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What is Biopsy?

Biopsy is a surgical procedure used in dogs to obtain a tissue sample for diagnosis of a variety of pathologies, from cancer to skin disease. The goal of biopsy is to provide a veterinary pathologist an accurate picture of the disease process taking place so that they may report the suspected disease or type and stage of cancer in your dog. Biopsy is a common procedure often used to diagnose dermatological issues and certain cancers. Your veterinarian will perform the biopsy (or refer to a veterinary surgeon for more involved biopsy) and then submit the tissue sample obtained from biopsy to a veterinary pathologist for interpretation. 

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Biopsy Procedure in Dogs

The biopsy procedure will depend on the type of biopsy selected for your pet. In general, your dog will be placed under anesthesia for the biopsy procedure. The tissue sample will be taken and submitted to a veterinary pathologist for interpretation. Your dog will likely need stitches after receiving a biopsy. Below are some examples of what to expect from different kinds of biopsies.

Punch Biopsy

This biopsy method is most commonly used to diagnose dermatological conditions. Local anesthetic or general anesthetic may be used depending on the nature of the biopsy. For the procedure, the skin to be biopsied is cleaned and shaven. A small tool is used to bore into the skin penetrating all layers of the dermis the tool is removed taking a cylindrical piece of tissue with it. The tissue is placed into a solution to preserve it and sent for histopathology reading. The wound left by the punch biopsy is sutured closed with 1-2 sutures. 

Jamshidi Needle Biopsy

This biopsy method is used to diagnose bone cancers. General anesthetic is used to ensure that the patient will remain completely still throughout the procedure. The skin over the area to be biopsied is shaved and sterilized. The bone biopsy needle is then bored into the bone through the suspect lesion ensuring that the needle passes all the way to the middle of the bone. The small pieces of bone obtained are placed in solution and sent for histopathology. 

Tru-Cut Biopsy

This biopsy method is a less invasive way of obtaining certain tissue samples. For this biopsy, the animal is placed under general anesthesia and the area over the tissue to be sampled is shaved and cleaned. The tru cut device is placed over the tissue to be sampled and either guided by ultrasound (for internal organs such as the kidney) or placed directly in the tissue (for muscle biopsy). After the tru cut biopsy is performed tissue is sent for histopathology. No sutures are needed after this kind of biopsy. 

Surgical Biopsy

The biopsy methods listed above are considered incisional, meaning that some of the affected tissue or cancer is left behind. Excisional biopsy, such as surgical biopsy aims to extract all affected tissue for examination. This is especially important for cancer treatment. Radical excisional biopsy requires general anesthesia and is a much more invasive procedure. For this type of biopsy, the cancerous lesion is removed along with a margin of healthy tissue to ensure that the cancer does not return. This procedure is done under general anesthesia and requires stitches. The tissue obtained from this procedure is then sent to histopathology where a veterinary pathologist determines if margins attempted in surgery were wide enough or if more surgery is needed to extract all of the cancerous tissue.

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Efficacy of Biopsy in Dogs

Biopsy is an effective tool for the diagnosis and/or staging of cancer and other pathological conditions. Because more tissue is included in a biopsy sample for histopathology a veterinary pathologist will have an easier time understanding your dog’s diagnosis in the context of the tissue it is affecting. For other diagnostic measures such as skin scraping or fine needle aspirate, only some cells are removed so the full extent of disease cannot be understood. However, these other techniques are much less invasive than biopsy and do not require suture or anesthesia. 

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Biopsy Recovery in Dogs

Recovery from biopsy depends on the method of biopsy used. For less invasive procedures, such as punch biopsy, recovery generally involves the recovery from anesthesia. However, for radical excisional biopsy, such as when a leg is amputated due to bone cancer, recovery will be much more intensive and require physical therapy and a pain management protocol for your dog. In general, recovery from biopsy will involve taking precautions for sutures, i.e. making sure that your dog remains still for 10 days while sutures heal and monitoring the recovery site for any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or discharge. Recovery from biopsy may also involve pain management, which can range from oral pain pills for a few days to a fentanyl patch for more constant dosing of pain medication. 

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Cost of Biopsy in Dogs

The cost of biopsy varies between the different kinds of biopsies used. Less invasive biopsies such as punch biopsy will cost between $400-$800 while more invasive or more involved surgeries could cost up to $2,500 (including hospitalization and medications). 

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Dog Biopsy Considerations

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with biopsy. Your veterinarian will do bloodwork to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to receive anesthesia as needed for the procedure. Other risks associated with biopsy include bleeding, pain and infection. Biopsy is an excellent tool to create a clear clinical picture in cases of cancer, skin disease and kidney and liver disease. For bone cancer, biopsy is 90% effective at providing an accurate diagnosis. As certain kinds of biopsy are also considered treatment, such as radical excisional biopsy, it can be worked into a therapeutic plan and combined with other treatment such as radiation oncology and chemotherapy. 

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Biopsy Prevention in Dogs

Preventing biopsy means prevention the conditions that require biopsy. Preventing cancer is unfortunately very difficult to do. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly which external and internal factors play a role in cancer development in dogs. Some dogs are predisposed to developing certain cancers based on their breed. Many dogs develop cancer as they advance in age. Though preventing cancer is difficult, there are certain cancers that can be prevented with surgery. For example, mammary tumors, common to female dogs, can be prevented by spaying your dog before her first heat cycle. Testicular tumors can be prevented by getting your dog neutered. 

Keeping your dog in good health in general will help if cancer is suspected as they will be better candidates for surgery, chemotherapy and all other necessary treatments. Taking your dog in for regular veterinary visits throughout their life will achieve the goal of keeping them in good health and will help ensure that if cancer does form, it is discovered early.

 Keeping your dog in good health can also help prevent kidney and liver disease that may need biopsy to differentiate them from certain cancers. Preventing the skin conditions that require biopsy may prove difficult as well, as they are largely heritable. If possible, understanding your dog’s lineage could go a long way into understanding the heritable conditions that may affect them in the future. While this knowledge will not prevent a heritable condition from arising, it can help provide insight about what is going on and help your vet make appropriate treatment and diagnostic decisions. 

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Biopsy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Treeing Walker Coonhound

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bloody

There is, what looks like, a mass near the rectum that bleeds after a bowel movement.

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. This mass could be a polyp or hernia or anal gland tumor. It would be best for your vet to look at this mass and possibly removed it. If she is bleeding from this mass, it would be best for her to been seen soon. Some of these masses are benign but some are cancerous. I hope your dog starts to improve soon.

July 25, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor

Tumor on penis open and bleeds is it worth having the tumor biopsied and x-rays done if he has other growths in his body? The veterinarian is unsure if he can remove it and it properly close.

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I think that you need to weigh the value of the tests before having them done. If you are not considering surgery, then I'm not sure there's a reason to biopsy. If you are considering surgery regardless, then a biopsy may help but that can be done at the time of surgery. Taking chest x-rays can help you know if the tumor has metastasized if it is malignant, but if you have made up your mind on whether or not you are taking the tumor off or not, then again I'm not sure it is more than just information. Since there is a lot to this decision, I think it would be best to have a very frank discussion with your veterinarian on risks vs benefits, and what would be best for your dog. I hope that all goes well.

July 24, 2020

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Titan

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German Shepherd

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Muscle Atrophy

My 6 yr old GSD has been experiencing symptoms of masticatory muscle myositis. The left side of his face is atrophied and he is beginning to have some difficulty with his left eye. So far he has shown no signs of pain or difficulty with his jaw. We tried 2 week course of Prednisone 100 mg qd but symptoms seemed to exacerbate. Vet has recommended muscle bx since labs had been negative for antibody. Is this the most effective way of finding cause? Also recommended x-rays of head to r/o mass or tumor. Wouldn't he be experiencing more neurological symptoms if mass or tumor growing?

Aug. 17, 2018

Titan's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Diagnosis of masticatory muscle myositis may be made by either ELISA testing or biopsy, I’m not sure if the biopsy will tell you more than an ELISA test but worth doing all the same. X-rays of the head will rule out some types of tumours but not all; tumours can be asymptomatic and may not present with symptoms until the last minute. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 17, 2018

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Memoe

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Shih Tzu

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lost Voice, Lymph Glands Swollen

Took my Shih Tzu in for dental work and vet called and said they couldn’t go through with dental work because he had a mass in his trachea and tube would not go down because there is a mass my vet doesn’t have training or equipped for that. How much would biopsy cost?

Aug. 15, 2018

Memoe's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

If there is a mass, you should get your Veterinarian to refer you to a Specialist in your area for further examination and biopsy etc… Pricing varies widely depending on your location, you should speak with your Veterinarian about the biopsy and the referral to get a more accurate ballpark price. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 16, 2018

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Gracie

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Maltese

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8 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sleepy
Sleepiness

After diagnosis of micro vascular displasia, puppy was spayed and a liver biopsy performed. What is the recuperation time for this surgery? She is very tired and skittish. She wants to be in her crate all the time. She has eaten small amounts . She has urinated but infrequently and in a large amount. She seems very uncomfortable

Aug. 7, 2018

Gracie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It may take less than a week or so for recovery from this surgery; spaying is a pretty routine surgery and the liver biopsy would be a small add-on which shouldn’t really affect recovery times but some pain or discomfort may be felt for a few days afterwards which is to be expected. Allow her to rest and visit your Veterinarian if there is no improvement after five days or so. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 7, 2018

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Riley

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American Staffordshire Terrier

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lump On Hock Joint

Hello. My dog has been diagnosed with a spindle cell tumor through a fine needle aspiration. We are working on finding a vet now to do the surgical removal of the lump. Should I have the surgery done by a board certified surgeon or is it ok to go to my general vet to have the tumor removed? I know that this type of cancerous tumor spreads out like the tentacles of an octopus and so getting clean margins is difficult, especially because of the tumor’s location (rear hock joint, close to the Achilles’ tendon). Knowing this, should the surgeon just simply remove the lump only, knowing that getting clean margins is impossible, and close the wound or should the surgeon try to remove some margin of normal tissue around the tumor to ensure that at least some of the other cancer cells are removed with the tumor but then risk not being able to close the wound and possibly needing a skin graft? I’m struggling with what is the best course of action. Also, is having a dental cleaning/extraction procedure done while my dog is still under anesthesia to make “use of the dog being under” a smart idea or is the risk of infection too great? Thank you for any advice you can give me! I am extremely nervous about putting my dog under and I’m really dreading this surgery.

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Riley

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American Staffordshire Terrier

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lump On Hock Joint

Hello. My dog has been diagnosed with a spindle cell tumor through a fine needle aspiration. We are working on finding a vet now to do the surgical removal of the lump. Should I have the surgery done by a board certified surgeon or is it ok to go to my general vet to have the tumor removed? I know that this type of cancerous tumor spreads out like the tentacles of an octopus and so getting clean margins is difficult, especially because of the tumor’s location (rear hock joint, close to the Achilles’ tendon). Knowing this, should the surgeon just simply remove the lump only, knowing that getting clean margins is impossible, and close the wound or should the surgeon try to remove some margin of normal tissue around the tumor to ensure that at least some of the other cancer cells are removed with the tumor but then risk not being able to close the wound and possibly needing a skin graft? I’m struggling with what is the best course of action. Also, is having a dental cleaning/extraction procedure done while my dog is still under anesthesia to make “use of the dog being under” a smart idea or is the risk of infection too great? Thank you for any advice you can give me! I am extremely nervous about putting my dog under and I’m really dreading this surgery.

dog-name-icon

Riley

dog-breed-icon

American Staffordshire Terrier

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lump On Hock Joint

Hello. My dog has been diagnosed with a spindle cell tumor through a fine needle aspiration. We are working on finding a vet now to do the surgical removal of the lump. Should I have the surgery done by a board certified surgeon or is it ok to go to my general vet to have the tumor removed? I know that this type of cancerous tumor spreads out like the tentacles of an octopus and so getting clean margins is difficult, especially because of the tumor’s location (rear hock joint, close to the Achilles’ tendon). Knowing this, should the surgeon just simply remove the lump only, knowing that getting clean margins is impossible, and close the wound or should the surgeon try to remove some margin of normal tissue around the tumor to ensure that at least some of the other cancer cells are removed with the tumor but then risk not being able to close the wound and possibly needing a skin graft? I’m struggling with what is the best course of action. Also, is having a dental cleaning/extraction procedure done while my dog is still under anesthesia to make “use of the dog being under” a smart idea or is the risk of infection too great? Thank you for any advice you can give me! I am extremely nervous about putting my dog under and I’m really dreading this surgery.

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For dogs with dry skin

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