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Mast cell tumors on penis.

Species: Dog
Breed: Chihuahua
Age: 11-15 years
I have a healthy 11 yr old Chihuahua named Tyson who has mitotic cancer/mast cell growth w/ growing tumors around penis & abdomen-deeply invasive. He does not appear to be in pain right now. He had a previous tumor removed surgically (May 2012) & vet said the tumors might return. They have. We are wondering what we can do to comfort him now since we can't afford the chemotherapy? Are Corticosteroids (such as prednisone, Lomustine or Vinblastine) an affordable option? Do we need a precription for them? How much should we expect to pay? What about treatment for pain? Lastly, Tyson likes to lick the tumors & they seem to be crusting & turning yellowish. Is there anything we can do to help treat the masses (low cost solutions)? When should we consider putting him to sleep? Thank you.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that Tyson is not doing well.

Mast cell tumors can sometimes be very difficult to deal with. Sometimes, just removing a mast cell tumor can cure the problem. However, if Tyson's are deeply invasive then surgery may not be an option. Or, if surgery is an option it will be an expensive one.

The drugs that you mentioned (prednisone, Lomustine (also known as CCNU) and Vinblastine) actually are a chemotherapy protocol. They are not simple medications that you just get a prescription for. Rather, under the direction of a veterinary oncologist you would have repeated visits and Tyson would get injections intravenously of these medications. He would also need repeated blood tests to make sure that his red and white blood cells are handling the chemo ok. This type of chemotherapy is something that is often suggested to use after a mast cell tumor has been removed, in order to prevent remaining cells from spreading. However, removing these tumors likely isn't an option for you.

If I had a patient with this problem and surgery and chemo was not an option then I would do something called a palliative treatment. In this case I would prescribe antihistamines to help against the histamines that mast cells release and also stomach protectant drugs. Sometimes I also do prescribe prednisone (which you mentioned above.) The prednisone can help reduce swelling but is not going to cure the cancer. While some of these drugs can be purchased over the counter, they need to be administered under the advice of a veterinarian. (I can't legally advise you on dosages and use of medications without actually seeing your dog in person.)

It will be hard to know when it is time to talk about putting him to sleep. Here are some things to consider:

1. Is he enjoying life more often than not? If you feel that he is obsessed with the tumors all of the time, then this is not fair and we should be thinking about euthanasia.

2. Is he still eating ok? Lack of appetite can be a sign of pain.

3. Are you enjoying having him? If Tyson's care has become a chore, or if he is oozing and bleeding all over your house then these are valid reasons to consider euthanasia.

I do find, however, that in most cases, my clients just "know" when it is time.

Please let me know if you have more questions.

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 the information. We will make an appt. for Tyson with a vet to discuss the palliative treatment options. It sounds like we are in for a difficult year. Thanks again.

Henry Gallegos


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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.