Claim Example: Mast Cell Tumor in German Shepherd/Golden Retriever/Labrador mix

Embracer Lea has been off on maternity leave with her super cute daughter Stella but she has been going through some tough times with her dog Lyger, which she wrote up for us. Here's Lea's story of Lyger and his mast cell tumor.

FYI we know Lyger's breed mix because he's Embracer Lea's dog and we did the genetic test on him as
part of an Embrace contest. He's a very happy German Golden Lab :)


Lyger and his red boneMy old retriever Lyger has more bumps and lumps than I can count--he's had lypomas for years.  Sometime in the summer, I noticed a new, soft, squishy bump on his neck.  I was a working student, very pregnant, and had just been joking with my vet tech about the possibility that I have Munchausens syndrome with my dogs--taking them in for any little thing.  So, I figured I'd just take a wait and see approach with this lumpy bump, keep an eye on it for any changes.

Fast forward a few months later and I'm in my vet's office for a senior check up--Lyger's been acting a bit sluggish.  The vet checks his hips, his neck, looks at a mole, does bloodwork.  Everything appears normal--it appears to be just  normal aging.  As an afterthought I mention the neck lump.  He does a needle aspirate to check the fluid in the lump.

Now, here comes the one downside to having a good relationship with your vet: You know when he sees something bad but is trying not to scare you.

He sends it out for pathology and calls me the next day to say it's cancer--but, a very treatable form of cancer, mast cell.  I confirm with some of my vet tech colleagues--they agree, this is a good cancer prognosis, if such a thing exists.  I never thought I'd want to put him through surgery at his age, but it was the best chance he had.

Lyger's mast cell surgery incisionTo remove a mass that was only about half the size of a ping pong ball required a very large incision, about 7 inches, to get clear margins.  But, we got very lucky--the vet was able to remove all of Lyger's cancer.  He won't require chemotherapy or other treatments.  But, as grade 2 mast cell tumors have a 50% chance of recurrence, we'll have to watch that area carefully.  A sample biopsy from his lymph nodes indicated that the cancer had not spread, despite my decision to "wait and see".

Speaking of the wait and see, that's what I'm here to tell you.  Don't do that.  First of all, the cancer could have spread to other systems, causing the prognosis to be much worse.  Secondly, I was waiting to see if the lump would get bigger.  It never did--but I later learned that's a characteristic of mast cell tumors: they can get bigger and smaller again!  Sneaky!  These tumors are especially common in senior dogs, particularly Retrievers, Boxers, Beagles and Bully breeds, among a list of others, and are
often found on on a dog's extremities.

This was a very costly close call, with about $1,000 in diagnostics and the surgery. But, I learned a very valuable lesson--don't play wait and see when it comes to health concerns, whether it's for your pet or yourself.  I could have lost the friend that's been by my side for over a decade, and would never have forgiven myself for it.  Fortunately,  Lyger is doing fine, enjoying the extra hugs he's been getting, and will continue to get for a while to come.








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