Golden retriever with cancer

Last Edited By Krjb Donovan
Last Updated: Mar 11, 2014 07:42 PM GMT

Question

Hello. We have a 10-year-old female Golden Retriever with cancer. The cancer was diagnosed about a year ago, and is located in her right rear teat. Although the tumor goes up quite a ways internally, it was pretty much in situ and there have been no signs of metastasis. The veterinarian did not want to aspirate or otherwise disturb this tumor for fear of causing any cancer to spread.

We have had the dog visit the vet regularly to keep an eye on the situation, and we have a previously-made appointment in two weeks. Tonight I noticed the the teat is getting larger and harder than it has ever been. The dog is still happy and eating and enjoying life and doesn't appear to be uncomfortable, so there's no immediate problem. Interesting thing is that our other dog, a female lab mix, has suddenly started sniffing the Golden Retriever in the area of the affected teat. This is unusual behavior for the lab mix, and I guess we should have suspected something when this behavior started 3 or 4 days ago.

Our vet talked about surgery should it get to that point, but wanted to leave it alone as long as possible. Chances are that any surgery would just be to relieve discomfort and would probably not prolong life.

Now that we see obvious changes in the affected teat, we're wondering what to expect next. In the short term, will the swelling cause pain? I guess the skin can't stretch forever; could this cause the skin to tear or become irritated eventually? I've also noticed some dampness on her bed at times; could the tumor cause some sort of leaking/drainage? As the situation progresses, aside from the obvious signs of a sick dog, under what other circumstances would we need to call the veterinarian?

This dog is a very gentle, friendly old girl who loves attention and affection. I just hate to think about the inevitable.

Thank you!


Answer

I am sorry to hear of your dear companions diagnosis with a mammary tumor. In dogs some mammary tumors are benign and others are malignant. An aspiration of the mass can help differentiate the two. A small needle is used to obtain a sample of the mass and a slide is submiited to a pathologist for review. If it is malignant then resection can sometimes lead to a cure. If the tumor is very invasive then the surgery can be fairly involved and should be referred to a boarded veterinary surgeon. You can find qualified surgeons at referral hospitals and veterinary schools.

Mammary tumors, if left untreated, can eventually become necrotic, (they outgrow their blood supply and part of the tumor dies) and the skin over them starts to break down. This can happen even with benign tumors.

Aaspirates, biopsies and surgical resection of mammary tumors does not necessarily lead to the tumor spreading. I have had many patients who have gone on to live many years after mammary tumor removal. ( I myself am I 5 year breast cancer survivor and had a ton of biopsies done before my actual surgery!)

I am sure you have a tremendous trust in your veterinarian but sometimes it can be helpful to get a second opinion. I'm sure they would understand you wanting to do so as this is a very common practice. Especially today when there is so much sophisticated medicine aavailable for our beloved pets. If there is a veterinary school near you or a large referral hospital that would be the place to start.

With regard to your other dogs interest in the tumor area. Necrotic skin can give off an odor that may be the cause of the interest. Also, sometimes the tumors can begin secreting small amounts of milk which could also be the cause of the interest.

Good luck with your pet.

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