Lola is a gorgeous Labradoodle, who provides a great example of why a regular health check of your pet is so important!
Lola was seen recently for a vaccination. Vaccination is important in itself, but at the same appointment we give our patients a health check and address any concerns the owner may have. In Lola’s case the health check had significant implications…
Vet Samantha Pryor was examining Lola’s mouth and noticed a mass growing from her gums between two of her teeth. Unfortunately dogs can get both benign and cancerous growths in their mouth. Many will need removing even if benign, because they will continue to grow and invade the local area. Growths within the mouth are easily missed due to their location and are just one of the many things that a vet may pick up during a health check. In many cases earlier diagnosis leads to a better outcome.
To identify what the growth was we needed to sample it and have a pathologist look at the cells. Due to the location Lola needed a sedation so we opted to do a tissue biopsy which involved us taking a small piece of the tissue and sending this to a laboratory.
Sadly Lola’s growth was confirmed as cancerous. We therefore recommended immediate surgery to remove it which her owners consented to. The biopsy results told us it was a squamous cell carcinoma, which if untreated would grow uncontrollably and there was a risk it could spread. Knowing what type of cell it contained allowed us to plan how big a margin of healthy tissue we needed to take. The more aggressive the cancer is, the larger amount of healthy tissue recommended to try to catch any of the cells starting to spread.
Lola’s growth needed a 1 cm margin around the mass in all directions. Once Lola was under general anaesthetic we could take an x-ray of the area to see if there was any evidence of it invading the surrounding bone. If there is evidence of this we measure our margin from this point rather than the edges of the growth. We couldn’t see any invasion on Lola but as the growth was in between two teeth this meant loosing both these teeth and also some of her upper jaw.
John Mather is an experienced surgeon and was able to perform the surgery required to remove this growth with the necessary margins. This is far more successful than simpler ‘de-bulking’ surgery, where the tumour will likely just grow back. We have recently invested in a drill designed especially for this type of surgery, a ‘Minos’. The bit spins on the spot and the drill is in the shape of a pen which means we can accurately cut the margin of tissue without having to take any more then necessary.
Lola had three different types of pain relief including injections and local anaesthetic nerve blocks to ensure she would be comfortable after the operation.
Thankfully Lola’s operation went very well and no complications were encountered. She recovered well and seemed very comfortable, so was allowed to go home that day. The next day Lola was bright, eating and recovering well.
The removed growth was sent to the lab and results confirmed it was a squamous cell carcinoma but had been completely removed. This means it will not reoccur where it originally was. However there is a small risk it might have spread so we will be monitoring Lola closely. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that the surgery has been curative.
We are really pleased that Lola has recovered well from her op and is now back enjoying life to the full!
Dr Samantha Pryor MRCVS, Vet at Greenbay Vets in Torquay and Paignton