You can, and should, read Bean’s story below. Here’s the most important pieces that I learned from our experience with her Mast Cell Tumor.
Breath! I know this is a difficult diagnosis. It will all be okay, but you can only help your dog if you’re in the right mental state. Take the moment to collect yourself, do some deep breathing, and giving your dog lots of kisses.
Touch is important. Every day, touch your dog, look at their bellies, between their toes, near their tails, be aware of what’s normal and it will help you to notice a change.
Listen to your gut. If something looks off, it probably is. Don’t wait. Get it checked out as soon as you have a chance.
Have an emergency fund. I’m not here to tell you what makes sense for you, you have to make that call. We had pet insurance, but stopped and wound up putting the same $60 a month into a separate emergency account in our credit union.
ASK QUESTIONS! Don’t do a google search and listen to the first scary thing you see. Your veterinarian spent over 8 years in college learning about this. They are the experts. I know, for a fact, that they hate when a conversation starts with “I read on the internet that…”
Listen to instructions. If they say, don’t feed after midnight, then your vet doesn’t want the dog to turn into a gremlin. If they say to leave the cover on the incision, don’t take it off.
Continue to ask questions if you’re still unsure of anything. This may be your first time dealing with this scenario, but it’s not the first time your veterinarian has.
Find a support system. There are groups online, friends on Facebook, and possibly folks you can connect with through the veterinarian’s office, that have experienced something like what you’re going through. They would probably love a chance to share with you their insight if given the opportunity.
“Um, Bill, do you feel this lump on Bean?” I asked one morning before work two years ago. It was hard to the touch, about the size of a pea, and was on Bean’s side near her shoulder. “Yeah, I just noticed that too, let’s keep an eye on that.”
So we did. I kept an eye on it, wondering if it could be a scratch that had gotten inflamed, or some other ailment that would mend itself. After two weeks of the lump not getting any smaller, we knew it was time to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian.
This post contains an Amazon Affiliate Link for a Surgi Snuggly should you need/want one for your pet to prepare for an upcoming surgery (not all veterinarian's have them and this is an alternative to the cone of shame). If you click the link and make a purchase I receive a small commission.
We brought her in and a needle aspiration showed some questionable cells that led our vet to believe that it was likely a Mast Cell Tumor. We also learned through that conversation, that it actually is much more common than I had expected for dogs to get a Mast Cell Tumor, especially certain breeds. We talked about finances, gave Bean a kiss and lots of treats, and scheduled a surgery which happened to fall on St. Patrick’s Day. Considering zero of us are Irish, it didn’t really mean much to us, and poor Bean needed medical attention as quickly as possible.
None of us really slept the night before her surgery. We snuggled with Bean, and she could sense something was off, so she shimmied even closer to us. The “drop off” at the vet’s office involved some tears (to be read as, I was bawling in the parking lot). We were assured that she would be fine by the helpful staff, and I left her in their capable hands.
I was a wreck waiting for the call to let me know how the procedure went. I was at work, but my mind was with her as I checked and rechecked my phone for a missed call. Finally, I got the call saying she was out of surgery and recovering. I couldn’t wait to swoop her up and take care of her at home.
Her sad sad Bean face when I picked her up absolutely killed me. She looked at me as if to say “why did this happen to me?” I gently picked her up, and we began our journey home. At home, she was shaking and whimpering. I couldn’t see the incision site and her staples, because she was wearing a SurgiSnuggly, which covered it. In an attempt to help console her, I wrapped her in a blanket and stayed by her side. She was unable to control her bowel movements (a side effect from the anesthesia) and wound up having some loose poo. I was panicked because I worried that her SurgiSnuggly had gotten soiled, but thankfully, the blanket prevented that from happening. We were able to clean her up with some wipes, and wrapped her in some towels for the rest of the evening.
I slept on the floor, next to her bed, that night, checking in on her frequently. By the time the anesthesia wore off and her pain medication kicked in, she was in a much better state. The next morning, she ate some wet food, she walked and wiggled, and gave kisses. I knew she was on the fast track to feeling better.
In that second day, I mustered the strength to roll up her surgical covering to get an idea of the size of her wound and also to have a baseline idea of how things looked so I could be sure I knew if things were improving or worsening. HOLY COW, that incision site was big! I had been warned that it would be large, but I didn’t realize it would be that large. She needed large margins to be sure all of the cancerous cells had been removed.
She quickly began to be her normal Bean self, to the point where we had difficulty keeping her calm to avoid her opening up the wound. After a couple of days, the healing was noticeable. Within a week, there was no inflammation and she seemed very comfortable. I honestly think the procedure hurt us more than it hurt her. That being said, she’s a trooper and I respect her so much for how well she mustered through the pain.
Now, two years later, there’s a badass scar on her side (see above) that reminds us of her prior battle. She has also developed other lumps and bumps since then, that we have promptly gotten checked by the vet. Thankfully, up to this point, they’ve been nothing, but if a dog gets a Mast Cell Tumor once, they’re more likely to get one again, so it’s always something on the back of our minds.
So, that’s Bean’s story, which I will always associate with St. Patrick’s day. I hope it helps some of you to feel more comfortable. Please feel free to touch base if you have questions, comments, or would like help finding resources in your area.