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Testicular and splenic masses.

Species: Dog
Breed: Golden Retriever
Age: 8-11 years
My 9 year old Golden Retriever had enlarged testicles with no other symptoms. I took him to the vet and he said one testicle was enlarged and he also had an enlarged prostrate, which could've been caused by the enlarged testicles. He recommended having him neutered and to send away for pathology. After I dropped him off for the surgery, they called me and said they found a tumor on his spleen and they thought they could remove it all if they performed that surgery also, so I consented to the much more invasive surgery, as I was concerned my dog might have a cancerous tumor. After the surgery, They told me they got the tumor and it was luckily not attached to the spleen at all. The surgeries were done 9 days ago. I have a few questions: First, I am concerned about the way the incision on his abdomen looks. I am going to send the photos to your email. Also, I feel a lump under the skin, is that normal? there is also one area of the incision where you can see scabs, and a small lump sticking out. Would there be internal stitches also, and how would you know if they could've burst, because when I went to pick him up from the vet, he tried to jump into the car. That was nine days ago.. He doesn't seem sick, he has a very good appetite, although he does seem to have some trouble walking, when he first gets up from laying down and also when I let him outside to go to the bathroom his hind legs are wobbly and he has fallen a few times just walking around the house. Should that still be a problem and could it be from the large incision, or could it be from the neutering? And my last question....the pathology report came back, the testicles were benign, and the tumor wasn't a tumor at all, the vet said it was scar tissue, possibly from an injury he could've had months or years ago. I am upset that my dog went through this surgery, the only reason I had consented was because the vet told me there was a tumor on his spleen. My dog was not sick, had no symptoms but when he told me there was a tumor there, I was scared he might have cancer. I also caught the vet in a lie when I called to ask about the pathology report, he told me the report for the tumor near the spleen hadn't come back yet, only the one for the testicles. He called me two days later and told me it was scar tissue from the one near the spleen. I went in and got a copy of the pathology report from the office and both are on the same report, so for some reason he didn't tell me the truth. The microscopic finding for the second one is :Omentum, hematoma according to the report.
Do you think my dog should've had that surgery, as he was not sick at all and should the doctor had told me they saw a tumor on his spleen if in fact, it was only scar tissue. Shouldn't he have said he wasn't sure what it was, not call it a tumor? (apparently they did an ultrasound on my dog right before he was to be neutered, but they didn't tell me they were going to do one) I'm sorry this is so long, I tried to keep it short but a lot has happened to my dog. Thanks so much.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thank you for being so detailed in your question. I'll start off by answering your concerns about your dog's incision and staples. Here is one of the photos that you sent me:

staples on dog's incision

This really looks like a normal incision to me. Now, I can't give you a diagnosis over the internet, but from the photo I don't have any major concerns. To answer your question, yes, there are several layers of stitches (usually 3). It certainly is possible that one of the knots from below the skin is poking up through the skin. When the staples are removed, the vet or veterinary technician will have a look at this and if necessary, will snip that out as well. A lump under the skin is nothing to worry about. I would be concerned though if the incision looked much more red and was really bothering your dog.

So now let's talk about the tumors that were removed. First off, this is excellent news that none of them were cancerous! I can understand your frustration and concerns that perhaps surgery was done unnecessarily, but perhaps I can explain why this had to be done.

I'm not sure why an ultrasound was done...if this is something that you hadn't agreed to you could possibly speak with your vet and ask why. However, it really is something that should have been done. When there is a large testicle in a dog, the biggest concern is for cancer. If you are going to do surgery for cancer, it is best practice to look for other signs of cancer. One possible reason to do this would be, say, for example, if they found that the abdomen or chest were absolutely full of cancer then they may have advised not to go ahead with surgery at all and to consider euthanasia.

A spleen tumor is an easy thing to see on an ultrasound. But, it is close to impossible to tell if a spleen tumor is benign or malignant without actually analyzing the spleen tissue itself. For some tumors you can do a test called a fine needle aspirate, where you put a needle in the tissue (without actually opening the abdomen) and look at cells to determine if it's cancerous. But, if you do this with a cancerous spleen you run the risk of rupturing the spleen and this could be life threatening. So, if a spleen mass is seen on xray or ultrasound it is always recommended to remove it.

I don't have my hands on the actual figures here, but I can tell you that it is much more common to see malignant spleen tumors than benign ones. And you can't tell the difference even when you've opened up the abdomen and looked at and felt the spleen. The only thing you can do is remove the spleen and send it away for pathology. I have removed a lot of spleens in my career and I would say that 95% of the time if there is a tumor it is a malignant cancer. It is uncommon to have a benign tumor....but a much better diagnosis!

Regarding the testicles, the same thing applies in that it is very hard to tell if a testicle is cancerous or if there is another reason for the swelling. Testicular cancers often don't affect the whole testicle. So, if you just put a needle in to get cells there's a chance that you wouldn't hit the cancerous part and get a false diagnosis. As such, any time there is one testicle that is bigger than the other, it's best to remove the testicles.

Your dog was extremely lucky. The two masses (tumor and spleen) likely weren't related to each other at all. In hindsight, we could say that they didn't need to be removed, but if you play the odds, there was a really high chance that either could be cancer. Your vet made the same recommendations that I would have made.

I should also note that the word "tumor" is a confusing one to some people. A mass of scar tissue can also be called a tumor. It's just that scar tissue is a benign mass as opposed to a malignant one.

I wouldn't necessarily say that your vet was lying about not having both test results. Often, we will get one pathology report and then, when the pathologist finishes the final report they'll just add on to the initial report and resend it again. I don't see any reason for your vet to lie to you about this. Again, I'm not trying to cover for your vet. It really does sound like he was very thorough and did the right things.

The only part of your story that has me a little concerned is that your dog is a little wobbly. This really shouldn't be normal this many days after surgery. There is a small chance that this could be indicative of blood loss into the abdomen which is a possible complication from splenic surgery. For this reason I would recommend that you have your vet examine your dog just to be sure everything is ok. As it is the weekend, one thing you can do to determine whether he needs to be urgently seen would be to have a look at the color of his gums. They should be pink just like ours. If they look white or extremely pale pink then this would make me want to get him in to emergency today.

I hope things work out ok!

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. 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:

Dr. Marie, thank you so much for your fast reply. Just wanted to add, that they actually didn't touch the spleen at all, they thought it was on the spleen, but it was not, they said it was free floating, and removed it, therefore the spleen stayed completely intact. I checked his gums and they look ok to me. He is sleeping a lot but has a really good appetite. I also took his temperature and it was normal for a dog. (100.7). But he is still walking bad, fell again when I let him out, it seems like it is his right hind leg. Could the stitches from the neuter be causing him pain when he walks or lifts his leg? Also, when he sleeps, I notice him pulling his right hind leg up and down. I was going to take him to an emergency vet but have decided to wait for tomorrow since he doesn't have a temp and is eating well. I hope that is the right thing to do. Thank you.

Customer reply:

I forgot to add, they had said his prostrate was enlarged...could that cause him to have problems walking? Thanks

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Ah I see...what an odd thing that abdominal mass was! It's definitely not something you would commonly see.

It is possible that his neuter stitches are bothering him. Given that he is eating well I think you're probably fine to wait until Monday to see your vet.

The enlarged prostate really shouldn't cause him to have trouble walking.

Hope he's all better soon!

Dr. Marie

Customer reply:

Thank you Dr. have a wonderful(and affordable) service here and I am glad I found it. Thank you again.

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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.