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Old dog with mammary lump

Species: Dog
Breed: shihtzu
Age: More than 15 ye
Gizmo, our shihtzu is naturally slowing due to age- her hearing is gone - her sight is probably not what it used to be but she does see. Never weighing more than 9-10 pounds, she has in recent months just become skin and bones. Her appetite is great- she doesn't seem to be in pain but instead of jumping on the sofa, she asked to be put up there and when she is positioning herself, she will opt for an ottoman about eight inches from the ground - meaning she is very weak.

She developed a few months ago a place on her lower stomach - near or on a nipple. It is a nasty looking place and has been really fast growing - now it is probably at least an inch in circumference and seems to have little growths on top of growths. It is like a red swelling with a concave center. It is not raw but seems to be moist all the time - either from her licking it, moisture from outside or because it is seeping. It is hard to tell. She gets sick a lot and doesn't seem to have any control of her bladder. All of this since the place developed on her stomach.

We are guessing that this is cancer. If it is, we do not want her to suffer but at almost 18 years of age, we don't want to put her through surgery or treatment either. My question is, could this be anything except cancer - something that would have an easy treatment and she would be able to handle at her age?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh dear, I am sorry to hear that Gizmo is going through all of this.

What you have described does indeed sound worrisome and is likely a mammary tumor. It is often hard to tell if a mammary tumor is benign or malignant without doing a biopsy. But, if it is oozing then this is not a good sign.

Your vet can help you decide whether to treat this or not. If this were my case I would do a good physical exam and probably take some xrays of her chest. The reason I would do this is to see if we have any signs of cancer spreading to her chest. If so, then this is a very bad sign and I would not recommend surgery. I would likely also do some bloodwork to see if there is evidence of any other disease present.

If the xrays are clear and the bloodwork is good then I would probably go ahead and recommend surgery. However, it will be a tough call. She will likely come through surgery just fine and really the recovery will not be difficult for her. But, the main concern for me would be whether it is worthwhile to spend all of that money when we don't know how much longer she will be with us. If money is not a concern then I would likely go ahead with the surgery (assuming your vet thinks it is ok.)

With all that being said, you have described a very elderly dog with a lot of issues. And, if you feel that her quality of life is not good then it may be time to start making some decisions about euthanasia.

I don't envy you this difficult decision.

Dr. Marie.

---This question was asked in our Ask A Vet For Free section.---


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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.

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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.