, skipping breakfast is a much bigger deal than surgery!
Then followed the nervous wait for results and, again, you realise what a great service our lab provides as the very next day they’d confirmed that her lymph nodes were clear. Less than a week later, even with Christmas in-between, we had the full report. The lab results reported that we had clear margins which means there were no tumour cells left behind.
My crazy dog can go back to acting like the 6 month old that she believes she is!
Sarah – Vet, and Sasha’s ‘mum’.