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Tumor growth is a fairly common occurrence in dogs, especially as they age. These tumors come in all shapes and sizes, and are often found on the head or neck of the dog. Not all growths are cause for alarm, however, getting a professional assessment of any lumps is the best course of action. Tumors that rapidly change or expand should be treated as a threat and should be examined as soon as possible.
Many abnormal growths are diagnosed as cancerous. To prevent any cancer from metastasizing, the lumps should be surgically excised from the head or neck of the dog. This procedure should be performed by an ACVS board-certified veterinary surgeon, and if the tumor is growing in soft tissue, a specialist will be needed. Dogs suffering from tumors in the head or neck may experience difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, or visible lumps near the skin.
The vet will likely perform a complete physical examination of the dog to identify all growths that are palpable. Extensive blood work along with urinalysis will be needed to assess the overall condition of the dog. If the blood work reveals that the dog is a good surgical candidate, diagnostic imaging will be used to help plan for surgery. Skull and chest x-rays may be taken, although CT scan images are much more effective in evaluating growths. A fine needle aspiration may be performed to gather tissue for histopathological examination. A biopsy may also be needed in some instances.
The day before the surgery is performed, your dog will have to fast for a specific number of hours. This helps to prevent aspiration complications during surgery. An incision will be made in the general location of the tumor. The size of the incision will depend on the type of tumor, as some forms of cancer will require surrounding tissue to be removed in addition to the growth. A catheter will be inserted in case emergency medication needs to be administered. Breathing tubes will also be placed in the animal. The area of incision will be shaved and cleaned before it is opened. Once the incision has been made, the tumor will be removed from the body. If it is large in size, it can be cut in half to ease the removal process. It then should be contained and sent off for examination at a lab. The opening can then be stitched closed.
If the surgery is performed correctly, no parts of the tumor should remain. Some tumor shapes or locations may prevent a full excision. In these cases, regrowth is likely. If the tumor is benign or due to a previous injury, removal alone carries an excellent prognosis with the majority of patients being cured.
Basal cell tumors and other forms of less aggressive cancer often respond well to excision followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Certain cancers may not benefit from surgical removal, as they are likely to have already spread throughout the body. Each individual dog will have a different prognosis based on whether the growth present is cancerous, and how aggressive that cancer type is.
As the dog comes out of surgery, it will need to be monitored to ensure it wakes up properly from the anesthesia. Pain medication should be administered at this time, and will continue to be given for several days thereafter. Care should be given to maintain the dog's body temperature and oxygen levels. Once regular feeding has resumed, all tubes may be removed from the animal.
All dogs should be able to walk before they can be discharged from the hospital. Any tumors that were excised can be sent to a lab for examination. After a full diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan may begin if needed. Bowel movements may take several days to resume. An Elizabethan collar can be used to prevent the dog from scratching at its incision site. Activity should be prevented during the first two weeks of healing. A follow-up appointment will be needed 10-14 days after surgery to assess healing.
The cost for a mass excision on the head or neck of a dog can vary greatly. Some tumors may be near or in the layers of skin while others may be deep in the animal's soft tissue. There also may be more than one growth present, which can complicate surgery. You can expect to pay anything where from $1,000 for a very basic procedure all the way up to over $10,000 for a complicated mass excision. The average cost tends to be on the higher side, coming in at around $8,000.
Extensive diagnoses including aspirations and biopsies are more expensive than those using only diagnostic imaging. If cancer is present, ongoing treatment after surgery with radiation or chemotherapy can be expected, and is expensive.
As with all surgeries, there are risks whenever anesthesia is used on an animal. Ensure that your veterinary surgeon is using the newest standard for general anesthesia. Some cancers will not be alleviated with surgery, making the procedure not worth the stress on the animal's body. If the dog has other health issues, it may not be a good surgical candidate. If the overall quality of life is not greatly improved by the surgery, it may be best not to have it done. It should be noted that radiation therapy and chemotherapy are often not as effective without a surgical removal.
Most dogs will at some point in their lives experience an abnormal growth. These masses are more common in middle-aged and older dogs. If your dog has been diagnosed with a benign lump and it is left in the animal, it should be regularly checked to ensure that no changes have occurred over time, as this can be a sign that cancer has developed.
While many cancers are difficult to prevent, limiting your dog's exposure to known cancer-causing agents can help reduce the chance that your dog will be affected. This includes keeping your home free of cigarette smoke and providing your dog with a natural, species-appropriate diet free from damaging preservatives. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when outdoors. This can help prevent a serious traumatic accident from occurring, which could lead to abnormal growths among other serious injuries.
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A small marble sized mass on the underside of tongue
July 26, 2017
It sounds like Romeo may have a ranula (check fig. 2 of the link below); this would probably require surgery. It would be best to visit your Veterinarian to take a look at it and if Romeo hasn’t been neutered yet, you could get that done in the same anaesthetic. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVMwww.acvs.org/small-animal/salivary-mucocele
July 26, 2017
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