Jack Russell with Mast Cell Tumor

A little bump on Gilligan's nose turned out to be a big problem - a mast cell tumor.

Vet Bill: $8,479

Gilligan - Jack Russell Terrier

Background

Even veterinarians can't completely protect their pets from getting sick or injured. Such is the case of Gilligan, a 10-year-old Jack Russell Terrier Embraced by David and Summer of Wake Forest, NC. While a tiny bump on Gillian's nose didn't seem like a big issue, they still had it checked out. The diagnosis was a much bigger deal than they expected.

David shares Gilligan's story:

"Gilligan is a ten year old Jack Russell mix and is the glue for our pack: he’s happy to play with any of the other dogs, including his big sister, an 80 pound German shepherd. Summer, who is a veterinarian herself, turned to me one day in December and said she was worried that Gilligan’s muzzle looked swollen on the right side. I consider myself detail-oriented, but I really thought a lump so small couldn’t be anything serious. I was mistaken. Summer brought Gilligan to work and a fellow doctor examined him. She agreed that it would be prudent to aspirate the swollen spot just to be safe. The next day, Summer called me from work to say Gilligan had cancer: a mast cell tumor was growing in his muzzle.

We normally decorate for the holidays and send cards. Instead, we turned our attention to Gilligan as we waited for his oncology appointment at the North Carolina State University Veterinary Hospital. Before his workup at oncology, we called Embrace to confirm that the exam, lab work, and CT scan would be covered by our policy. The “Embracers” we spoke to on the phone were very supportive and reassuring. Unfortunately, reading up about Gilligan’s cancer was less so: a tumor in the muzzle meant that it was going to be more aggressive and challenging to treat.

Doctors at NC State ruled out surgery and proposed a treatment plan: chemotherapy to shrink the tumor followed by sixteen days of radiation treatments. We were cautioned this would be a multi-month process, the side effects from radiation could be challenging, and the cost would be significant. I was anxious about Gilligan’s diagnosis and treatment, but it was a comfort that money was the least of my worries. I think all pet owners want to do right by their animals, but without insurance, it can be really difficult to follow through on that desire when confronted with the costs. Summer often says, “vet med is expensive,” and she recommends to her clients follow our example and get insurance for their pets. Gilligan’s cancer was found early, and he is a happy and resilient middle-aged dog, so we wanted to give him a chance to have a long life; insurance allowed us to say “yes” to the treatment.

I wouldn’t have guessed that chemo is approached so differently with pets: the side effects are minimal. Throughout the first weeks of this year, I took Gilligan in regularly for his treatments and watched as muzzle shrank back to its normal size. On February second, Gilligan had his first dose of radiation. Unlike chemo, radiation really took its toll on everyone. Between the long drives to the NC State, keeping Gilligan comfortable when he came home in the afternoon, making sure that he received his nine medications through new and tasty means after he became indifferent toward pill pockets, cleaning up his after drool (a side effect of radiation) that he left behind everywhere— including our bed—and the sleepless nights caused by his constant, discomforted shifting around, we were emotionally and physically exhausted. While it was a difficult month for all of us to get through, radiation offered Gilligan his only chance as a true cure.

Today, Gilligan has lost all of the fur on his muzzle, and he continues to eat wet food because his mouth hasn’t quite healed, but his energy has come back, and his adoring fans at NC State have remarked about how happy and wiggly he is whenever he’s in their care. While it is frustrating not to know if he’s cured—we just have to wait and see if his cancer comes back—we know that we have done our best by him and are elated that he is in complete remission! Insuring our dogs was the best decision we’ve made as pet parents, followed by testing what looked like harmless swelling in Gilligan’s muzzle. I hope that this helps reassure those who have Embrace that they’ve made a good choice for their pets, and encourages those on the fence to get a policy for their beloved fur kids."

Gilligan's Claim Refund

Claim Details Amount
Actual Vet Bill $8,479.99
Covered Charges $8,479.99
Annual Deductible -$1,000
20% Co-pay -$1,456.01
Total Embrace Reimbursement $6,023.98