Too Old for Tumor Surgery?

Elbow sockThis is Ling Ling. She’s some kind of a Collie mix, or something.  Sweet dog.  Her picture here was taken a few years ago to illustrate her owner’s great idea for bandaging the elbow.  Who doesn’t have old socks lying around?  I use this technique all the time now.

Last summer, she came in for her checkup in July at the tender age of 15 years.  She had developed a large tumor in front of her left shoulder.  It was about 6 inches long, 3 inches wide and 1&1/2 inches thick, which is pretty big, even for a 57 pound dog.  We did a fine-needle-aspiration to get some cells for examination and it turned out to be a lipoma.  Lipomas are benign tumors of fat cells.  They aren’t usually invasive, nor do they spread to other organs.  Really, they are usually more of a cosmetic problem than a medical problem.  Unless they get big enough to be uncomfortable, that is. 

Ling Ling was so elderly and the tumor was large enough to require a fairly lengthy surgery, and it didn’t seem to be bothering her.  We decided it was something she would probably die with, instead of something that she would die from.

BeforeFast forward to May of this year.  Ling Ling doesn’t feel so well.  She has lost weight and gets around slowly. Her tumor, on the other hand, has been doing great.  It’s up to 10 inches long, 5 inches wide and 6 inches thick now.  Unfortunately, the tumor is not only making Ling Ling feel bad, it’s making the tumor feel bad.  It has grown so much that it appears to have disrupted its own blood supply. There is a rather nasty-looking bulge that looks like it will soon die and rot and burst open.  Not so good.

Well, the tumor did get a lot bigger, and Ling Ling did not get any younger.  In retrospect, it seems that we should have done surgery last July.  But… but… she was so old, and… it didn’t seem to be bothering her.

This reminds me a little of my wonderful Granny.  She developed a hernia when she was 70 years old.  They told her she was too old to have it repaired.  She lived to be 93.  Still too old to have it repaired.  My granny lived with a hernia for 23 years.  That doesn’t sound like fun, does it?

TumorLing Ling has an amazing constitution (meaning she is one tough old dog), and she has a very dedicated owner (also one tough old dog).  We did everything we knew how to do to support her, and she made it through 90 minutes of surgery like a champ.  The tumor was so big it was like delivering a baby.  It  weighed 3 pounds, and was as big as her head.  I’m not sure how that fits with the rule of “Never eat anything bigger than your head”, but there must be some kind of correlation if we think hard enough.

The mass had disrupted the attachment of some of her shoulder muscles.  I re-attached them as best I could, but this meant that she required immobilization of the leg for a couple of weeks.  With the huge pocket created by the tumor’s removal, we also had to do a lot of bandaging to deal with the fluid drainage.  Fortunately, Ling Ling is not only tough, but a complete sweetheart to work with.

Sutures outHere she is (at left) two weeks later at suture removal time, walking fairly well, but still

July 20, 2012

with a limp.  She has lost a fair amount of weight.   And here  she is (at right) at her July checkup, two months later, walking normally, and growing her hair back.  She has also gained a lot of her weight back.  She is eating better, and feeling better.  We just didn’t realize how much that tumor was bothering her. 

It’s pretty easy to dismiss an old dog’s slowing down as “just old age”, but many times it is not.  They have bad teeth, or bad arthritis, or that thing you don’t think is so important (like Ling Ling’s tumor) is bothering them a lot more than you know.

With modern anesthetic drugs and monitoring, “too old” is not a good reason to allow a dog’s problem to go un-treated.

72 thoughts on “Too Old for Tumor Surgery?

  1. Naomi says:

    Good for you, and good for Ling Ling! It’s so hard to know what our pets really need…if only they could talk. Glad to hear her recovery is going well. By the way, I work with an FDA cleared PEMF therapy device called Assisi. It uses microcurrents to reduce swelling and edema post surgery. You might want to look into it:

    Cheers, Naomi

  2. Doc says:

    Hello, LInda,

    This could be anything from a skin tumor to a reaction to some sort of foreign body (splinter, etc.).

    If it doesn’t go away on its own in a few days, I’d let your veterinarian look at it. If it is low on the leg, you don’t have a lot of loose skin to play with. If it is growing, you want to get it off while it’s still small and easy to remove.

    • Debbie says:

      My 12yr.old shitzu has a huge cancer tumor on his right shoulder the tumor is getting worse and worse his vet gave him steroids to shrink the tumor and they are making it worse I don’t see any improvement, I need someone who has been through this process to help me please, his breathing is not good. The tumor is moving along the back of his neck in just two days will surgery help him please tell me what to do, my name is Debbie .

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Debbie,
        If the tumor is growing that rapidly, it is possible that it is accumulating fluid. It is also possible that it is highly malignant and just growing that fast. The difficult breathing makes me wonder whether the cancer has spread to his lungs. I think the next step would be a chest X-ray. This really doesn’t sound good.

      • Shelley Schilling says:

        So my 18 year old Yorkshire terrier had surgery on a tumor 3 years ago and now it’s back it was the size of You make a circle between your thumb and your index finger now it’s the size almost a 1/2 of a softball now they’re telling me that they’ll have to take some skin from her shoulder all I can say is if you have it taken off do have it by Ops that way you know if it’s cancerous ours came back so we know it’s cancerous she’s still hanging in there and she still runs around I’m in the same boat I don’t know whether to take it off again or not cost me 900 the 1st time she’s 18 years old but I can’t handle the fact if I have to put her down which I won’t I am praying that the Lord takes her in her sleep naturally but if it’s uncomfortable for the dog if it interferes with any ligaments or blood and veins definitely have something done that’s take Also look into care credit that’s what I got for my dog bills it will pay for college medical bills and vet bills and it’s not hard to get approved good luck

        • Doc says:

          Hello, Shelley,
          Thanks for sharing your story. The surgical specialists say, “If it’s important enough to cut off, it’s important enough to find out what it was and if you got it all.”

          The extra expense isn’t always feasible for some clients.

          We just try to do the best we can, clients and doctors.

        • Sherry OMalley says:

          we are in same boat as senior rescue boxer developed small lump on back near nubbin and unchanged for months and them roughhousing playing at dog park it mushroomed and bled. we scheduled surgery and night before surgery, he collapsed twice and was hacking next day and had heart condition of murmur and congestive failure. We decided to let him live as best can as same day after collapsed said heart failure and liver tumor. We are ok with that as eats, not in pain, but mass now size of orange and bleeding, it was a little at first and put dressings on with Coban lightly around, but today 4 full own blood soaked . Dr said will not survive surgery and we are reticent to let him go as eats and walks around and not in pain. it is so heartbreaking. Wish they could sedate and cauterize

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Sherry,
            Sorry to be so late replying. The blog got hacked and we had to do some house-cleaning.
            This is just one of those situations that are hard to bear. 2 years ago, I had a patient with an enormous tumor. I told the owner I didn’t think it would be possible to get it all. It wasn’t. We de-bulked it, closed the skin, but the cancerous tissue would not heal. We kept him bandaged until it finally just became impossible.

            I don’t know about the owner, but I wished I had never seen it, much less done the surgery. They wanted to try, and sometimes we have surprisingly good results. When it fails miserably like this, it makes you not want to try.

          • Usha Mohan says:

            Same story with our 14years old Samoyed girl. She has 2 bleeding tumors! One on the top of her right hind Leg is huge now, the one on the front left leg is also growing. Our vet said surgical removal is impossible as she’s had 2 ACLs on both her hind legs at 8and 9 years old. She won’t make it through legthy surgeries. She on some mild painkillers and still goes down for her walks and loves to keep eating! Demands food every 3 hours! Other than that and the bleeding and cleaning up she’s fine. A little forgetful yet full of life.
            We have decided to let her be till she decides to give up, or goes naturally. We love her to bits. Our vet says it is our call. Cannot bring ourselves to euthanise ????

  3. Linda says:

    Thank you for your quick response. I’ll definitely keep an eye on it. I haven’t noticed him licking the area yet today and it wasn’t wet when I felt the spot but there is still a small lump there. It is located on his forearm, so you are correct, there isn’t a lot of loose skin.

  4. Maria says:

    Im happy that the doggy is doing well. I have a 12yr old dobie and he had developed a tumor on his chest. Under the car of vet they advised to leave it alone till need be taken out. Well its been a few years and his tumor has gotten bigger. When we decided it maybe a good time to take it out we noticed he developed 4 more on his groin. Well we decided to wait on the surgery for the chest to see how the groin ones
    Would grow. They have grown really fast. So fast that they would have to be taken out soon too. My question is.. what do you do? These surgeries are gna be big and im thinking its gna be a hard recovery due to his age given its gna be his upper and lower body whether we do surgery one area at a time or all together. Not only that but its going to cost thousands of dollars for it to possibly grow back faster than before with or without having time to heal up. He is 12years old. Older than most dobermans we know. Im torn. Sld we let him continue to live his best and lay him to rest when it becomes bothersome or if there are any complications or do we do multiple operations?

  5. Doc says:

    Hello, Maria,

    All of those choices can be realistic. I cannot choose for you. It is certainly true that even if the surgeries go well, you’re not going to add another 12 years to his life.

    On the other hand, if the tumors are causing him pain, I would schedule surgery for the largest one, and take biopsies from the others at the same time. It is possible that there could be medicine to shrink them to a more manageable size for removal. Or you could just biopsy several of them to see if medication might help shrink them before surgery.

  6. nancy says:

    My lab is 11 years old and has several lipomas. One is bigger than a soft ball. I would love to have it removed but she has a history of seizures and the vet is hesitant to remove it. Is there anything that will shrink it?

    • Angela says:

      I m using green tea dog supplements and multivitamins and a cap full of flax oil the vet giving her one steroid per day she is 14 and surgery is no longer an option but the lump has not increased in size I thank god for this

  7. Doc says:

    There was a study published in 2011 about doing liposuction in England. Removal was considered successful in more than 90%, but about 1/3 of them re-grew (apparently not completely removed). Regular surgery has a greater success rate. I don’t know of anyone doing it in this country, and cannot find any more recent studies.

    They also noted it would not work if it wasn’t a simple lipoma, but had other strands of tissue in it.

    If this were my patient, I would be getting a consultation with an anesthesia specialist about how best to handle a patient with seizures (or on seizure meds).

  8. candice says:

    My 13 year old chihuahua has a fatty tumour on his chest the size of a tennis ball. it was tested and it is not cancerous. My concern is the size since it has tripled in size in the past 2 years. My vet was concerned with removing it because of his age than because of the anesthetic. Now I am worried that it won’t stop growing and don’t know what to do. I have read so much on the internet in favor and not in favor of surgery. If I knew the surgery would not be dangerous to do I would be doing it today. Not sure what to do . Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated

    • Angie says:

      I also have a female dog she’s 14yrs old she developed a mass lump on her stomach size of a golf ball she’s still active likes to play ect eating really well but due to her age I wasn’t sure about surgery the vets put her on steroids she takes one a day and I’ve given her green tea supplements one a day one cap full of flax oil in her food and multivitamins to balance everything.its so nerve wrecking on what to for the best I pray for her and know she’s safe in every way possible I beilive she’s watched over .

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Angie,
        I don’t think that any of those supplements will cause any problem, but they aren’t likely to get rid of the tumor. It sounds like she is in pretty good health otherwise. I would measure the tumor regularly. If it is growing, I’d want it to be taken off before it gets too big.

        • Joseph Caliendo says:

          Our 10 year old Boardercollie / Cattle dog has large tumor in one lung, can the whole lung be removed. His heart is excellent.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Joseph,
            You will need a surgical specialist, but this is doable. However, you have to be aware that there may already be spread of tumor that is not big enough to show up on a regular X-ray. At a specialty hospital, they should be able to do a C-T scan to look for spread before you undertake such a drastic procedure. Biopsy of the lump may show that you need to follow up with chemotherapy or radiation.

  9. Doc says:

    It sounds like the tumor has become large enough to be uncomfortable to the dog.

    If your doctor is uncomfortable with anesthetizing your dog, you might ask for referral to a surgical specialist who has more support personnel.

    Without knowing and seeing your dog, I really cannot speculate on the safety of the surgery.

    I can say that we routinely operate on dogs of this age who don’t have other serious medical problems.

  10. Rishabh singh says:

    Hello doc!
    Loved this article.
    My english cocker spaniel female, age 12 and a half in India had a tumor of a size of a tennis ball in her lower nipples.
    I was asked by the vet to do a surgery, however the other vet sais she being old, the surgery might be fatal to her.
    Now her tumor is bigger like 2 tennis balls together, and today i saw red markings on it!! I am not sure what to do here. IS it safe to get her in for a surgery? Please suggest

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Rishabh, It is certainly true that older patients are more likely to have trouble with anesthesia than are younger patients. If anesthetic drugs were good for you, you wouldn’t lose consciousness.

      I would revisit the doctor who recommended the surgery. While it is true that your older dog has more risk than when she was younger, as the tumor grows larger the risk become greater that it will outgrow its blood supply, causing part of it to die, and to break open. Then you have a big tumor that is draining and bleeding. The larger the tumor grows, the more difficult and time-consuming the surgery becomes.

      Yes, there is risk with the surgery, but with the rapid growth of the tumor there is a certainty that you will have severe problems. With the surgery, there is the possibility of keeping her comfortable for the years she has left.

  11. Milda Iliscupidez says:

    Hi Doc, I have a 15 1/2 year old Yorkie with newly onset dementia, and bad teeth. My vet is saying that surgery is not a viable option for him given his age and other ailments. Any insight on how dangerous removing a tumor can be at his age. He is 6lbs and the tumor is almost the size of my thumb in his left hindquarter.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Milda,

      I can’t really evaluate this situation, since I haven’t seen your dog, and your veterinarian has. The surgery sounds pretty doable, but your dog’s other situations may make him a poor risk for anesthesia.

      Our goal is for the patient to have a good quality of life for as long as possible. Sometimes a slow-growing tumor doesn’t really affect the patient’s quality of life, and the risk of anesthesia makes us afraid of losing him right now.

      At other times, the tumor is really causing problems, and we just have to take the risk, even knowing that we might lose our patient. We just can’t let them suffer with something that is hurting every day.

      Each case has to be evaluated individually.

  12. Christy Blaszak says:

    So glad I came across this blog as my 10 year old hound dog has been limping for months. Her health also has declined dramatically and although on strict diet continues to gain substantial weight. 3 visits to vet, Couldn’t find any answers. We even changed vets for 2nd opinion only with same result until finally a 3rd vet finally was able to tell us she has a tumor in her paw. Then they also found a mass tumor in her chest and now looking at surgery next month. Worried to death about her age and the size of this tumor. Is this safe to go ahead and proceed with the surgery? Before all this she was overweight but otherwise healthy very active diog.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Christy,
      If it were just the tumor in the paw, I’d have no worries. With a mass in her chest, surgery is much more invasive, and the dog will require more intra-operative support (someone has to breathe for her, like being on a ventilator, while the chest is open). So, I would have some worries.

      You need to discuss your concerns with the doctor who is seeing her. I really can’t give you meaningful answers.

  13. Andie Smith says:

    I appreciate any response given. We have a 13 year old 18 pound yorkie. He has several large growths around his body. One is just a cyst and fluid is often removed. Others are abdominal and near joints. He has been neutered years ago. He has a large hard/thick growth under his tail and circling his rectum. He has been drinking a lot, occasionally scooting. Sleeps a lot. He has never been a playful pup so we can’t comment on that. At 13 my heart tells me to let him enjoy a little time without surgery and then when it seems he is more uncomfortable to have at home euthanasia. I worry about the pain and possible issues with his defecting and being able to control his bowel movements. With Covid it is not easy to speak with vet. Just short hurried phone calls. Just don’t know what to expect. He has never seemed to be a real happy dog. Quiet and to himself though he does gravitate towards me. I love him dearly.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Andie,
      It sounds like there are a lot of issues there. There are definitely times when we just opt for pain control to make the dog’s final months okay. Without seeing your dog and knowing all the details, I can’t really advise you. Best wishes.

  14. Cindy says:

    Thank you for this article. I have a 12 year old large mixed breed rescue (approx 65 pounds). She has a tumor on her belly that we are considering removal. My concern is post operative care. She licks it obsessively no matter what we do. We have tried cone (she rubs it against the tumor causing more damage), surgical suits, (she licks a hole into the suit) distraction toys, and nothing completely stops her. Our concern is she will undo any benefit of the surgery with her obsessive licking. She has developed several lick granulomas (bends of front legs, etc) so the licking is a chronic problem. I’m sick over the situation. She also seems so distraught, hiding to lick her tumor, and trembling with shame with I find her doing so. It’s heartbreaking. Any thoughts if there is hope for successful post operative care?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Cindy,
      Dogs are unlikely to be feeling shame. However, since you have probably tried to correct her from this licking behavior, she knows that you don’t like it. This is more likely to be submissive behavior, hoping to defuse your anger.

      Is the dog taking any pain medication? While it sounds like she does have some compulsive behavior with the lick granulomas, I’d be concerned that the tumor is causing discomfort. I would certainly ask your veterinarian about pain meds if not already taking them. That makes a big difference post-operatively, as well. Sometimes we will also use sedatives in the immediate few days post surgery.

      Lick granulomas are usually deeply infected, requiring long-term (six weeks or more) antibiotic therapy (by mouth) in addition to topical meds. Some dogs also benefit from corticosteroids, like prednisone.

      Prednisone is NOT compatible with pain medicines like Rimadyl, Previcox, Galliprant, or other NSAIDs.

  15. Lee says:

    Hello. Thank you so much for your article. I have a 14 year old beagle that is good shape other than the fact that he has tumor all over his body that are just lipomas. The vet said that this very common in beagles. He has a very large lipomas on his left hind leg that is still growing. He is able to walk and take the stairs but the lipoma is making it hard to do those things. He also has to use his front legs to stand up because he hind leg with the lipoma gives him no help with standing and a lot of time that leg gives out on him when he’s walking. We are afraid he wont be able to eventually walk or go us the bathroom on his own.

    The vet said removing the lipomas and recovery would have some risks because of his age. We just don’t know what’s best for him. He is doing well for his age and we know that we may only have another year with him but this lipoma we may not even have that.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Lee,
      There are always risks with anesthesia and surgery, and with older patients those risks can certainly be greater. We want to give them all the support we can: I.V. fluids, oxygen, monitoring blood pressure, being ready to assist with breathing now and then.

      The doctor seeing your dog is better able to help you assess any risks with preoperative testing: blood tests, chest X-ray (to evaluate heart and lungs), possibly an electrocardiogram.

      He/she can help you weigh the pros and cons of how much you can improve the dog’s quality of life, versus the risks involved.

  16. Julia Espinoza says:

    Hello doctor,

    I would appreciate any guidance possible. I have a 10 year old Yorkie, Shih Tzu mix who has a bump on her belly. The doctor says there’s a 70% chance it’s a tumor and 30% it’s cancer. She’s had very low energy, has been very clingy, diarrhea and I’m breaking inside curious if she’s in pain. If it is a tumor the doctor recommends her getting it removed and having her spayed at the same time. Is this worth it at her age? does she have much more life?, will it be enjoyable? My dog comes before me and I don’t want her to suffer. What is recommended? What would you do if it was yours?

    With appreciate, anything helps!

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Julie,
      Sorry I’ve gotten so far behind in answering comments. This is a situation where you would want to evaluate the rest of the dog’s health, since she seems to be feeling bad. It could just be the lump, but it could also be other illness. Ideally we would do a chest X-ray, complete blood count, and a biochemistry panel to see if there are other illnesses, and maybe an abdominal ultrasound, as well. That’s a lot of stuff, but it’s not a lot of stress on the patient (just the pocket-book). If there are no other illnesses that need to be handled, sometimes you will find that the dog’s quality of life improves quite a lot after removal of the mass.
      If there ARE other illnesses or obvious spread of the tumor, then you have to look at what you can handle and what you cannot.
      If the tumor hasn’t spread and other factors can be handled, then I would go ahead and remove the mass. Ten years old is not ancient. It is possible to have several more good years.

  17. Dora B. Zeiller says:

    Hello Dr
    We have a 14yr old, Cushings female Siberian Husky. She has been losing weight since her diagnosis 2 yrs ago (from 65lbs down to 38lbs). She is currently on Vetoryl (Trilostane) for it. She also has degenerative spinal myelopathy and Arthur’s in her legs and is on meds for that too. She can barely walk and loses her balance a lot. Just recently She has just been diagnosed with a grade 2 STS sarcoma on her front leg. We found the lump 2 months ago. Her Vet said he can remove the tumors but due to the wide margin her must take in her condition as a Cushings he is not positive that she will be able to heal effectively….that and the radiation following to ensure they get all the cancer cells. process due to her Cushings disease. We understand his concerns but we are even wandering if she’s a good candidate for this kind of surgery given her condition and age. What is her real prognosis if we pursue this path? How long does she have and will this surgery weaken her even more than she already is? He also states that if she were healthy and old she would have a better prognosis but it leaving it up to us. We are not sure and need your professional opinion on this. Please advise thank you

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Dora,
      I am not really in a position to advise you, not having seen your dog. I really think that your veterinarian is your best source of information. If you are not satisfied, then I would ask him for referral to a specialist.

      This is a very difficult situation. I know that an oncologist (cancer specialist) would start by “staging” – looking for spread of the tumor to other locations.

      Given what you have told me about your dog’s deteriorating condition, it is hard to feel that this is going to turn out well.

  18. Joan Nasser says:

    I have a twelve year old Golden Doodle with a large cyst between her shoulders about the size of a tennis ball. It doesn’t seem to bother her, but it has grown a little larger lately. I’m worried about her being anesthetized at her age. I don’t know if I should just leave it or have it operated. I’d appreciate your answer.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Joan,
      If you haven’t already done so, talk with your veterinarian about getting a diagnosis. Often you can get enough cellular material to get a good idea about things by just putting a fairly small needle into the mass. The urgency for removal depends a lot upon what the disease process is, and how fast the mass is growing.

      In that location, we can sometimes remove a superficial mass with tranquilizer and local anesthetic.

      Many older dogs can be successfully anesthetized and recovered if you do some pre-anesthetic risk factor testing and support them during the procedure.

  19. Kim says:

    My Jack Russell she is 14 has a massive lump which is causing trouble with walking she is eating n drinking operation is too expensive is there nothing they can give to shrink it

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Kim,
      I doubt that chemotherapy would help with such a large mass, and it would cost more than the surgery, in all likelihood.

      I am sorry I don’t have a better answer for you.

  20. Laura says:

    Our 10 yr old 85-90 pound Golden Pyrenees has a grapefruit sized lipoma which was just aspirated and found to have cancer cells in it. Other than this lipoma he’s a healthy dog. Prior to these results we were planning to have the tumor removed. We have the normal fears of anesthesia, etc. but now my husband also has the concern of whether surgery will actually cause the cancer to spread (if it hasn’t already). Any thoughts on whether there is evidence that this can occur? And any insight on recovery time after lump removal?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Laura,
      I’d be more worried about it spreading if you leave it in place than if you remove it. With a mass that size, it will probably require a surgical drain to help eliminate such a large pocket, along with bandaging for a few days. With a ten years old boy, I’d probably leave sutures in for two weeks instead of the usual ten days. You just have to play it by ear. Also, be sure to get the tumor sent to a pathologist. They can tell more by looking at the architecture of the mass than they can with just individual cells. You also want to know if you have clean borders. The location of the mass can also influence the healing time. It depends on whether it’s in a place with a lot of tension or pressure on it.

    • Mrs. A kamara says:

      I know exactly how you feel I’ve had dogs for years now and the dog I have now was from a abused home I’ve had her for ten years but she s developed a really large hard lump in stomach we took her to vets and left her there for surgery an hour later the vet phoned and said she wasn’t stable and. It’s possible she could die during surgery all I have is prayers. I put caster oil and green tea on her lump couple times a day and I get her to drink milk with green tea and multi vitamins I’ve only just started all this and pray to god I will see some improvement

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Mrs. A,
        I hope that you are seeing some improvement. While there is always a risk with general anesthesia and surgery, if you aren’t seeing any improvement then you don’t really have much other choice.

  21. Donna Grady says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I have a 13 yr old Aussie with a benign fatty tumor that has grown to the size of a grapefruit. The vet said she was too old to go under, and since it is just cosmetic, I agreed. But now it seems to be getting even larger and even though she doesn’t act like it bothers her, I can’t help but think she would have better quality of life, if it were gone. This has helped me decide to find a vet that will remove the tumor and help her through the anesthesia.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Donna,
      I think all of us have concerns about anesthetizing an older patient for an elective surgery. Sometimes we have to change our viewpoint as the patient’s circumstances change. With a thorough pre-anesthetic testing workup, and possible consultation with an anesthesiologist, most older patients can have successful outcomes. Best wishes.

  22. Mark Chelton says:

    What an informative and heartfelt story. So happy to hear she is doing well and recovering nicely. This has really helped me with my dilemma of wheather or not to have my 13 yo dachshund mix have surgically removed a sizable lipoma on her head between her ears removed. She is very healthy and active. I believe this would prove to benefit her in the long run due to its position and size
    That being said it is still difficult to proceed with a surgery that carries a greater risk in a dog her age and I almost feel it would be selfish of me to proceed. I would really love some professional feedback to be able to then make an honest and respectable decision without bringing any harm or loss of life to the love of my life, Trixie…….I love you more than anything in this world!!!

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Mark,
      I would start by having some pre-anesthetic testing done. If blood chemistry profile, chest x-rays and electrocardiogram are within normal limits, it is very likely that hte anesthesia can be successfully managed.

      We removed a 4 pound lipoma from an 11 years old Australian Shepherd this week, and the surgery and anesthesia went well. We are having some complications with healing, as the removal of such a huge mass left some of the overlying skin with poor circulation.

  23. Nikki Diver says:

    This is almost the exact story of my dog. Bongo is a 14 year old cattle dog mix. The tumor didn’t seem to bother him for the majority of the time he had it… we first noticed it about 3 years ago and we didn’t want to put him through surgery if it wasnt necessary. His vet agreed. The tumor grew rather quickly over last 3 months and started to develop a sore. We were leaving for vacation in 2 weeks and decided to make an appointment for examination once we returned. Well… it grew even more while we were away and ended up bursting while my sister was watching him. The vet thinks it got infected and filled with fluids which caused the rapid growth. He’s had surgery now, it was done yesterday. The tumor was also about 3 pounds and went pretty deep into his chest. He is still extremely groggy from surgery and doesn’t want to eat much. It takes a lot of energy to get up and walk around but he’s doing his best. We are bringing water to him and trying to hand feed him. Thankful he is taking his meds when we wrap them in treats. I can’t handle seeing him like this.. it makes me so sad. I’m really hoping he can make a full recovery and return to the happy silly loving buddy we’ve always known.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Nikki, Thanks for sharing our story. Give your doctor plenty of feedback about how the case is going. If they don’t know what’s going on, they can’t do their best to modify treatment when needed.

  24. Cynthia Cornejo says:

    Thank you so much for this very informative website and all of the comments and replies from Kennetvet! My 13 yr old lab/border collie mix Sassy has a very hard tumor growing above his right hip. We noticed it 5 months ago when it was very small, now its 4in x 3in and 1 in deep. Our vet took a needle aspirate the other day. We are waiting for results but she does recommend us to remove it even if it’s benign as it’s growing. It doesn’t bother Sassy now and he is very playful and young acting for 13. Vet says his heart is very strong and normal. We are leaning towards having it removed but are very worried. We love our Sassy like all of you do with your wonderful fur babies. Would really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you ????????

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Cynthia,
      It sounds like your doctor has been conscientious in evaluating your pet and recommending treatment. When tumors get very large, they have a risk of outgrowing their blood supply. When this happens, some of the tumor dies and rots. We recently had a little dog who was coming in for evaluation of a large mass on his neck. It burst in the parking lot, and the dog bled all over our porch and exam room before we could get it bandaged. That’s unusual. Usually it just makes a nasty, disgusting, stinking, debilitating sore. If your doctor feels good about the surgery, I would go ahead.

  25. Cynthia Cornejo says:

    Thank you so much for your reply! We did get the results from the needle aspirate from Sassys tumor which stated most probably sarcoma but not completely sure unless biopsy is done. We have scheduled surgery in 10 days with a very experienced and talented vet surgeon. He is also evaluating Sassy in a few days to make sure surgery will be okay for him due to his age. We had a second opinion from a surgeon at a vet hospital who said he would just leave it alone due to his age and that it doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all now. We are torn and don’t want him to suffer. Looking at him now you would never know he has a growth. He’s so loveable and playful, runs like a puppy. We are also giving him green tea and the growth has not gotten any bigger. We will let you know how he makes out and thank you again for your support and this website.

  26. vanessa fournier says:

    It’s more of a question then a comment. I am so distraught. I have a 15 pound Poma poo with a larger than fist size cancerous tumor behind her front leg. But she acts fine. She has a problem with her kidneys and has to pee every two hours and it’s mostly water. She also has trachea collapse which I’ve been told it’s not painful. But she runs around she eats she goes out and acts perfectly normal. The tumor has at least doubled if not tripled in size in the last two months. I am going out of town tomorrow. I know that in a short amount of time I’m going to have to put her down I was trying to wait until I saw some signs of her being uncomfortable. I haven’t seen any but now the time is come and I don’t know what to do. I have to leave for two weeks when I return I will have a five-year-old with me. I don’t wanna have to put the dog down with the five year old here I feel like I’m in a rock and a hard place. There’s an appointment today at 11 To have her euthanized I’m sick to my stomach

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Vanessa,

      This is never easy. It doesn’t matter how much we know it is the right thing and the right time.
      I am sorry for your loss.

  27. Karen Pina says:

    That’s great!! You go Ling Ling!
    I have a maltese she is going to be (Snuggles) 15, she had surgery 2 yrs ago in the middle of the pandemic on her right front leg, she had a mass that wasn’t letting her walk, she kept limping, so we decided to go for surgery, Snuggles has been licking that leg nonstop and has developed a yeast infection there and it’s now spreading but Snuggles is now limping a lot on that leg, now sure why, and I sit here and cry watching her, I gave her pain meds and all she does is sleep she takes 3 steps lays down and tris again takes 2 more steps and lays down again.

  28. Jo says:

    Our 10 year old pointer had multiple lipomas removed at the recommendation of our vet because of the size/locations. Elbow, back leg, sternum/belly. The one on the belly also had one behind it in the muscle which the vet removed. Within 24 hours, our boy had labored breathing, shakes, and eventually collapse and pale gums. He didn’t make it. We have a lot of guilt and regret thinking the lipoma removal was to blame, but upon examination the vet found a 5cm splenic mass that was suspected to have ruptured (likely a hemangiosarcoma, but no way to know for sure). I guess my question is this–would a complication from lipoma surgery cause such an outcome or was this likely a horrible coincidence that a splenic mass ruptured after surgery?

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Jo,
      I would say that this was more the “horrible coincidence”. I have had two dogs with splenic hemangiosarcoma. One was asymptomatic and I found the mass (BIG mass) just petting his tummy. The other dog was asymptomatic until the tumor ruptured and she got super weak from internal bleeding one morning. She had slept through the night inside the house, so no trauma. My wife noted that the dog didn’t feel good, so I took her with me to work. She could barely walk to the car, so I had to pick her up and carry her. I found the bleeding on an abdominal ultrasound and we opened her up. We got her through the crisis, but the tumor spread elsewhere and we lost her a few months later.

      • Jo says:

        I am truly sorry that happened to you and two of your dogs as well. We had lost another dog the same way, so it was very traumatic to live it again and right around the same age. The sudden-ness and shock of it seems unbearable at times. However I do feel fortunate that we were very in tune to him particularly after the surgery. I would hate to think of him having to be alone when that happened. Thank you for your reply–I guess we can finally start to believe that we did not fail our beloved friend. I just keep wondering “if only” we didn’t touch the one on his belly, maybe he would have been okay.

        • Violet says:

          I am so sorry this happened to you and your family. I just wrote a long post about the same thing happening a month ago with my lab/pointer 14 year old girl. The lipoma was very large and had started bothering her, making her cough and she couldn’t lay on her side, and it was also on her abdomen that extended to her side below the ribcage. It literally was pushing on her ribcage. It was awful to feel. So we decided to remove it. The coughing stopped and she did great with the anesthesia. They did xrays preop of the heart and lungs, but not the abdomen. Two weeks after the surgery she collapsed. The emergency vet did an ultrasound and found a splenic mass that appeared to have ruptured – her abdomen was filled with blood. With the ultrasound, they also found tumors on her liver and mysentary (I guess abdomen/intestinal area). I decided not to put her through surgery again since she was 14 and appeared that the tumor on the spleen had metastasized. The emergency vet and surgeon let me decide on surgery, but said they felt I did the right thing by not having it done. The emergency vet also said this was purely a coincidence (she said with the utmost confidence), that the tumor did not rupture due to the lipoma surgery. I have felt such guilt and haven’t been able to let this go since it happened. I hope you feel comfort knowing the same thing happened to us and the vet and surgeon said that it was not related – as the doctor above said it was a horrible coincidence, same as the emergency vet told us.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Violet,

            The mesentery is a thin membrane that stretches between the body wall and the organs. For instance, the arteries that supply blood to the intestines would be in this thin sheet if of tissue, rather than loose like a bunch of spaghetti. If a tumor were shedding cancer cells, they could implant there, as well as in other organs. When my Golden Retriever had a large tumor on his spleen, I did remove his spleen, but we noted hundreds of BB-sized tumors all over his other abdominal organs. He did great with his surgery, but within 3 weeks the cancer had spread so much that we lost him.

            I had another dog with a large tumor on the spleen and our first inkling was finding her very sluggish and pale. The mass had ruptured and she was bleeding internally. I was able to get her through that crisis, and there was no obvious spread of the tumor, but within two months we lost her.

            I would certainly agree with the other doctors that the lipoma surgery was not related to problem with the splenic tumor.

            I am sorry for your loss.

  29. Violet says:

    Hello, thank you for taking a look at my question and any insights. My 14 year old lab had a lipoma that was the size of a softball, maybe a bit larger, almost 1 pound. We had watched it for a couple of years and the Dr. said to wait. It came to a point that it seemed to be causing her to cough when laying down, and she could not lay on that side – she was so uncomfortable. It seemed to be pushing on her organs when laying down, but this was not confirmed, but suspected. She also had IBD and she retched sometimes, but I noticed the retching had turned into coughing a few times a day when laying down. I took her to a new vet because we moved. They decided to do the surgery. They did a comprehensive pre-op workup that included chest, heart xrays, and blood work. Everything was perfect – xrays read by a radiologist. She came out of the surgery fine. No issues with anesthesia. The Dr. said it turned out to be more complicated, and that she could not get it all out due to not wanting to get close to the body cavity. Why would she not be able to get it all? The coughing stopped and she was happy besides itchy stiches. The coughing did return after a week post op after I gave her some whipped cream from Starbucks. But, it was minimal. When I took her in to have the stiches removed, they said they wanted to wait to remove them and put her on some preventative antibiotics due to some scabbing and redness. She had it all cleaned up and the itching was gone, they put a bandage over it. She was so happy and doing great. Two days after that appointment, she collapsed (the surgery had been 2 weeks prior at this point). I rushed her to the emergency because her gums we pale. They did an ultrasound and found a mass on her spleen and blood in her abdomen. They also found lesions on her liver and mysentary (the doctor didn’t call it mysentary – she said intestines or stomach (can’t remember exactly, but called back and the ultrasound report said mysentary. Three lesions on the mysentary and 2 or 3 on the liver, plus the tumor on the spleen. Her blood work was fine though and clotting normally. Given her age and the tumors, I made the decision to let her go. I have been feeling so guilty about doing the lipoma surgery, wondering if this surgery caused her tumor on her spleen to rupture. Could this have been the case? They were going to remove the spleen with the chance it was benign before they saw the liver and mysentary lesions. They said that we would never know if any of these tumors were benign or malignant unless they had done the surgery and biopsied all of these. So, I’m here thinking, well did the lipoma surgery cause all of this. Could everything have been benign? That seems far fetched to me, but I’m not a doctor. The emergency vet said that this was purely a coincidence that the spleen tumor ruptured when it did that close to having had the lipoma surgery. I know this is long, and I so appreciate you weighing in with your opinion. I’m just looking for answers. I guess if we hadn’t done the lipoma surgery and the spleen tumor had ruptured, I would not feel guilty. They did cytology on the lipoma prior to surgery and it was benign. Thank you for any insight you can provide. I so appreciate it.

  30. Cher says:

    13 yr old shih tzu with breast cancer. One grew so quick that I ran her to a vet. Lady said she is to old to have them removed and she might not make it through the surgery. But I should really think about having her eye removed.
    I couldn’t believe it.
    Well it grew bigger and then busted wide open. It’s bigger than her little belly put together. I try to keep her from licking it and keep it covered. She still does, because she does what she wants. I don’t have 3 to 4 grand to drop if I could find someone to remove it. I don’t want her in pain or uncomfortable. I’ve searched and searched for any answers with not much luck.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Cher,

      Sorry I’m late in replying. These are miserable situations. I recently had a patient with a similar situation. When I first looked at it, I thought we could handle it, but we were booked out a month on our surgery times. The patient’s condition worsened, and really needs a surgical specialist now.

      These tumors grow in a very disorganized fashion. New growth can choke off the blood supply to old growth, which then dies and falls apart. Then you have an open wound which can become infected. Keeping it bandaged is helpful, but there is no simple fix with something like this. It just gets worse.

      I wish I knew how to give you a happy ending for this situation, but I fear that you are going to lose your friend over this disease.

  31. Carolina says:

    Hi doc . I have a 10 year old ACD mix , going on 11 on oct. he has had two surgeries to remove multiple lipomas. One when he was 4 and one last year sept. He now has more lipomas and 2 are large and on his hind legs. I have noticed over the past week he started struggling with getting up . Seems to not want to put weight on his hind legs. I have scheduled an appt with our vet to evaluate if we can do surgery again. Concerned on how soon it will be to the last one last sept . And concerned that he will grow more and have to go through surgery again.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Carolina,
      With it being several months since the last surgery, I would think that your dog would be fully recovered and okay for another operation.

      I understand your concern about him growing new tumors and needing more surgery. I don’t know any way to really prevent that. My best advice would be to watch their rate of growth, and remove the faster growing masses while they are still small.

  32. Stacy Webster says:

    Hello, my name is Stacy. My husband and I are dealing with this same thing. Our girl is almost 19 yeas old. She has a mass tumor on her right back hip and it has now opened up. She is perfectly healthy in all other aspects. Our vet says they can’t remove it it to far gone. She is miserable. They wat us to put her down. We know she’s fine other than that and we don’t want to put her down til we know she’s ready. We need help. We need someone to open her up and remove it. We are not putting her down she is still a very active dog. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I have pictures if you would like to see it.

    • Doc says:

      Hello, Stacy,
      Sorry I didn’t see this earlier. It sounds like the concern would be that the tumor has invaded deeper structures and cannot be completely removed, or that it has grown to such a size that 1. surgery would take a really long time to remove it, and she might not be able to withstand such a long anesthetic or 2. that it would be impossible to close the incision without prolonged bandaging and possibly skin grafting.

      The way to find out what is possible would be to see a specialty hospital where they can do a C-T scan to determine the extent of the tumor, and where there is a surgical specialist to do the operation and supervise the post-operative care. The specialist would also be able to give you a better idea of what it will take to handle the situation.

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