Benign and Cancerous Tumors on our Dog

Rescue pit bull

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.

tumor on dog

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.

tumor on dog

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.

tumors on dog

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.

benign tumor growth on pit bull

Treatment options

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.

benign tumor growth on dog

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 died of cancer

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.

benign tumor on dog

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.

healthy pit bull

24 responses to “Benign and Cancerous Tumors on our Dog”

  1. If you’re interested in alternative medicines, look for a holistic vet in your area. I know many people who turn to alternative medicine for longevity and comfort. Things like diet, herbs, and even acupuncture are things my vet recommends when another vet may recommend surgery or drugs.
    You know Babe best and you know what’s best for her! She’s a beautiful girl with a very loving Mom! Thinking of you and sending healing thoughts your way.

    • Pit bulls don’t tend to have a lot of issues, except for a great need for early socialization. Apparently, though, mast cell tumors are common with bully breed dogs, like pitties, bulldogs, boxers, boston terriers, etc.

  2. I know you always go above and beyond for your pets. And I understand the difficulties with these types of situations and decisions. Babe has had a longer, happier life with you that she would of with anyone else. Continue to enjoy life with your girl…that’s all we have and we never know when it my end. Love you guys…hug Babe for me…

    • Elicia, I will definitely give Babe extra cuddles from you. She’s our sweet girl and though there have been some very trying times, life just feels more full with her in it. I’m only sorry this had to come up right when we moved to the perfect home for her. But for now we’re going to assume that she’ll be around for years yet.

  3. I am so SO sorry to read this 🙁 I always look forward to pics of Babe because she is just adorable. Sending lots of virtual hugs your way.

    If it’s any consolation, I know decisions like that are INCREDIBLY hard, but ultimately I think we’d choose not to operate either, if it happened to any of our dogs…

    • Thank you! She is a sweet girl and my little cuddly pibble. I don’t know what we’ll do without her, but I’m going to assume that’s still far in the future. For now we’re happy to have her by our side.

  4. Sending love, prayers to you and Babe i thing you made a good decision it is a generous decision coming from your heart but I know it is not easy. For now she is happy so continue to enjoy her presence, try to stay in the present moment, in the now and give her the best, one day at a time…with love for you both !!!

  5. It takes a very strong, loving heart to choose the path you and your family and babe have chose to go down. I tip my hat to you all, as a dog lover, I can only imagine what you’re going through.

  6. hello babe its dennis the vizsla dog hay i am sorry to heer abowt all the bad bumpeez but i think yore mama and dada ar dooing the rite thing!!! wen my sister the byootiful trixie wuz diagnosd with bad kansers last summer they sed they cud do big surdjereez on her but she wuz fifteen or siksteen and her kwality of life wood hav ben so mutch wurse with surdjereez and rekovereez so insted mama and dada just mayd shoor she wuz kumfortabul for the time she had left!!! also they gayv her sumthing kalld essiac tea wot mayd her feel better for a wile of korse wun of her toomers wuz in her intestin so i do not no if the tea wood help yoo feel better too but it mite be wurth trying!!! ok bye

  7. Oh, Allison, my heart goes out to you and Babe and your whole pack. It sounds like you have made a wise, caring, informed decision about her care.

    My old Brindle Dog also has a mast cell tumour which we first discovered last February. As you did, I decided not to proceed with the surgical option. She is already twelve years old, and I didn’t want the end of her life to be filled with surgeries, sutures, drains, recovery, etc. Seven months later, the tumour has grown a lot, and she’s having more difficulty with movement (it’s high on a hind leg). But she still wants to chase sticks, even though I throw them only two or three feet away instead of as far as I possible could in the old days. She’s still happy, with excellent palliative care and strong painkillers. As long as she wags and begs for a stately-old-dog-style game of fetch, she has a good life. May your sweet Babe also be happy right up to the end.

    You are making the hard choices and good decisions that have to be made now. We all know this day is coming with our pets. It’s a real gift to be able to make a sick dog comfortable and hold them at the end. But I hope you have lots of good quality time with Babe before that day comes!!!

  8. Oh, and your vet probably told you all this but one of the common reasons dogs with mast cell tumours have to be euthanised is the formation of stomach ulcers (a side effect of the mast cell tumour releasing its toxins). Babe can (with your vet’s input, of course) probably already start on famotidine (I use plain old Pepcid) to prevent ulcers. If she starts getting really itchy (she probably will, eventually, from the release of histamines from the tumours), an antihistamine will help (I use Benadryl regular formula; don’t use the non-drowsy formula; your vet can give the right dosages for Babe’s weight) . And the holistic vet here says that feeding tripe will also help support the stomach tissues. Sorry if this is all a repeat of stuff you already know, but I know it makes me feel better to be able to give my old girl some preventative stuff (like the famotidine) and take care of her itchiness as it arises. Good luck on this journey, and thanks for being someone who takes her dog’s care and needs so seriously. <3

    • Thank you for the info! The vet was very brief, but we’re no strangers to medical maladies (with Dr. Husband on the case!), so the large amounts of information that she neglected to tell us, we were mostly aware of or found out quickly afterward. I hope she’s a little more informative with her other patients!
      It is nice to know that so many other people manage this same issue with their dogs. It’s good to have the support. Thank you!

      • You’re very welcome. I’m lucky to have a vet who really, really likes my old dog, and who is chatty. Also very lucky to have another vet as a friend. And I studied many years ago to be a vet tech and worked at that for a while. It makes it a lot easier to have (and have access to) some medical knowledge when dealing with this stuff. Good that Dr. Husband is on the case. Scritches to Babe. Let’s hope she’s here for both a good time and a long time.

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