Sat 10th Jan 2015

Pet of the Month – Flo

Meet Flo a gorgeous black lab who is January’s Pet of the Month and a good friend of our ‘on call  vicar’ and one time boss Andy Muckle. We love seeing Flo (probably a little more than she loves seeing us) but fortunately for her, apart from when she’s overindulged on wild mushrooms (which make her salivate and become hyperactive), visits to the vet have been few and far between over the last eight years!

At the end of November however Flo’s owners noticed a lump appear in her groin region, it seemed to appear quite suddenly and was bothering her, causing her to lick at it a lot. Initially some cream was dispensed to reduce the inflammation and  the infection caused by the licking, but although the lump reduced in size it was still very obvious.

We decided to perform a needle biopsy of the lump in an attempt to see what it was. This is a technique which involves putting a needle into the mass and sucking back on a syringe whilst redirecting the needle to collect a few cells. These cells can then be looked at under the microscope. The benefit of this process is huge, it allows us to differentiate between inflammation (which may respond to medication) as opposed to a skin tumour which might require surgical removal. However it also enables us to have an idea what type of skin tumour it might be and so plan the surgery better. Some benign tumours can be removed with narrow margins meaning shorter less invasive surgery, others and particularly  a type of skin mass called a Mast Cell Tumour can be more problematic and require bigger margins. Unfortunately for Flo the results of the biopsy confirmed our worst fear that this was indeed a Mast Cell Tumour. Because we had performed our biopsy we knew that we had to remove 2-3cm of what appeared healthy tissue from around the tumour. The most aggressive cells from a skin tumour are those at the margins, these are attempting to spread to new ground, they fan out like a web into the normal tissue. Failure to remove this affected tissue from the margins means inadvertently selecting the most aggressive tumour cells and then drawing them together when the wound is closed, along the line of the stitches, so you can see why a needle biopsy is so important when it comes to surgical planning.

Flo came in for her surgery which all went according to plan and she was home later that afternoon. Although she was a little sore for a couple of days the wound soon settled down and ten days later the stitches were all removed, everything had healed up nicely. The skin lump was sent away to the lab for further assessment as not all Mast Cell Tumours are equal. Some Mast Cell Tumours are very aggressive and can spread to other sites, notably the liver, spleen and local lymph nodes and these type of tumours often hold a poor prognosis, whereas others are much less aggressive and can be treated successfully with appropriate surgery. For Flo we are relieved to say it was good news, the results confirmed that the Mast Cell Tumour was not aggressive and importantly all the surgical margins were clean and wide. Needless to say Flo’s owners are breathing a big sigh of relief but will be keeping a careful eye out for any new lumps and Flo is now back to doing what she enjoys most – we look forward to seeing her next time the mushrooms are back in season, but hopefully not before!


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