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Mast cell tumor.

Species: Dog
Breed: Border Collie
Age: 5-8 years
Dear Dr. Marie:

My dog, Jammy, has had a small lump near her neck that filled up with puss. The vet popped it in November, and it did not swell up again, but we weren't sure what type of bump it is. She had her teeth cleaned last week and they removed the lump while she was under, but the a pre-op test revealed that the area did contain mass cells. My question is, what are mass cells, and what does this mean for her future health? I'm still awaiting the results of the biopsy of the lump, and the vet guessed that it was a stage 1 lump (which I don't really understand, but she said that's what we're hoping for). Could you explain to me what she means by that? I perform regular exams to try to find lumps, and will definitely continue to do so more often now that we've had this problem.

Thank you so much!

Blessings,
Julie


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Julie.

I think the term you were looking for was "mast cells". Mast cell tumors are relatively common lumps in dogs. They are always lumps that we want to remove.

Mast cells are cells that have little dark staining granules in them. We normally should not see any mast cells when we are looking at a dog's body, so if we are seeing mast cells then it usually means that there is a tumor present.

There are three grades of mast cell tumors, 1, 2, and 3. A grade 1 mast cell tumor is usually totally benign. Once we remove the tumor it is usually not a problem and shouldn't ever come back again. Grade 2 tumors can be a little more worrisome and a Grade 3 mast cell tumor is quite serious.

Your vet will eventually get a report back from the pathologist telling us what grade the tumor is and what the margins look like. The margins are the areas of skin around the tumor. The goal is to have "wide margins" which means that there is tumor free tissue all around the edges of what was removed. If this is a grade 1 tumor then most likely the margins will be fine and again, there will be nothing to worry about.

Most mast cell tumors I see are indeed grade 1. Hopefully this is the case with Jammy!

You can find more information in this question that was answered about mast cell tumors in dogs.

Dr. Marie.


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for your response! What you said makes sense.

After I sent you the question, I noticed a small bump that was about the size of a pinhead, it was black and I couldn't quite tell if it was a tick or maybe a scab. I took it off with tweezers--the area bled a little but it wasn't bad. I'm trying to decide if this is something that I should take her into the vet for, or just monitor. I want to make sure I'm diligent in finding any troublesome bumps/lumps on her body as soon as possible in light of the one that's been removed.

Thanks again!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hmmm...at this point I'd just watch it for now. The vet likely wouldn't be able to do much. If it comes back again then I'd have the vet take a look. It doesn't like like it was likely to be another mast cell tumor.



Customer reply:

Hi, Dr. Marie:

I heard back from the vet today--she said that the lump was a mid-grade mast cell tumor with clean margins. I read the link you provided and your answer, and I was hoping for grade 1. Now that we know that's not grade 1, but that her margins are clean, what should I do? I'm hoping that this is still relatively good news.

Thank you again!
Julie


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

If the margins are clear then this is good news. Really there shouldn't be any further issues. I would be much more concerned if there were dirty margins.

Your vet should advise you on the steps from here, but it sounds like we shouldn't have to do anything else at this point.



Customer reply:

Awesome, thank you! :o)


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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.