The Benign Tumors
Our senior pit bull, Babe has a number of histiocytomas — benign tumors — that she’s had for years. We’ve had a couple checked out and the vets that saw her were not concerned. These are common, benign growths
Then, when we lived in Brooklyn, she developed a few more. One of them, located below her bum, near her vulva, was a little angrier than the others. It would flare up, engorge and become irritated so much that Babe would chew on it and multiple times lacerated the growth.
But that one eventually faded like the rest and was just a deflated tumor.
The Angry Tumors
Then, a few months ago, we noticed a little, bright red pimple-like growth in the outside fold of her vulva. We thought it might be an ingrown hair, pimple, bug bite or something else fairly non-concerning.
Last weekend, I scooped Babe up like a baby (as I tend to do) and saw, to my dismay, that the tiny bump had quadrupled in size and was now an angry cluster of cherry red lumps. I’ve been around long enough to know that rapid growth of tumors is not a good sign.
Since it is on her vulva and I try not to flash around photos that not everyone wants to see, I’m going to leave the link to that photo HERE for anyone interested in what it looked like last weekend.
We Sought Medical Advice
At the vet, Babe had 6 of her lumps aspirated.
Keep in mind that we just moved to Connecticut and the first vet I took Babe to in May was unimpressive. So this vet was new and I haven’t been around her enough to know what I think of her practice, knowledge or expertise. I’m just going to basically repeat what she said.
A couple of the tumors were, as we were originally told, histiocytomas. They’re not worrisome. The new ones, as the doctor put it, looked “nasty.” She estimated that over half of Babe’s growths are cancerous. Most appear to be mast cell tumors, though she wouldn’t rule out sarcomas for a couple near her rear end.
The obvious treatment is surgery — remove all of the tumors surrounding the one we just spotted (4-5 in total). The success of surgically removing the tumors, however, is dependent on the margins when the tumor is removed. And the angry, red cluster that led us to bring Babe to the vet is in an area that would greatly limit the margins and increase complications. It’s already borderline inoperable, according to the vet.
Two and a half years ago Ajax, our previous dog, had a similar problem, except his tumor was so severe that death was imminent. Either we did the surgery or he died within days from sepsis.
Ajax’s Surgical Outcome
The surgery was extremely complicated. Another vet said that the tumor was inoperable. That’s because the large tumor was in the tissue surrounding his penis. But we had a vet whose skills have been unparalleled by any vet I’ve met since.
He performed the surgery successfully — a medical expense that we were able to cover because we had thankfully set aside a large chunk of money as a vacation fund. We didn’t travel that spring, but we did have Ajax back for a little bit.
Ajax’s penis and the surrounding area was removed and he was given a urethrostomy. His recovery time was about 6 weeks. And then he was back to normal for another 4 months. Then, for 10 months, he slowly crashed until we finally had him put to sleep.
Why We Refused Surgery
Without that experience, we may have settled on the surgery plan for Babe.
We’re not going to do it, though. The success is precarious, at best. The number of tumors to remove would necessitate more than one surgery. And with Babe being 11.5 years old, I don’t want to have her put under multiple times for a dubious treatment.
Since we’re not having the tumors removed, they can’t be sent to the lab for pathology to prove exactly what they are. We just have to rely on the cytology from the slides the vet looked at. And that’s ALL we have to go on. She didn’t recommend any blood tests to check Babe’s levels, or x-rays to look for internal growths.
But… I’m not the vet, so I have to assume she had a reason for not recommending further tests.
Meanwhile, Babe is otherwise happy and healthy. She has her normal, insatiable appetite. She spends her days lounging and sleeping, like normal. So we’re going to keep a close eye on her behavior and bumps, but otherwise keep doing what we’ve been doing.