We interrupt our regularly scheduled crazy ass renovation update to bring you news of something that has both of us really freaked out. Both Mel and Lulu are having surgery this Friday to remove mast cell tumors. 

Last week, on two separate days, we discovered that both of our four legged crew members have a random lump on their furry little bodies. The first discovery came while petting Mel, when I felt a pea sized lump near the tip of his tail. Upon further inspection, it seemed to be a scabbed bump, but it was not obvious where it came from. Being a properly cautious and paranoid pet parent (especially after everything we went through with Oliver's cancer battle)  I made an appointment to bring him into the vet for an analysis ASAP.

Mel's a resilient character, and he's been through a few health scares in his nearly 12 years, so we were hopeful our vet would just tell us it was nothing and send us on our merry way. I mean, we'd rather be err on the side of caution, and drag everyone in for an unnecessary check up.

The night before Mel's appointment while doing our nightly Lulu wrestling match on our bed, a ritual that includes lots of tummy scratches, I noticed a lump on the right side of Lulu's belly. My initial thought was "mosquito bite." I know this sounds a little odd, but at the risk of TMI, she did get a bite right on her b-hole a few weeks ago (this made her completely miserable for a few days and included lots of not-very-ladylike licking, I can assure you). But again, rather than leave a lump I was relatively sure was some sort of a bug bite, just to be sure, we added Lulu to the list of veterinary patients for our trip to Alexandria Animal Hospital.

During the appointment, our vet aspirated each of their lumps. In essence, stuck a needle into them, and sucked out some of the matter inside for further testing. After going over the litany of possibilities at the appointment, and a bit of an anxious weekend of waiting on lab results (filling your weekend with DIY does seem to help the time pass more quickly without as much worry), we got the surprising and troubling call mid way through the day yesterday. The news took the wind right out of our sails -- both Mel and Lulu have mast cell tumors that will require surgery for removal.

Did we somehow jinx ourselves by talking about Ollie's fourth birthday last week? Had we messed up on some other aspect of pet parenting? You can't help but think about what role, if any, you have possibly played in your pet's troubling issues, no matter how ridiculous this could be. The likelihood is simply that both of their ailments are random coincidence, and not something related to one another, but we can't help but wonder.

Both Lulu and Mel are scheduled for surgery this Friday. Our poor little Scottish Fold will have the end of his adorable striped raccoon tail amputated to hopefully remove the whole thing without issue. His tail is such an identifying characteristic to his personality. 

When he stands there looking at you, begging for tuna or cheese, he flicks his tail or holds it in a position that makes what looks like a question mark. It will be different without that bit at the end, but as long as he's still around, sans a bit of tail, I'm happy. I joked with our vet we'll have to start calling him "Stubby".

Though Mel's surgery should hopefully allow him to recover rather quickly, Lulu's is going to be a bit more difficult. Given the location of the lump she will need to have a rather long incision on her side, extending form her belly towards her back. She tends to be a licker when she has an itch, so we're going to be spending a lot of time keeping her from digging at her stitches and scar. Perhaps a t-shirt will do it, but in the worst case she'll need one of those lamp shades, more formally known as an Elizabethan collar. Given her general clumsiness, I can't see one of those collars working well, so hopefully the t-shirt will be a viable alternative.

The plan is then to help them recover while the two tumors are biopsied. If the biopsies reveal a lower grade tumor, we'll be in the clear. But if the biopsies show a more mature tumor that has the risk of metastasis, we'll need to look at the next options for further treatment with an oncologist.

I'm very hopeful all will go well, but I know from past experience, we can't take anything for granted. So we ask that you send your positive thoughts our way and hopefully we'll be able to report good news back on the status of our four legged crew next week. One thing is for sure, this weekend will probably be a lot less DIY and a lot more pet care, but at least we'll have each other to lean on.

Have any of you had to deal with mast cell tumors appearing on your pets? Any ideas, issues, concerns, tricks to speed recovery? As always, we'd appreciate some insight from your experiences, as it is often very helpful in dealing with our own.

Comments 48


8/28/2012 at 10:30 AM
Oh no. I'm so sorry to hear this. Poor Lulu and Mel. :-(

We've only lost pets to unintentional suicide and quite literally, gluttony, so I have no particularly smart or helpful insights. Just a lot of virtual pet hugs from this crazy cat lady to send your way.
Thanks Becky. Your comment made me smile! (There is no shame in being a crazy cat lady, BTW. Just ask my MIL.)
8/28/2012 at 10:35 AM
Poor Mel and Lulu :( Poor you guys having to deal with two recovering animals at the same time! Just kidding..I hope your patients cooperate :)

At about 5 months old, my frenchie fractured his leg jumping down the outside stairs. 6 weeks recovery. Stitches, cast, e-collar, everything. It was horrible, he was a rambunctious puppy that just wanted to run the whole time, which made everything worse. And then a few months later we had to do it all over again when he had surgery to remove the pins/wire that help the fracture in place, which were then slipping into his muscle causing pain.

Anyway if Lulu is remotely interested in the stitches, you're gonna have to stop that pronto. Licking can cause infection and cause the stitches to split. Based on my experiences, dogs HATE the e-collar. I highly recommend the ComfyCone, it is a soft and can be folded during eating. Depending on the injury though, some smart dogs find a way to fold this cone and get around it, so just a heads up.

However, then we found this thing called the BiteNot collar which we used on his second surgery which was a million times better than anything. Lulu will look like she had a skiing accident because the thing is like a neckbrace. It's hysterical looking BUT unlike the ComfyCone/e-collar, they have full range of sight and can eat and drink normally. They can even groom their paws and scratch their face, relatively speaking. But it will prevent her from hunching her head down or reaching for her back/stomach areas. This is what worked best for us in the end because our dog's injury was on his back leg and this collar completely prevented him from reaching it.

There are also donut and inflatable collars which work in the same way as the BiteNot collar. I've never used them but they probably can work just as well.

You're vet will prob give them pain medicine to use a few days after the surgery. This will probably be the best thing you have to keep them from moving too much (to avoid rupturing the stitches) and not interested in what happened to them.

My dog was really out of it after surgery and took a few days for him to want to eat, so that might happen to. Don't fret. I would made rice, broth, and meatballs for him as a treat.

Good luck to you guys, sorry for the bad news. Hoping its very low level. You guys are awesome pet parents. Whew that was long, sorry!
8/28/2012 at 10:37 AM
Oh also, I think they made the BiteNot collar for cats too. Mel and Lulu can look ridiculous together :)
Thank you so much, Kelly, for all your helpful insight and encouragement. Hopefully we'll get our kitchen back in working order tomorrow so I can precook rice/bland meals for the two of them. Great suggestion!

We have a little experience with the Comfy Cone, but Mel was able to outsmart it several years ago and in fact managed to crawl through it and get it stuck around his belly.

I think we're in for a roller coaster of emotions, but trying to look on the bright side, we've had a lot more medical experience now having been through Oliver's chemo experience. It's still going to be a really tough weekend though.
I just found the BiteNot collar for dogs and cats. You're right, they could really make a fashion statement together. :-)
Teri Lynn
8/28/2012 at 10:55 AM
It's always stressful when your pet needs medical attention, especially since they don't understand. It's good that you have a caring vet that you are comfortable with, that is so important. Sending good vibes your way.
Thanks Teri Lynn!
Jill PP
8/28/2012 at 10:56 AM
Oh no - I'm so sorry and sending good, healthy/recovery vibes to both Lulu and Mel!

We recently used one of the donut/inflatable collars for Isis after she was fixed and it worked really well. Our little baby figured out how to squeeze her plastic cone of shame between her two front paws so that she could bite it and rip it apart, rendering it useless! The donut collar worked like a charm afterwards - we found it at a local PetCo.

Good luck guys - hoping for the best for Lulu and Mel.
8/28/2012 at 11:09 AM
Yep, I would recommend an inflatable collar, because it also saves corners and furniture from being damaged by the plastic cones.
Thanks you guys. I think a e-collar alternative like the inflatable one you mentioned is the best way to go. Mel figured out how to get out of the flexible one, so we're happy to go in another direction. I never thought about damage to furniture or walls, but that's one more reason not to use the hard cones. Thanks!
Jill PP
8/28/2012 at 12:22 PM
There's a chance that the inflatable one we got for Isis may fit Mel, and we'd be happy to let you borrow it - just let us know :)
Jill PP
8/28/2012 at 12:24 PM
haha - sorry, I meant Lulu!
8/28/2012 at 11:01 AM
So sorry!! Thinking of you guys!
Thanks, Melissa!
8/28/2012 at 11:04 AM
Oh you guys, I'm so sad to hear this. I have no doubt that everything will turn out fine, but I know it's really scary right now.

Have you seen the blow up lamp shade alternatives that Kong makes? One of those might be more comfortable for Lulu...

Thanks so much, Ashley. Yes, definitely really scary right now. I haven't seen the Kong collars, thanks for the link! I'm glad we have a few days to get totally ready for our patients. :-)
8/28/2012 at 11:18 AM
Oh, no! I'm so sorry. Please know that I will be thinking of you on Friday.

Since you asked for suggestions, I have two. If you need a referreal for an oncologist, I love Sarah Sheafor at Southpaws in Fairfax. She has seen us through our Maggie's cancer (3 years cancer free as of now ... woo hoo!) and now she is treating our Daniel for t-cell lymphoma.

As for options to keep Lulu away from her incision, I have seen wide padded collars (a lot like a human neck brace) that limits the dog's movement and keeps them from worrying their booboos. Here's a link to an article in Whole Dog Journal with some options.\

sending cyber hugs to all of you.
Thanks so much for the well wishes and recommendations, Connie. I've heard great things about South Paws, but let's hope it doesn't come to that. :*-( Hugs to Maggie and Daniel.
8/28/2012 at 11:19 AM
Thankfully we have not had the cancer scare with our dog Teeva, but I can relate the the partial tail amputation. Long story short, her tail got caught in the door as it was closing and broke the tiny bones at the tip. 4 inches shorter, and 3 weeks of TLC and "the dreaded cone", Teeva is a happy girl again and still chases her tail. Though I doubt that Mel has that inclination! Good luck to both your fur babies- I'm sending good energy your way!
Thanks so much, Marcelena. Sorry to hear about Teeva's accident, but glad she's doing better now. Our vet says Mel will be really grumpy the first few days, so we're hopeful with a little extra TLC, he'll heal up nicely and no other bumps will be found.
8/28/2012 at 11:35 AM
Aww, so sorry to hear about your furry friends! My kitties will be sending good vibes their way this week :-) My friend's dog had surgery a while back and they used a Thundershirt afterwards and it helped a lot. They also got mens button down shirts from Goodwill (sleeves cut off) for her to wear that covered the wound loosely so she wouldn't chew it. These suggestions might not work for you guys, but they're worth mentioning. Take care, Mel and Lulu!
Karin K
8/28/2012 at 12:01 PM
I was going to recommend the bite-not collar idea as well - the last time I needed such a thing, it worked MUCH better than the e-collar. It is just a little inflatable collar that does indeed make the pup or cat look like a whiplash victim. They can still eat and drink...much better! Good luck with both of them...I ignored a pea sized lump on my pup, and then discovered a huge mass in his abdomen that was way too far gone...I wonder if the lump had anything to do with that? Oy...something else to hate myself for. I will be hoping for the absolute best outcome for you both and for them!
Thanks for the recommendation, Karin, and I'm so sorry to hear about your pup. :-(
8/28/2012 at 1:06 PM
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this in both of your pets at the same time! It's hard not to look at a coincidence and see a pattern, isn't it? I can't imagine pets of two separate species would have similar tumors caused by anything you've done, though.

I have (knock on wood) not yet had a pet with cancer, but I remember what it was like to have a pet who was sick, and it's so hard. I remember how scary it is to wait for test results, and to wonder about the "what ifs."

I'll keep you, Mel and Lulu in my thoughts. I hope everything goes smoothly and you get good news from the vet!
Thank you. I appreciate you thinking of us!
laura h
8/28/2012 at 1:26 PM
Sending warm thoughts to the pets - they are lucky to have thoughtful parents and I am sure they will back up and running in no time. Adding another vote for the inflatable collar - When my dog got chomped by a mountain lion and had a shattered leg we went we a boo boo loon - www.boobooloon.com/

They are much more durable than you would think and saved my legs and my walls from much trauma and amazingly was worn for weeks and didn't pop.
Thanks for the suggestion, Laura. A mountain lion?? Oh my goodness, that's terrible! Where do you live?
laura h
8/31/2012 at 11:50 AM
Dallas - nowhere near mountains! It was a freak thing, we were playing in the lake and Minnie wandered off down the hiking trail. About 10 mins later a lady had been attacked and Minnie's leg was in 5 pieces. They never found the animal and the lady had to get about 30 stitches and go through rabies treatment and Minnie had to stay in quarantine for 2 weeks even though she was vaccinated. Her leg is completely healed now, and she is much less likely to wander off. Sending good vibes your way today!
Threadbndr (Karla)
8/28/2012 at 2:22 PM
I'm so sorry to hear about your vet trials and tribulations.

The only surgery Miss Molly has needed has been getting fixed and her teeth cleaned.

I have had good luck with post op tee shirts. I cut an appropiately sized tshirt down and put a tight ribbing around the bottom so that the canine patient couldn't nudge it up to get at belly stitches.

Sending good, healing thoughts your direction.
Thanks Karla. I think Lulu might be most comfortable with the tee shirt approach, as for some reason, she LOVES wearing clothes. It's nearly impossible to get her out of her pink Snuggie. (I'm totally serious.) :-) We'll have to search through our closets to see if there's something that might work.
Kelly C.
8/28/2012 at 4:39 PM
So scary! I'm sending up prayers for your furbabies' total healing! And, for mom & dad to feel at peace during this time. I can't imagine how scared you both must be feeling.
Thanks, Kelly. We really appreciate it!
8/28/2012 at 6:21 PM
So sorry you have to put your furr babies through this : ( My babies have eye infections and my heart breaks in a million pieces when I see them in that state and I don't think it even hurts them!!! Thinking of you and your babies!! Hoping the results come out great!
Thanks so much, Tiff. We hope so too.
8/28/2012 at 8:02 PM
Sending lots of love to all four of you, and hoping that the Friday operations will be the last of the vet you'll see for quite some time (other than removing stitches)!

One cat had a diseased tail and the vet amputated it down to a less than 2" nub -- and yes, I started calling her Stubby! Even with just that little piece left, her tail was still quite expressive.

It's been awhile since one of our dogs needed to be confined from licking an incision and all we knew about at the time was the e-collar. Although surgery is a serious matter, honestly she was so comical with her cone head that it broke some of the tension. She's a black pug and reminds me a bit of Lulu, but decidedly less mellow . . . .
Thank you, and thanks for the encouragement about Mel's tail. We're trying to stay light about everything, and have joked that instead of calling him Mr. Question Mark, we'll have to call him Mr. Exclamation Point. :-) And Stubby too of course.

Your pug sounds darling. As you know, I have a soft spot for pugs/pug mixes.
Tracy M
8/28/2012 at 10:42 PM
Just wanted to wish you and the furkids well - we went through this with our whippet last year. Thought it was a bug bite, but it got bigger instead of smaller, just above his shoulder blade - looked like he had a third shoulder. They tested and said it was probably cancer. Our doc took the mass and wide margins, so poor Asher had about 12" of stitches down his back and side. Good news was, once it was out and tested - it was nothing. Still no idea what caused it. Again, good luck before, during, and after - and let us know how they are! :)
Thanks for the words of encouragement, Tracy. I'm so glad to hear Asher is doing well and aside from the surgery, it was nothing serious.

I love whippets, they're so sweet. If we ever get one, I've told Alex I'd name him or her Devo. You probably hear that all the time though... :-)
8/29/2012 at 6:29 PM
Thoughts and prayers to the Old Town Home crew for successful surgeries and speedy recoveries for Mel and Lulu and good news for mom and dad!
Thanks, Phyllis! :-)
8/29/2012 at 9:43 PM
Wendy and Alex,

I am thinking of you both as you face the stress of these surgeries! I know how you feel as pets truly do become as much a part of the family as people! I look forward to your updates on how both patients are doing.

Thoughts and prayers to you.

Thanks, Karen. We really appreciate it, and of course will keep everyone updated.
8/30/2012 at 1:59 PM
Oh goodness - a double whammy. Will be sending good thoughts your way that this will just be a little blip. Hang in there.

Is it me, or does Mel look like Maru, the goofy youtube star?

My dog never needed a collar as she wasn't a licker, but after just seeing this photo yesterday, the neck wrap might be the way to go. lol myoldcountryhouse.blogspot.com/2012/06/dog-cones-to-rescue.html

of my dear little ones passed a few months ago back-to-back. Jack (beloved cat of 12 yrs) was mauled by neighbor dogs and Tasha (bff dog of 19 yrs) had all kinds of bizarre illnesses/etc going on and was her little trooper self through it all. So I get it. My heart is still shattered.

Hi Michele. I loved your adorable photo of Charlie, and the amazing story about the "thunder."

I'm so sorry to hear aboutr Jack and Tasha. We totally understand the heartbreak. :-(
Wade Moore
9/11/2012 at 6:18 PM
Thoughts with your adorable friends!
Susan Aster Sawyer
9/11/2012 at 6:18 PM
Prayers going up for Mel and LuLu from the Sawyer Clan
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