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Cyst or cancer?

Species: Dog
Breed: Cocker Spaniel mix
Age: 11-15 years
About a year ago, Bella started limping occasionally. When I inspected her leg, I found a marble sized lump. After it grew, we took her to the vet, who said it was probably cancerous (he didn't do any tests) and advised putting her to sleep. Before doing that, we wanted a second opinion, especially since she was acting normal besides her lump and limping. The next vet said it was not cancer, and after some bloodwork he said it was probably a bacterial infection. The paperwork says no fungal organisms observed, sheets of partially keratinized squamous epithelial cells are present, suggesting inflammation could be associated with follicular cyst formation or adnexal dysplasia. So, he prescribed antibiotics (Cephalexin and Baytril) and after two weeks the lump hasn't shrunk. She's still active and is eating pretty well, but has started eating a lot of dirt. I'm honestly just wondering if I'm needlessly making her suffer. What could be causing the pica? Is it too hard for an old dog to heal an infection like that? Can we do anything to speed up her recovery? Thank you!


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Cases like this are frustrating...especially when you are hearing different things from different vets.

It sounds like the second vet did a biopsy of the lump. The results that you quoted basically say that there is no obvious evidence of cancer but that there is a good chance that this lump is a cyst. You can never say 100% for certain if there is no cancer, but it sounds unlikely.

If this is an inflamed cyst, then antibiotics *may* help, but they may not. Sometimes surgery is necessary to cure a cyst. Or, it may just get better on its own over the next couple of weeks. By "getting better" I mean that it may not go away but it might just cease to be uncomfortable.

At this point, given that report I think that euthanasia is *probably* premature, especially if she is eating and drinking well.

But then we have the issue of dirt eating. This can sometimes be a sign of anemia (low red blood cell level). In people, anemia is often due to iron deficiency, but it's not usually the case in dogs. It's not a bad idea to have your vet repeat the red blood cell level and see if it is decreasing. There are many possible reasons for decreasing red cells, but I do get worried about this type of problem in an older dog as it can be a sign of a hidden cancer or other serious illness.

I wish I could give you more advice on how to speed her recovery but it sounds like time is necessary and possibly more tests.

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.

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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.