A close check, a close call
Those of you who have dogs, I'm sure, regularly pet them. Pat them on the head, rub their belly. Perhaps give them a good scratching behind the ears.
But let's not forget the importance of a good all-around going over. It just may have saved the life of my 12-year-old Labrador retriever Maddie in the last month.
By all accounts a healthy dog, save for some potential kidney issues (found through vigilant senior blood work), Maddie gets the usual scritches and scratches. It's hard not to when she's parked on the couch next to you. But as she gets older, I'm paying a bit more attention – especially during tick season, which never seemed to go away this winter.
Before her annual checkup last month, I went over her pretty good. She's not the lumpy, fatty lipoma ridden hound that our old Ben is, so if there is a lump there, I'll find it. She came up clear in February and off she went for her checkup. When we found more tartar than desirable on her teeth, a dental cleaning was scheduled (and Mom vowed to brush teeth every night after that which, I may say, is still on track). The night before her surgery, I again went over her; I wasn't looking for anything as much as trying to take her mind off the fact that she wasn't getting anything else to eat for the next 24 or so hours.
The lump startled me, if only because it wasn't there a month ago. The small nodule on her left front leg was not as pliable as the many lipomas I'd found on Ben. I'm certainly not a vet, but it just felt different. Knowing that there is no way to tell from just a cursory exam (especially by an untrained hand), I mentioned it to Steve and asked if they could do a fine needle aspiration and take it off if it looked at all suspicious.
It did and they did.
A week later we're finding that it's a mass cell tumor. What a difference two weeks can make.
Luckily, it was a low-grade Grade 1 tumor and, while it was difficult to get the “textbook” margins on her leg, the vet is not nearly as worried as I was. These things can grow back and if it does, we'll be a bit more aggressive. But for now we'll keep an eye on it, and for any other lumps that pop up. Labs are prone to mass cell tumors; in fact, researchers think there might be a genetic link, and once you've got one, more are possible in other places.
Maddie, of course, doesn't know any better. She doesn't know how close the call was. She only knows that she'll be getting daily massages from now on. She's not leaving the couch anytime soon.