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Dog Forums community,

I wanted to take a quick minute to just warn you all of the danger of Mast Cell cancer in dogs and share our terrible experience. This past summer was the most heartbreaking and traumatizing few weeks of our lives, as we lost our ACD, who had only just turned 7 years old, to ultra aggressive mast cell cancer. It breaks my heart to even see my username.

To those unfamiliar, mast cell cancer is a highly aggressive form of cancer in dogs that is largely tied to the histamine production in your dog. Veterinarians do not know what specifically causes it, but they do know that it is tied to the histamine allergic response. it has a tendency to form on the inner thigh, leg, groin or foreleg "armpit" area and is characterized by hard lumps and redness on the skin and surrounding areas of the tumor.

I have spent the past few months researching this horror, and based on what I've seen and collected from textbooks, articles, blogs and direct conversations with veterinarians throughout the country, it would seem that dogs who are prone to severe allergies have a much higher chance of developing mast cell cancer. In our case, our ACD dealt with severe ear allergies her entire life, which came to a head over the past 18 months, worsening to a point we had never seen before.

Lesson to be learned: DON'T IGNORE LUMPS.

I will forever blame myself for the death of my dog. I fully believe that it is my fault, that I did not act in enough time, and that I waited too long. I have to live with this knowledge and it is killing me every day. She died in June, and several times a week, all these months later, I still grieve.

It started out with what I thought was a sebaceous cyst. So common...and every dog I ever had in my life up until this point had developed sebaceous cysts at one point or another, usually at about the age our ACD was. I paid it no mind. It was small...big enough to be noticed, but small compared to the average sebaceous cyst most of my dogs in the past have had...it was barely the size of a golf ball.

When I noticed it I examined it...it was hard but had some give, and she didn't seem to mind it. Her eating habits were normal, activity level was normal and she seemed just fine.

4 days after I noticed the golf ball, it had swollen to the size of a grapefruit.

I rushed her to the vet and a sample was taken. The vet told me that there was a mass at the bottom of the fluid pocket. It was small, but it was there. She biopsied it, and 48 hours later I received a call at work that resulted in me having to shut the door to my office and bury my face in my hands so I could cry it out. I was told it was definitely cancerous and that I would need to see a specialist right away, but it was an especially aggressive type of cancer.

We took her to the specialist a few days later where a small procedure was performed. they completely drained the fluid pocket and took a large sample of the tumor. It came back as stage 2 mast cell cancer with evidence of metastasis. We had her in for surgery 2 days later, where it was discovered that there was another tumor in her groin we hadn't even seen or felt. That was a stage 2 tumor. It was completely removed. We discovered during the surgery that the original tumor was stage 3, and could not be completely removed.

She spent 8 days recovering in the hospital. For the first 3 days, we were told that the drainage from the operation site was "good" because it was "productive." By day four, we were told that the continued draining was "not good" because it should have stopped by that point.

We had her home a few days later. I took her to an oncologist at the vet, who proceeded to tell me that based on results, the tumor was stage 3 metastasized which is the equivalent of advanced stage 4 in a human. There was no evidence of spread anywhere else in the body, which was good, but it showed aggressive growth around the area that it was based in. The oncologist offered to treat her but told us it would likely not produce results. The best option we were given was amputation. I declined, thinking that if the cancer already spread, then there could have been a fragment they missed, and we would put our dog through torture for nothing. We discussed radiation and chemo and were going to return to consult in another week.

Desperate, I turned to homeopathic remedies after speaking with a veterinarian in North Carolina who had specialized in treating mast cell with homeopathic remedies showing outstanding results. Barely another week went by however, and we returned home from a day out to find the dogs' room covered in blood. The tumor aggressively returned, swelled and burst. I rushed her to the hospital, where they told me exactly what I was expecting - we had to put her down. I brought her back home to say goodbye and will never forget the way my 5 year old daughter's face shattered at the news. It haunts me still.

We said goodbye that night. My wife and I brought her back to the hospital as my parents came to stay with our daughter. We held her in our arms (after giving her a last meal - Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, courtesy of Wendy's) as the vet put her down. I don't remember how the time passed but we were in there for almost 45 minutes after, just crying over our poor baby. Five months later and my heart is a crater still.

As I said...I blame myself. I should've taken her in the moment I saw the initial tumor. Would the 4 days have made a difference? Was it already growing aggressively and out of sight? Maybe, but I will always blame myself for her death. Not even 7 years old. She turned 7 a week before she succumbed to the cancer. My wife still laments that she never got to make her the annual dinner we always give her on her birthday - roast beef (not a whole haunch, just a few slices).

Don't be a fool like me. DON'T IGNORE LUMPS. If your dog is allergy prone, get it screened regularly. Every vet I spoke to that specialized in oncology/cancer/surgery told me the same thing - dogs with severe allergies tend to get mast cell cancer at higher rates than those dogs that do not...and they still do not know why.

Our other dog, a beagle, has more than filled the void in our hearts. She was heartbroken for several days after we lost our ACD...I'll never forget the way she jumped up to smell the bloody blanket we brought home from the vet, and then slowly walked away and laid in a corner for over 2 days. She changed significantly in that time and has been more affectionate than ever (she's practically a cat the way she climbs all over us).

Just wanted to share. The warning signs are very few...the vet insists there was nothing I could've done, that I couldn't possibly have known and that the tumor had probably been growing undetected for months...but I will always, always blame myself for this.
 

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Thank you for sharing your story, and I'm sorry for your loss.

I think you're being very hard on yourself. A small lump with no other indications that there is anything amiss is something I think just about everyone on this forum would ignore, at least initially. Even if any of us decided to have a sudden lump looked at, making a non-emergency vet appointment would result in most of us waiting at least a few weeks to have it checked out. And I think a vast majority of the time, it's because small lumps are pretty common and turn out to be completely benign.

Unfortunately it sounds like the aggressiveness of your dog's cancer left you with very few options, and I don't think you made a single decision that would have changed that fact.

Thanks for sharing your story, especially for those readers who have dogs who may suffer from allergies and who are at a higher risk for this type of cancer. And again, I'm so sorry for your loss. I have also lost a very young dog to an aggressive form of cancer (osteosarcoma) and even after two years, I still often cry about Loki's fate. And, similar to you, I hold myself partially to blame for Loki's situation, because I altered him before his growth plates were closed and increased the risk of him developing bone cancer by a significant percentage in doing so.

As a side note, there are quite a few surveys and studies done that indicate early altering can increase the risk of early age diagnosis of mast cell cancer. I know about them because of my research into early altering increasing the risk of osteosarcoma, which I did after Loki passed. Just mentioning this so people can take it into consideration when they decide at what age to s/n their companions.

Links:

*Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24432963

“Dogs gonadectomized at ≤ 6 months, between 7 and 12 months, or at > 12 months of age had significantly increased odds of developing mast cell cancer, lymphoma, all other cancers, all cancers combined, and fear of storms, compared with the odds for sexually intact dogs. Females gonadectomized at ≤ 12 months of age and males and females gonadectomized at > 12 months of age had significantly increased odds of developing hemangiosarcoma, compared with the odds for sexually intact dogs. Dogs gonadectomized at ≤ 6 months of age had significantly increased odds of developing a behavioral disorder. The younger the age at gonadectomy, the earlier the mean age at diagnosis of mast cell cancer, cancers other than mast cell, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, all cancers combined, a behavioral disorder, or fear of storms.”

*Non - Reproductive Long - Term Health Complications of Gonad Removal in Dogs as Well as Possible Causal Relationships with Post - Gonadectomy Elevated Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Concentrations
http://crescopublications.org/pdf/JEAH/JEAH-1-002.pdf

“Canine gonadectomy increases the risk of several non-reproductive long-term disorders caused by extremely high LH including obesity, urinary incontinence, urinary calculi, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament rupture, aggressive and fearful behavior, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, prostate adenocarcinoma, transitional cell adenocarcinoma, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, and mastocytoma.”
 

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Thank you, Tinksdad, for sharing your story. I've very sorry for your loss. And thanks, Hiraeth, for the links. My own dog suffers from allergies, and he was altered at 5 months old (not my choice, the rescue I adopted him from did it). It will definitely make me more aware in the future of changes in my dog's body now that I know his chances of having cancer are significantly increased.

I think you're being too hard on yourself. They are dogs, and they can't tell us what's wrong, and even if they feel pain they may not show us. It seems that when they start to show symptoms, there is little we can do, anyway. You did everything you could for her.
 

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Agree with everyone above. But I understand why you feel the way you feel. My heart broke for you as I was reading this post. I have no advice or words of wisdom but just sending love and empathy. I'm so sorry you had to experience such a great loss of a younger dog. Heartbreaking. <3
 

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I'm so sorry for your loss. I think everyone here knows how hard it is to lose a beloved companion.

Try not to be so hard on yourself. Like Hiraeth said, most of us here would not rush our dogs to the vet over a small lump. It sounds like you did everything you could once you understood what was going on.

I'm sure we all have regrets, things we did with our previous pets that we'd go back and change if we could. For example, if I'd known better, I probably could have prolonged my last dog's life by not neutering him so early, not teaching him to jump over obstacles before he reached maturity and his growth plates closed, and feeding him a better diet. All we can do is remember that we did the best we knew to at the time and that our dogs were loved.
 

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Thank you everyone for the kind words. I appreciate the sympathy and even though I just cannot stop blaming myself, I do take solace in the fact that even though it wasn't enough, I did everything I could for her.
 

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Thank you for sharing your pain. I too had a tricolor Aussie mix that I ran to the vet every time she had any signs of "not being right." She got a small cauliflowered wart on her front paw toe. I asked the vet and he said to keep my eye on it for changes. Well in no time at all the thing grew to the size of a ping pong ball and turned horribly black. Well, by then it was too late. They couldn't get a clean margin and so it spread alll through her bones. Her lameness wasn't arthritis at all, when they x rayed her it was like cob webs where bone marrow used to be. That was in 2012 and then the other 3 dogs went over 2 years time. You never get over it. Just last night I had to get out of bed because she was on my mind, "what I should have, could have, done.

I only can tell you what I try to keep telling myself that I heard Dr. Phil say to parents that lost a child. They only die once, don't relive the death over and over. Rejoice in the wonderful life you gave that child/dog that he might never have known had it not been for you. Rejoice in the time you had to enjoy, though short. None of us are guaranteed anything in this life.

My Emma is with me now and was diagnosed with Lymphoma last November. We chose palatial care for her. I have been to 3 vets to get the best time with her we could. She is on all kinds of natural herbs, Chinese herbs, probiotics and mushrooms in tablets that she loves. The holistic vet was 6 hours drive round trip and I have found most of what she gave me on Amazon but will have to go back for the Chinese herbs. From now on I am going to look for dogs that have not been spayed yet. I have a good fenced yard so it will be ok for me if they go in heat.

I wish you well and keep talking to your dog, they can hear us in heaven.
 

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Thank you so much for sharing your story and I'm so sorry for your loss. My pup Rambo had been diagnosed with metastatic mast cell tumors that were both aggressive and incurable. He had a new mast cell growth at the scar where a tumor had just been removed above her upper left canine tooth.
 

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I will pray your Rambo and you have the best time together, pain free. Take a lock of his fur, his collar and dog bowl and a picture of the 2 of you together. You will cherish the memory forever of having such a great gift in your life, as short as it was. This is where we have to be strong for the pet's sake. I pray that Rambo lives the rest of his time without pain, and you enjoy the time left. God bless you for being such a caring soul.
 
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