For some time Kero has had a lump on her neck. It had been presenting as a sebaceous cyst, so our vet was just watching it. The theory was that at some point it would either recede, or get very big and need to be removed, or perhaps it would just stay as it was forever.
Last week I was out of town. While I was gone the skin over the lump got pierced and tore open. It's not clear if that was the result of rubbing by her collar, or fighting or playing with other dogs, or something else. In any case, the skin got torn and then infected. I brought her in to the vet yesterday to look at the injury. I had imagined that it was going to require a few stitches and some antibiotics. However, with the skin open the vet was able to see that it wasn't a cyst, but rather a tumor. It was impossible to tell how far the tumor extended into her neck, and cancer was a real possibility.
This morning I took her back in for surgery. Since she was going to be under anyway I also arranged to have three warts removed from one of her hind legs and some tarter was to be scraped from her molars. There was also an odd piercing on her other rear leg that I wanted inspected. In addition because of the strange weather we have been having, Kero hasn't done her usual spring shed (aka "blowing her coat.") She had developed quite a crop of dreadlocks on her belly, so I asked them to do a thorough exam of her stomach hair to make sure there weren't any "foxtails" hiding in there. [Foxtails are the seeds of one of several grasses, notably Hordeum murinum, that get caught in animal's fur as part of their mechanism for dispersal. Unfortunately, the fur of many dogs captures the foxtails which can then pierce the skin and enter their body, potentially causing significant damage and even death. They also often get lodged in pets' noses, ears, and throats. Kero has had all of these happen to her. A very nasty business.]
The surgery went well, but it was lengthy and extensive. The tumor turns out to have been relatively small. The surgeon did not need to damage any of Kero's neck muscles in the removal. Also, he felt that it was very unlikely to be cancerous based on its location and appearance. Still, it will be several days before we get the results of the biopsy. The scraping of her molars and removal of the warts were no problem. However, upon examining her belly, they found numerous foxtails in her fur. They decided to shave her belly which revealed 6 locations where foxtails had embedded under her skin. They removed all 6 and inspected her remaining fur and orifices for foxtails. They got all the ones they could find, but there is no guarantee that they found them all. The mark on her other hind leg is a problem. It appears to be a foxtail entry site but they weren't able to find the foxtail. Its clear that Kero had been chewing on the wound, so we can only hope that she got it out herself.
Kero is now home and resting with a belly full of pain killers, antibiotics, and dinner. She will be wearing the "cone of shame" for at least a week, which means she can't go through her dog-door and I will have to walk her whenever she wants to go out. I have no problem doing that - I am her dad after all. The only problem is that for her entire life she has had access to a dog-door, so has never learned to "ask" to go out. On the rare occasions that we have been someplace that she didn't have free access to the outside, I have found her sitting quietly near a door looking pitiful when she wants to go out. No barking. No coming to get me. No fidgeting. Just a sad and patient waiting. She is a good girl.
--Postscript - 6/17/11 --
I just heard from the vet. The tumor was NOT cancer. It is a “tricoblastoma,” which, according to Wikipedia “...are a cutaneous condition characterized by benign neoplasms of follicular germinative cells.”
I don’t know what that means, but I like the word “benign” in there.