Sarcoid treatments usually involve a surgical procedure, in conjunction with medication, with the aim to remove sarcoids in their entirety. The treatment is used to combat sarcoids, a subtype of fibrosarcoma, which is a form of cancer, most frequently found in the skin and soft tissue of dogs. Surgical removal is usually used after the sarcoid has progressed somewhat, when the sarcoid shows no sign of diminishing on its own, or with medication. Whilst it is not an everyday treatment, surgical removal of tumours is used relatively frequently, and will be performed by a vet or a specialist.
The dog will be diagnosed within weeks, following a physical examination, blood work, urinalysis, and a biopsy of the tumour. These steps will take several visits, over the course of a few weeks. Once the biopsy results have returned, a decision on whether and when to operate will be made. The steps taken in the procedure itself will be as follows:
The success of the surgery will depend on how early the sarcoid was treated and the accessibility of the sarcoid. If enough tissue is taken around the sarcoid, then the chance of curative success is high. The operation should permanently remove the sarcoid, however, if removed incompletely, further treatment may be necessary.
There is also the alternative treatment option of electrochemotherapy. This is a non-invasive treatment option. It can still be costly, as numerous visits will be necessary, and the success of the treatment is less guaranteed than the surgical option. Electrochemotherapy runs the risk of the sarcoid getting worse before it gets better.
Recovery from surgery will take two to three weeks in straightforward cases. The dog will need to be prevented from licking or scratching the wound; an Elizabethan collar may help to prevent this. The dog must rest, so walks for the first two weeks must be kept to a minimum, but can be built up gradually, following guidance from the vet. Pain medication may well be prescribed to ease discomfort following the surgery.
It may be several weeks or months until the dog is fully healed. Follow-up appointments will be necessary to ensure the wound site is clear of infection, plus to check for any signs of regrowth or complications.
The cost of the surgical removal of sarcoids will vary dependant on the case and will be influenced by the experience of the vet, the accessibility of the sarcoid and whether any complications arise.
The price of the alternative option of electrochemotherapy is still relatively high, but will vary massively depending on the length of the course and the number of sessions needed. But, it could well run into thousands of dollars.
There are always risks that come with surgery. In particular, the possibility of an adverse effect from the anesthetic. However, these risks are low, as most vets have considerable experience and practice with this type of surgery. And, whilst there is also the long-term consideration of the sarcoid returning, or a new one developing, the benefits of this treatment option outweigh the relatively low risk of complications. As long as the wound is properly monitored for signs of infection, then recovery should be swift and the chances of postoperative infections and complications kept to a minimum.
Due to the nature of sarcoids, it is often very challenging to prevent sarcoids developing. Their development is often down to the genetic makeup of the dog, plus, whether it’s a larger breed or an older dog. However, there are certain preventative measures owners can take, though their effect will be minimal.
Owners can keep dogs as healthy as possible, giving them their bodies the best chance of preventing sarcoids developing in the first place. This can be done with a healthy, balanced diet, of raw, lean meats, fresh fruit and veg, plus keeping starchy foods like potatoes to a minimum. The dog should also be encouraged to drink plenty of water each day, and should undertake regular exercise. Walking the dog regularly also has the added benefit of keeping the owner fit and healthy.
The other measure owners can take is to monitor their dog for any developing lumps. This includes measuring them for signs of growth, photographing them, and keeping an eye out for changes in texture or shape. Plus, be aware if the sarcoid starts to affect the dog. Does the dog start itching the lump or appear to be in pain or discomfort? If you see any of these signs for concern, take the dog to the vet to enable treatment as early as possible.
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