Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The bump on my beagle: Histiocytoma, mast cell tumors, fear and loathing

It's a good thing beagles have such soft, touchable ears. This is what I found Sunday.

It's dark red, smooth and round. It's on the edge of her ear.

I took Lulu to the vet Monday, and the vet said she was extremely healthy. But this bump could be malignant, and it needs to be removed.

The estimate: $636, unless I don't get the blood panel and Xrays right away. Includes the surgery and the biopsy.

She told me to look up mast cell tumors -- worst case scenario. (I will not be doing that! I know enough to know I'm scared).

I was numb -- in shock and sticker shock.

I took Lulu to Petco, and bought her treats and some cans of wet food. It was the only thing I could think of.

Then I came home and finished off a bottle of this:

Lulu snuggled with me while I looked up dog health insurance and talked to my friends online.

Then I took a drive and thought and thought.

Malignant. Mast cell tumor. The worst case scenario scares the crap out of me. Lulu's young, there's a chance even if it is malignant, she will not have a huge cancer issue.

Then came other questions: is it really a dangerous one? MUST there be a biopsy? What about histiocytoma? Here's what PetMD said:
  • Small, firm, dome or button-shaped masses on the skin surface
  • Rare autoimmune blistering (dermoepithelial) masses, which may be ulcerated
  • Fast growing, nonpainful, usually solitary
  • Common sites are the head, ear edges, and limbs
  • Occasionally multiple skin nodules or plaques
They're benign. And sometimes they go away.

Do I get a second opinion? Do I take a chance that this will go away? What if I'm wrong?

Lulu, by the way, is completely normal. She stole treats, chased her tail, chased the cats and demanded my attention.

Mom, what is the big deal?
UPDATE: I've made an appt. to get a second opinion. I made it with Mom's vet for her dogs. The appt. is next week.


  1. I would definitely get a second opinion. Titan has a lil bump on right below his anus that I mentioned to the vet. They said to just watch it and if it grows then they could remove or biopsy. It's popped a few times and bled but hasn't grown. A second opinion in your case, imo, is a must. Sending well wishes your way.

  2. Christie, first, I would get a second opinion. Mast cell tumors only account for 20% of lumps on dogs. If the second vet thinks the same thing then the only way to know for sure if it is one is an aspiration (needle) biopsy. That's not at all invasive and if the second vet thinks the same as the first, I would opt for the needle biopsy to determine what type of cells are making up the bump before ANY discussion of surgery.

    Also, as Ma used to say to her patients when she was a nurse, "don't worry until you HAVE to worry". Meaning, stay strong (though it is hard) until confirmed bad news comes along. I said the same thing to Pepper when she had that lump removed and was waiting for the biopsy results. You will make yourself sick otherwise...and that is not good for you or Lulu.
    *Cairn cuddles*

  3. I agree with Bren - get a second opinion. I've never seen a lump like that, but we've had a few other lumps removed from our beagle Kobi. But only because he was already going to be sedated for dental work. Last time we paid just over $300 for the dental cleaning and removal of 2 bumps and one wart. No biopsies were needed, but that price you were given still seems high.

  4. Before I knew any better, Rodrigo had something similar on his paw, except it hurt. I wasn't sure what it was and thought that maybe something got stuck in his paw, because he kept licking at it. It bled so I treated it and bandaged his paw and didn't give it another thought. A week later it was gone.

    Today, I know so much more so I wonder what it was. It's never come back and nothing similar has appeared anywhere else so maybe it was some kind of burr stuck in his paw.

    That being said, I'd recommend a second opinion.

  5. Completely agree on the second opinion.
    Ozzy had a scary looking lump that turned out to be a cyst. We had it removed a year ago for $200 total, including bloodwork, etc. It hasn't come back, his fur grew in and you can't even tell that anything was there.
    I've heard of a few dogs that had mast cell tumors removed and were fine for years after. Good luck!

  6. Hi Christie, I left a comment with my phone but I don't think it worked. For what it's worth I am a veterinarian and have seen many many lumps similar to the one on your Lulu. The vast majority of the time in a young dog, located on an ear, and with that appearance, they are benign cutaneous histiocytomas. Of course there are no guarantees, and the best thing you can do in my opinion is get a fine needle aspirate, as mentioned by Oz. I have never removed a histiocytoma and all of the ones I have seen have spontaneously resolved on their own within a couple of months. I hope that helps, good luck with Lulu and keep us informed

  7. I agree with the others here, next step for me would definitely be a fine needle aspirate where we use a tiny needle to take a small sample of cells from the mass and spray them onto a microscope slide when your pet is awake.

    Odds are on your side that this is a histiocytoma, but given the risk of cancer it's a good idea to make sure.

    In your case I would have them send the microscope slide into the lab to have a pathologist give you an official assessment of what kind of cells they are seeing. Usually that only takes a couple of days. This kind of test can almost always tell you the difference between a Mast Cell Tumor or a Histiocytoma. Both types of masses usually provide good samples for this kind of test.

    Most of the time I can give owners a pretty firm yes or no about a Mast Cell Tumor before they leave the practice, but we usually still get official confirmation from the lab.

    Never say never in medicine, it's still possible that if the results are inconclusive that you may still need a biopsy, but that seems pretty unlikely.

    Best of luck for you and your pooch!

  8. I can't believe I'm just seeing this! I'm so sorry to hear this news, and would ABSOLUTELY recommend a second opinion - even third if you want! Jello and I will be on paw prayer duty for Miss Lulu!

  9. Hugs and good thinking getting a second opinion! Hoping for the great news next time I check in...sending loads of positive vibes your way and Daisy sends lots of crazy hound dog kisses and howls, too!

  10. Hoping your second opinion turns out with better news. Luna and I will be thinking about you and Lulu! So glad that Lulu is still full of energy. Also, that Rosa Regale is delicious.

  11. This is over 3 years since your post. I sure hope all turned out well and your beagle is happy and healthy. My beagle is 11 and we just found out she has a cancerous MST. We are giving her meds from an Oncologist (cancer specialist) and praying to extend the quality and quantity of her time left. I want her to live the longest, fullest life with us, of course. :)


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