A few weeks ago while massaging Bailey, I noticed a little pea-sized lump under her skin on her right thigh. We didn’t think much about it as the girls are always getting fatty deposit tumors and bumps and scratches. I put it in the back of my mind but kept monitoring it. I knew that she was due for her annual physical and teeth cleaning soon so as a precaution, I would have the Vet check it then.
That little bump turned out to be a mast cell tumor that is cancerous. We don’t yet know what her treatment plan will be as that depends on what comes back in the labs. At minimum, she’ll have to have surgery to remove the tumor and all the tissue around it to make sure they take all the cancer. If the tumor is more aggressive, we might be looking at chemotherapy too. Either way, not too much fun for Bailey in the near future but I feel confident that she’ll be ok. I just have this feeling.
So what is a Mast Cell Tumor? To be honest, my vet tried to explain it to me in the office but my head was swimming. When someone tells you that C word, cancer, you don’t hear much after. According to PetMD, mast cells are cells that reside in the connective tissues, especially those vessels and nerves that are closest to the external surfaces (e.g., skin, lungs, nose, mouth). Mast cells contain histamine and heparin. They play a role in allergic responses, non-allergic skin disease, wound healing and tissue remodeling. They can also increase stomach acid production.
Mast Cell Tumors, also called Mastocytoma, are caused when mast cells replicate faster than normal. In order to be diagnosed, the veterinarian aspirates the bump or lump. Sometimes the bump is just under the skin. Other times, it can be on the skin. With Bailey, we felt something under the skin and it came to the surface. Also it grew very quickly. Mast Cell Tumors can be found in both dogs and cats. Some mast cell tumors are benign but most are malignant.
The tumors are usually graded based on a number of factors including the location of the tumor in the skin, presence of inflammation, and how well they are differentiated. Grade 1 cells are well differentiated with a low potential for metastasis; Grade 2 cells are intermediately differentiated with a potential for locally invasive metastasis; and Grade 3 cells are poorly differentiated or undifferentiated with a high potential for metastasis. Differentiation is a determination of how much a particular tumor cell looks like a normal cell; the more differentiated, the more like the normal cell. In general, the more differentiated the mast cell tumor is, the better the prognosis is.
Boxers, bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers appear to be more susceptible to mast cell tumors than other breeds. The mean age for the development of this condition is eight years in dogs, though it has been reported in animals less than one year of age. Although Bailey is what we call our All American Mutt, when we had her DNA tested, she did come back with Boston Terrier in her. She will be eight years old on November 24th of this year.
In about a week we will know what Grade her tumor is and what we will need to do for her. In addition to this, she had to have a broken tooth removed during her teeth cleaning. My poor Bai Bai has been through the ringer in the last couple of days! She is taking five pills a day twice a day including pain killer, anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, Benedryl and Pepcid AC. She doesn’t mind that though because she gets them in the delicious Greenie brand pill pocket! The pain pill (Tramadol), anti-inflamatory and antibiotic are due to her broken tooth being removed (she had to have a couple of stitches too). The Benedryl and Pepcid are for the Mast Cell Tumor to make sure the overproduction of histamine and stomach acid doesn’t make her feel worse.
I am hoping the early detection will work in our favor. We’ll keep you posted.