Sammy is a 9 year old Golden Retriever whose story is so simple yet so revealing that I needed to share it with you.
Sammy had no prior medical problems before being brought into the emergency service of one of our partner hospitals for a severely swollen left rear leg. On the initial examination, the leg was swollen from the tip of the toes all the way up to the hip. The swelling was among the most severe cases I had ever seen. There was no history of trauma, no chance the dog was hit by a car, motorcycle or even bicycle.
Physical examination revealed no evidence of a fracture, insect bite, snake bite or anything else—just severe, severe swelling.
Unfortunately, as in many cases these days, finances were a big concern for the owner and she was considering having Sammy humanely euthanized. Our criticalist decided to try and convince her to see if –by chance—one fine needle aspirate of this swelling would give us the information we needed in order to save Sammy. Luckily the owner said “yes.” After checking the entire leg, a small area that was very slightly firmer than the rest of the leg was found. A fine needle aspirate was performed.
The aspirate revealed mast cells on cytology. The owner was devastated to learn that here beloved dog had cancer and again, she was considering euthanasia. But yet again, luck smiled on this very special dog. I convinced her to try one week of prednisone-before she made that final decision. By the following week, Sammy was a new dog. The swelling in his left rear leg had completely resolved—except for an area the size of a quarter right near his knee (stifle).
Because Sammy was now doing well, enjoying life and the massive swelling had changed to a small mass, the owner elected to have the mass removed. A “Trifecta”—the mass was found to be a low-grade mast cell tumor and our surgeon was able to get a complete excision. Sammy was cured.
This was not the most complex case, nor was it a case that required combination therapy or a new or novel therapy. What this case represents, is the value of a good physical exam, the value of honest heart-felt communications, and the value of hope (along with a little bit of luck).
Every time we see Sammy—we are so thrilled that his mom said yes.
Dr. Gerald Post - 2013
The Veterinary Cancer Center