Max’s Tumour – Recovery and Going Forward

Following up from part one talking about Max’s tumour, the biggest challenge for us with him was trying to keep the incision spot dry. That’s not an easy thing to do while it’s winter in Edmonton and there’s about 20cm of snow on the ground.

The 12 days following his surgery seemed like 12 months. He couldn’t go for long walks or back to daycare until his stitches were out. While it was amazing to see him return to his normal active self the day after surgery, it definitely meant that he was going to get bored and annoying (to me) very quickly. He also was not a fan of having to go on a leash to go out in the backyard because we needed to prevent him from running into the snowbank to do his business.

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Max and Nurse Freckles

The following Friday after his surgery, I took him back to the vet for a check up and to get his stitches out. I also had not heard anything regarding the results of surgery and if I needed to brace for bad news. Enough to say that those 12 days were filled with anxiety and worry of not knowing.

When the vet tech brought him back after removing his stitches (he had healed exceptionally well), she said the vet wanted to speak with me about his results. I started to sweat and my mind went to a very awful place.

When she sat down and spoke with me, she told me that it was a mast cell tumour and that it was a level 2. Immediately, I thought she was going to tell me he required more surgery and radiation. My head began to spin.

Then, she told me that it was a very low grade level two and that the lab results from the wide margins taken came back clean. The tumour had been removed successfully and he was cancer free. I started to cry. There are no words to describe the ultimate relief I had in that moment. While she said there’s always a chance of it returning, she said that will be very unlikely in his case. I’ve never been so happy from a drive home from the vet in my entire life.

One big factor that I truly believe contributed his tumour being such a low grade and not spreading was because of his diet.

Prior to his surgery, I researched the role that diet plays in mast cells and cancer in dogs. And not shocking, it plays a huge role.

One of the biggest things mast cells feed off of and thrive off of his grains and sugars. That’s why one of the things I found when I looked up different holistic options was eliminating all grains and starchy carbohydrates from his diet. Nutrition for your pets matters, so make sure you know what you are feeding your dogs.

Thankfully, all of my dogs had been transitioned over to a raw diet, so really the biggest thing I did was change up his treat options. Instead of treats with any sort of grain or wheat in them, he strictly gets dehydrated meat such as chicken breast, lamb lungs and trachea, rabbit ears and kangaroo liver. I’ve also started to add in supplements such as turmeric and coconut oil as both has been shown to help reduce inflammation and fight off cancer cells.

In the end, you are not going to be able to prevent things happening to your pets (or yourself). The advice I will give to pet owners out there is check your pets and if you see something that doesn’t look right, do not wait to get it looked at. You never know if a lump is something more than just a lump.

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Finally able to go for a long walk.

Max’s Tumour – Diagnosis and Surgery

Just before Christmas, I was putting on one of Max’s booties when I noticed something on the back of his front right leg. It was a small little flesh coloured bump that looked like┬áthis:

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This is exactly what Max’s bump looked like. Please take your dog to the vet if you ever see anything like this.

At first, I thought it might be a bump from chafing from one of his booties as it was located right above where the top of his booties was.

I knew I had to take Dolly back to the vet to get her paws checked out due to a major allergy flare up, so I also booked Max in to get the bump looked at.

I went in thinking it was maybe just a tiny cyst or pimple on his skin and that they would either drain it or say it was nothing. I was not prepared for what happened.

Right away when our vet saw it, she told me it was likely a mast cell tumour. Upon that, she took a needle and aspirated it, took the sample to the back and had it looked at right away. I was standing in the exam room left kind of stunned and confused at to what I had just been told.

What is a mast cell tumour? Is that cancer? What caused this? He’s been so healthy, how could this happen?

When she came back about 10 minutes later, she broke the news that she had found a mast cell and that she wanted to remove it. She then started to explain there are three different levels of mast cell tumours with level three being the most aggressive and potentially, the most fatal.

The vet suggested that we book him in for surgery to remove the lump the following week on Monday, which was thankfully only three days away. So just as I was booking him for surgery, they took him to the back to take a blood sample to make sure everything was fine prior to performing surgery and making sure there was nothing that could cause an issue with the anesthesia. She also completed a physical exam to specifically check his lymph nodes, they were completely normal meaning the mast cells had not spread. This put my mind at ease a tiny bit. But as mast cells can release histamines and cause an allergic reaction, he was prescribed antihistamines up until the day of the surgery.

When I got bak to the car with Max and Dolly, I was shaking. I cried, I was scared, I almost had a full blown panic attack in the parking lot.

My mind was spinning as I was driving home. When I got home, I sat down and started researching. What causes mast cells? They don’t really know. Are there certain dogs who get them? Yes, breeds like Boxers and Boston Terriers (which Max is part) are more prone to them. What is the survival rate? If caught early and it’s a low grade, high and it can be completely removed through surgery.

When Monday morning rolled around, I woke up early and took Max into the vet (he was not impressed by not getting breakfast that morning). I felt awful leaving him, especially considering he hates the vet and was pulling towards the door as we were waiting.

Dolly and Freckles were so confused when I got him but Max was not with me. Within three hours of dropping him off, the vet called to tell me that surgery went really well and that she was able to get some good margins.

Thankfully, my parents were in town and were staying with us for a few days, so my mom was able to come with with me to pick Max up and most importantly, sit in the back seat with him.

When we was finally brought to us after the tech went over the care instructions for him, he was happy to see us but pretty out of it. My mom wrapped a blanket around him and carried him to the car and we went home.

One of the biggest things we had to do was to not allow his incision spot to get wet for two weeks and to not allow him to lick it, as he could get a serious infection. I knew he would refuse to wear the cone they gave us, so I went and bought him a soft, inflatable cone that made it look like he was on a long haul transatlantic flight (as it looked exactly like a travel pillow).

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Just after we got home. He was out of it and content to hang with my dad.
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His fancy cone of shame.

He was quite hungry when he got home but as they always recommend after surgery, he only got 1/2 of his normal amount of food. The trickiest part was limiting his activity as we have a lot of stairs in our house and he loves to jump on and off our bed and couches. Thankfully, he let my mom carry him around for a couple of days.

Next week, I talk about how diet plays a huge role in mast cell tumours and what changes I made to his (and all of my dog’s) diet to ensure we never have to deal with this or any other cancer scare ever again.