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Ask a Vet: What's the best way to monitor the health of a dog with cysts?

December 14, 2009 |  1:26 pm

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health?  Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help!  In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Jane about caring for a dog with (maybe benign, maybe not) cysts.

Vet Jane's question: I adopted an adult dog who is about 6 years old and has some lumps and bumps on her body. She has a what appears to be a cyst on her forehead and also hard lumps near her nipples. Should I get these removed? My vet said to monitor them and if they change or get bigger to give her a call, but what if it's too late by then?

Heather Oxford, DVM:  This sounds like a reasonable, conservative course to minimize unnecessary growth-removal procedures.  Growth removal might sound minor, but it involves general anesthesia and there is always a risk of an adverse event, so waiting until it is warranted is sound advice.  Since at least 50% of lumps and bumps on dogs are benign, or non-cancerous, you might not have to put your pet through surgery.

But if you are concerned, you can request that these be aspirated.  A fine needle aspirate is a minimally invasive and relatively quick test that can be done by your vet.  She will simply insert a needle and syringe into the growths and then place the contents that get sucked out onto microscope slides.  The slides usually then get sent to a laboratory to be examined, and a report gets sent back to your vet within a day or two.

If the slides contained cells that are cancerous or look questionable, your vet can then remove the growths surgically.

To submit your question for Dr. Oxford, just leave a comment on this post and look for her answer in an upcoming installment of Ask a Vet!

About our vet: Dr. Oxford received her bachelor of science degree at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.  She also received a master's of public health degree in epidemiology from Emory University and went on to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. She then went to the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree.  She practices at California Animal Rehabilitation and is also certified in veterinary rehabilitation and acupuncture. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Wade, and German shepherd, Tess.

Photo: A veterinarian examines a sample under a microscope.  Credit: Leslie E. Kossoff / Associated Press

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