Kerry was brought to see Nicola at Nine Mile Veterinary Hospital with a lump on her lower front leg.

Nicola was able to take biopsies using a very small needle and the lump was diagnosed as a mast cell tumour. Mast cell tumours are seen frequently in dogs. They can appear anywhere. They can be easily diagnosed in our laboratory by looking at the cells down the microscope.

Kerry's owners were advised that Chemotherapy was the best option. Chemotherapy is not as scary as it sounds. The doses we use are lower than that used in human medicine. Animals do not lose their fur and they often don't feel sick! We also give them anti-nausea medication just in case. With the protocol we most commonly use for Lymphoma patients, the average survival time is 8-12 months with 25-30% living over two years! Without treatment, diagnosed patients may die within 4-6 weeks.
These are mast cells. They contain small purple granules, which distinguishes them from other cells.

Mast cells can spread to local lymph nodes and to other organs in the body although more often we are able to remove the tumour before this occurs. Kerry had x-rays taken of her abdomen and chest, and ultrasound was performed on her liver and spleen to look for any evidence that the tumour had spread. The tests were all clear.

Mast cell tumours require considerable planning prior to surgery. They need to be removed with at least 2cm of normal tissue surrounding the lump. If they are not, the tumour will almost certainly come back. For a tumour on the lower limb, this presents a problem as there is very little spare skin. In order to overcome this problem, Kerry had a free skin graft. After removing the tumour, a small area of skin was removed from her side. This was used to replace the lost skin on her leg. Holes were cut into the graft so that fluid could drain and would not build up under the graft. The graft was applied over the wound and held in place by skin staples. The leg was bandaged in order to prevent movement of the graft whilst it was healing.
This picture was taken following surgery.

14 days later, following several bandage changes, Kerry's skin staples were removed. The skin graft had taken and looked very healthy and the new hair was starting to grow. She was slowly allowed to start exercising and return to her normal life.

More than two years later Kerry is still enjoying life to the full. The tumour has not returned and the new skin does its job very well.

If you find any abnormal lump on your pet it is always best to get it checked out. One third of all skin lumps found on dogs are malignant and two thirds are benign. In cats two thirds are malignant. It is always better to make a diagnosis sooner rather than later.

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Nine Mile Veterinary Practice is part of CVS (UK) Limited, a company which owns over 200 veterinary practices within the UK. Company Registration Number 03777473 Registered Office: CVS House Vinces Road Diss Norfolk IP22 4AY.