Today I got a call from the vet to tell me the results of my dog’s skin biopsy & blood tests from 4 days before. I took him to the vet in May because of a red, itchy patch on his left side which was now looking a bit bald and was given a steroid cream to try for a couple of weeks. We hoped it was just some localised irritation that would settle down. When it didn’t clear up I went back in July and the vet was a bit mystified but suspected it may be hormone-related, possibly a problem with his pituitary gland. A few days later he went into hospital for a skin biopsy and blood tests to check it out.

He bounced out of the hospital with a couple of shaved patches on his legs and neck, but otherwise none the worse for wear for a morning in hospital. They had managed to do it under sedation so he didn’t have to recover from general anaesthetic and had a normal evening meal and walk later that day.

The news today wasn’t what they, or I, expected. His blood results were good and his pituitary was normal – no evidence of Cushing’s disease, which was a suspect because of the localised hair loss on his side and the red, itchy patch. Just above this there was a hand-sized flaky, white, scaly patch that felt thick, and they had taken a biopsy of that too.

The vet sounded surprised to be telling me the irritated patch on his skin is actually a large Mast Cell Tumour.

Did I hear right? Tumour. Cancer. What???

She told me they didn’t anticipate this as mast cell tumours usually present as smooth discrete lumps, not scaly itchy skin patches. Google helped me find out more about Mast Cell Tumours and yes, sometimes they do appear like warts but yes, this is unusual. She had already spoken to the Oncologists in the Dick Vet Hospital (actually, in the same building) and I was to take him in the following Monday to find out more about the cancer – grades and stages and the like.

I should mention here that Ash is 12. He has always been healthy, barring a couple of operations a few years ago on his ears and his eyes. Nothing major and nothing recurring. So this diagnosis was a bit of a surprise to me. I had to tell my children (18 and 20, technically not children any more but when it comes to telling them the dog they grew up with may have a terminal illness they may as well still have been 5 and 7).

So I have a week ahead of googling and observing, wondering what Monday will bring.

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