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Is It Cancer? Never Assume

Many pets get the wrong treatment because a mass is assumed to be cancerous.

Benign sweat gland cyst in the tail of a 9-year-old Labrador.

Photos Courtesy of Dr. Phil Zeltman

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Many patients never get the surgery they need or are euthanized because veterinarians or owners assume that a mass is cancerous.

It’s not uncommon for a referring veterinarian to call me to perform surgery on a patient with a “splenic tumor.”  I tend to call it a “splenic mass” until proven otherwise by my pathologist. Understandably, clients often don't want to put their pet through surgery if it's likely to be cancer. But that’s obviously a decision based on their family vet’s assumption.

The truth is, it sometimes doesn't really matter if a mass is benign or cancerous. A benign mass can cause some very annoying signs depending on where it is located: a large mass in the rectum preventing a dog from defecating; a large cervical mass pushing on the trachea and causing severe dyspnea; a large axillary mass preventing a dog from using the leg normally.

Benign intestinal mass in a 9-year-old Golden (jejunal leiomyoma).

These masses might have been benign, but they still caused some significant signs that dramatically affected the pet's quality of life.

We recently did surgery on three patients; all the names used here have been changed. "Everybody" just knew they had cancer. But their owners just loved their pet too much and couldn't put them to sleep without at least the benefit of surgery.

Max is a 13-year-old male Sheltie. X-rays revealed a large splenic mass. Based on the way it looked on ultrasound, we believed the mass to be malignant. Taking an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the spleen is possible, but it can be risky; the mass can rupture and the biopsy can cause "seeding."

Despite the odds, John, Max's owner, was interested in surgery, which was performed the next day. The mass was the size of a cantaloupe (in a Sheltie!), and looked really ugly–i.e. vet code for "Man, this oughta be cancer." Max recovered uneventfully.

One week later, the biopsy came back as … benign! The mass was a myelolipoma. Max is now expected to have a normal quality of life and a normal life expectancy.

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Jake is a 12-year-old male cocker who had difficulty urinating. Ultrasound showed a large mass in his bladder. Bladder masses are much more often cancerous than benign. Linda, the owner, elected to have the mass excised anyway.

We took Jake to surgery a few days later and removed about one third of his bladder.  One week later, the biopsy came back as … benign! The mass was a leiomyoma. Jake should have a normal life expectancy and a normal quality of life.

Praline, a 9-year-old Labrador, had a pretty big mass under the tail. She was referred for a tail amputation, because the mass was thought to be cancer. For some reason, call it a gut feeling, I wasn't too thrilled to do that, and of course neither was the owner.  So we decided to remove the mass only. 

Upon section postoperatively, the mass appeared dark, so I was concerned it could be a malignant melanoma. One week later, results came back: the mass was benign!  It was a cyst in a sweat gland.  Again, this mass will not affect the patient's life span, and Praline got to keep her tail.

The list could go on.

The moral of the story: Never assume.

I am perfectly aware that the diagnosis could just as easily be bad. In fact, it was supposed to be, based on experience and statistics. But here are three older dogs, some would say in the last part of their lives.

They all were statistically "supposed" to have cancer. But these loving owners, willing to provide the best possible care for their pet, were not going to give up without a fight. In fact, out of countless patients who did have cancer, I don't remember a pet owner ever regretting choosing surgery over euthanasia, no matter how much extra time we bought.

The goals of tumor removal are to obtain a diagnosis, improve the patient's quality of life (e. g. being able to urinate or defecate or breathe), increase life span, and decrease future risks (e.g. by preventing a hemoabdomen secondary to rupture of a splenic mass).

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Over the years, I have become much more cautious when a pet owner asks me whether I think a tumor is benign or malignant. I simply say, "I don't have microscopic vision," and that I just don't know.

Some clients hate this answer, but I would rather say that than give a client unnecessarily poor odds or false hopes.

In the case of Max*, Jake* and Praline*, three extremely dedicated owners were rewarded with an excellent diagnosis, an outstanding prognosis, and hopefully many more happy years with their dogs.

Dr. Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, Pa. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound.”

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80 thoughts on “Is It Cancer? Never Assume

  1. I very much enjoyed these happy ending stories. Our twelve yr young labrador, Roxanne-Love, had two masses on her spleen. We opted for surgery…results came in benign! Our prayers were answered. This all took place in the last month. I was asking the vet at the hospital, where our Roxy had her surgery, what happens when pet owners come in with sick pets and they want to save them, but can’t afford surgery?? Roxy’s surgery cost us $4300. For some that is a drop in the bucket and for others it might as well be $100k. I can only imagine how helpless pet owners must feel if they can’t afford to try and save their pet’s life. 🙁

    I can’t imagine life without puppy dogs!

    1. My dog roxy was diagnosed with a mass on her spleen today! She goes in for surgery tomorrow! I can’t believe our dogs have the same name and both have a splenic mass…can I ask what your roxy’s symptoms were? Was the mass affecting her heart at all? Or causing her to be anemic?

    2. My dog just had a echocardiograms and they said he has a tumor which is cancer 2 to 3 inches. I have my dog since he was seven weeks old and now he is 14 years old. I have to see oncologist on the 29th March. I don’t know what he or she is going to tell me or what treatment. Please everyone pray for my little yorkie Lyon. I don’t have money to treat him. My dog is my life. I trust in Jesus. Thank you all.

  2. Thank you for this article. Most have told nightmare stories and scared me to death!! My 11 year old springer mix had a cantaloupe-sized mass on her spleen and it was removed yesterday. Now we wait for the results…Wishing for the best, and so thankful there are surgeons who can help. To all who have a dog with a mass…keep up the hope and spirit and give plenty of love!

    1. We are bringing our 8 year old lab in tomorrow morning for spleen removal and this is the first article I’ve read that has had anything leaning towards good news so we are praying for the best. Good luck with your fur baby

  3. My cat is 6 years old and just had a mass removed from her spleen two weeks ago. The results came back and they could not say for sure 100% what it was. I know I don’t want to put her through chemo. She has been back in the hospital for 8 days now due to anemia and the cause is not 100% determined either, even after lots of tests. So far she has had 3 transfusions…1 before the surgery and 2 after. Now that she is on steroids her HCT levels are staying up. It’s all a mystery.

  4. Our labrador Chloe was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago with a HUGE splenic tumor, the size of a watermelon. It was crowding out all of her other organs and the vets only used the word tumor to describe it. Euthanasia was the recommended course of action as Chloe is 16.5. I sought a second and third opinion and all vets said euthanasia should be performed that day. They actually told me that to put her through surgery would be cruel as her prognosis was so poor, the cancer had probably spread and we would only gain a few weeks with her, but at what cost to her with the anesthesia and surgery recovery. We opted to operate anyways as I just couldn’t part with her and I knew she wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Chloe had surgery the next day and all went well, her recovery was swift, and the results of the histopathology came a week later – it was BENIGN!!!!
    We are well aware that she will not live very long anyways as she is already quite old but we are so happy that we followed our hearts and saved her life!!! Just like this article says, don’t ever assume the worst and always keep hope and faith in your animal. Think what they would do for you in the same situation and do that for them. Always give them a chance and do not give up, even against ALL ODDS. You never know!!!

    1. A fantastic note. Many thanks for writing it.
      Our beloved 13 year old black labrador Zorro is on the operating table as I write, having a large mass on his spleen removed. Fingers crossed the growth is benign. Your note has encouraged me to push hard for a biopsy when the vet calls (if they suggest otherwise).

    2. Thank you for this post. My 15 year old poodle just got his spleen removed today. Hoping it’s benign and so glad your dog’s tumor was benign!

    3. Thank you for this!! My soul dog has an enlarged spleen & I am freaking out… I’m trying to keep the hope & faith positive, but i’m an absolute mess.

    4. My Golden Retriever goes in tomo for a Ct scan. They think it’s a mass on his spleen. Similar story to yours, they weren’t very encouraging. I’m going to follow your lead 🙂

  5. I know this article is old but the comments are newer and all of it gave me hope.

    My cat just had surgery to remove what turned out to be two large masses in her abdominal area. The vet said her organs look great and her lungs were clear and he thinks it is related to some leftover ovarian tissue that the vet who spayed her left in. She has exhibited signs of heat twice a year since I got here so it makes sense. We’re waiting to get the results of the histopathology to see if it’s benign or malignant.

    I’m so glad I found this article because it gave me encouragement to get this thing taken out of her and not just let it go.

  6. My 13 1/2 year old cocker just had a spleenectomy….removal of spleen and a baseball sized ugly tumor…
    One vet said to euthanize, the other…knew my heart had to know for sure..so we opted for
    surgery.
    Like everyone else….all I have read are death sentence stories…and I hold my breath as
    I wait for Buddy’s histopath report!
    He has no other lesions, no bleeding into the abdomen….blood tests are all normal!
    I am praying my gut is right….BENIGN….but if not….I will do everything in my power to make him comfortable…

    thanks all!

  7. Hi …my Chandler …shihtzu…has a spleen mass also. His symptoms were not eating…or eating very little for a doggie who always loved his food for 12 years. We had unltrasound on Friday that showed he has a mass on his spleen. It is the holidays now. So I am waiting on our vet to return and hope to get a call tomorrow to set up probable surgery to remove this mass whether benign or not. The ultrasound said there were 2 masses one was 2 inches the other was smaller. He is mildly anemic. I have been living on pins and needles waiting for xmas and New Years to pass so that we can move forward to make him feel better. He is drinking and eating small portions of (I made him filet minon steak). He really has no interest in the food though unless you hand feed him. Prayers this is benign and removal makes him feel better and eat.

    1. Our 10 yr old boxer had her procedure 2 days ago and we were so happy to hear that her mass on her spleen is benign. Our problem now is since this procedure she won’t eat. It’s the holidays, today being New Year’s Eve and her Dr isn’t in. She said she wants to remove her spleen but how much longer will our dog survive with little to eat? They gave us some liquid (only 3 days worth) to put down her throat which does help a little with her appetite. My question is why since this procedure is she not eating? She always had an appetite before this procedure.

  8. My 13 year old German Shepherd Diesel is booked in tomorrow for splenic mass removal. Fingers and paws crossed it’s benign. He is my best friend….

  9. Our 7 year old toy fox terrier just has her spleen removed. A 5cm tumor in it. We are awaiting biopsy results. Oct 2016, we lost another TFT, 6 year old, hemangioscarcoma in the jaw.
    Just praying we don’t lose our other little girl…

      1. I am so sorry for your loss! My heart goes out to you! I’m trying to save my 13 year old Pit Mix. Punkin is the sweetest girl and has been by my side for 10 years. She shares her birhday with my only child, Angela. We both love Punkin so much and are praying that she doesn’t have cancer or Cushings! I will not have them euthanize her unless she is totally failing to thrive. I spend as much time trying to find information that gives me hope. The vet says she is too old for surgery to remove the adrenal gland that is covered with a tumor. God bless you, and may the Holy Spirit put His arms of comfort around you. He is REAL. I am so blessed to feel His presence!

  10. Yesterday at emergency vet our 7 year old Brittany Spaniel was found to have a large, unruptured, splenic mass. We elected to hold off on surgery until we could talk to our family vet today. His recommendation was to not do surgery. I’m torn! I want to give him that chance, but I don’t want to put him through surgery if the outcome is grim 🙁 My mom doesn’t want to do the surgery, I do, but I don’t want to push her into doing something she is not comfortable with…

    1. Hi
      One year later and we are faced with the same situation except the vet IS recommending surgery. Did you have the surgery and how did you know it was benign?
      Thank you

    2. I am so happy for you. I am praying for same luck. I cannot do surgery. I have dog on Yunnan Baiyao
      He is 11. Platelets too low to operate. Was told he might have 2-7 days. It has been almost a week and dog is better than ever now. Praying his are just benign hemangiama. Everyday is a blessing and the Lord is GREAT!

  11. Our German Shepherd has had trouble going to the toilet and tries several times a day our vet showed us an xray and thinks there is a mass preventing him from going to the toilet he has on occasions passed normal stools he shows none of the symptoms of cancer he has not lost his appetite and runs like a pup he is 5 years old, he is seeing a specialist on monday

    1. My husband’s dog had that problem and it was a hectic time in our lives. If we only had that ultra sound done sooner we could have saved him. He had a tumor pressing internely on his bowel. It tore and he died of septis. I hope that the doctor saved your beloved pet by providing an ultra sound in time. Our dog was 13.

  12. My friends’ beautiful dog was diagnosed with a spleen tumour last September, following a major bleed, which he survived. His owners opted not to have surgery. Now it is nearly March and he is still alive and acting like a puppy still, there are days when he is a little slower but overall he is amazing…he has had two minor bleeds, where he is clearly not feeling great, one can see the colour of his gums is pale, but he comes back. I took care of him for four weeks and eliminated the dry food, preparing every day meat with some veggies and quinoa. During that time he had no bleeds. His owners have now changed his diet so he is eating more meat, I do not know about the dry food. As my dear friend had Ovarian cancer and had trouble with digesting food, I reasoned that this dog’s digestive system might be compromised and hence I gave him easily digestible food. The mass is very large, he was a very slender dog and now looks like he is a little overweight, probably the mass is the size of a cantaloupe. He is 10 or 11 years old, a mixed breed of setter and pointer (I think). I wonder how long he can continue, he is much loved, he has outlived the original thoughts by 3 to 4 months. Has anyone had a similar experience? Does anyone think the food might be helping?

    1. Tell your friends to research Yunnan Baiyao. It is a Traditional Chinese Medicine supplement that helps with bleeds. There are several great groups on Facebook – one is the Ketogenic Dog Group (special high fat diet for dogs with cancer) and Hemangiosarcoma Diet & Supplement Protocols for dogs – A holistic Approach.

  13. My dog was diagnosed with a splenic mass today. She is 15 and has a torn acl but gets around well and is generally in very good spirits. I am debating the best course of action and hoping someone whose elderly dog went through surgery can tell how their dog faired in the months following surgery. Thanks!

  14. My 13 year old beagle Kali, the love of my life (I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks old), had a splenectomy today to remove a very large ruptured mass. Without emergency surgery she would definitely have died because of the internal bleeding. It was torturous to be faced with the possibility of my child being fine a day ago and dead today. There was no way that I could just put her to sleep without having the surgery and subsequent biopsy. She did well in surgery and there are no signs of any other masses. It will be about a week before the biopsy results are back. I am hoping beyond hope that the biopsy is benign. I love her so much and I just know that our beloved animals want to fight and need us to fight for them! The bond we develop with our pets really helps in times like I had with Kali today – Everything in my gut said she wanted to risk having the surgery. My gut and my heart also said that I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her today, especially without giving her a chance to recover.

    I’ve been reading about these masses for a few hours and almost all of the information I’ve found left me feeling hopeless about it being benign but then I found this site and it helped me SO much to hear that it could be benign. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and for everyone on here that’s lost their pet, my heart goes out to you! ?

    Th

    1. Brandy, please give us an update.
      I’m going through the same thing now. My White 10 year old Schnauzer Max is getting ready to have his spleen with a ruptured mass removed soon.

  15. Our 9 year old Golden Doodle Lucee now has the same issue. We are deciding on whether to do the surgery or not. But thanks to this article I believe we have no option but to opt for the surgery. She has a grapefruit sized tumor hopefully on her spleen. Fingers crossed, we can’t wait to talk to the Vet on Monday morning. Thank you for all the positive comments!

  16. My 12 year old Golden has 3 small masses on his spleen initially detected by x-ray and confirmed by ultrasound. A biopsy was performed and it was negative for cancer. Our vet recommended surgery. We consulted with a Board Certified Surgeon today and he recommended against surgery at this time. We have used this surgeon before and he is excellent. He recommended another ultrasound in 3-4 months to monitor the size of the masses. This surgeon (and another surgeon in the room at the time) stated that small non-malignant masses pose very little risk of a bleed. The reason to monitor is that it is always possible that the biopsy was wrong or the masses could get larger. He stated that malignant masses tend to grow faster. In any event, that is good news for now.

  17. I just found out that my dog has a large mass in her cervix,i dont know what to do..any suggestions, please help

    1. I just found out today my 3.2 lb. Yorkie has a cervical mass big as a small brazil nut. It is being sent in to pathology for a diagnosis. She is 16 years old
      Now. Im alml ost afraidbnb of what it will be. Over the last several months shes been in a constant sense of being in heat. Spotting all the time. Is down almost 1 pound since last winter.

      Anyone had this happen?

  18. To all dogs and owners that have been down this unfortunate road of pain and discomfort. I ask god to please give strength and hope to you all. Just last night I found a golf ball mass just above my dog Kodas back right leg. He seems too be 100% healthy still eating and drinking and running around. He is Only 4yrs old and I’m just wondering if it’s common for dogs at his age to get cancerous mass at that age? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. God Bless

  19. My 9.5 year old lab had his enlarged spleen removed 4 days ago. Symptoms were that he was lethargic, panting and refused to eat. After his operation the vet said his intestines were also twisted. I’m waiting for the results and my stomach has been in knots. Fingers crossed for benign. He’s eating well now and looks to be feeling great, well besides the fact that his stomach is all stitched up. He’s my best friend and I just love him!!!

    1. Well received a call from my vet today and results are in….benign!!! I had tears of joy and couldn’t stop hugging my boy for hours. I’m so glad I chose to operate and save his life. I had to give him that chance…that chance should be the one thing you do for your pet. Good luck and have faith.

  20. My 9yr old lab has a large mass we cant tell if its attached to anything. Breaks My heart to not go down fighting. Best bird dog Ive ever had/ seen. Im leaning towards surgery. Really bugs me is these outrageous prices most vets quote. Thank god i found a reasonable one.

  21. My almost 14-year old dog began collapsed on Friday (8/10) and urinated on the floor. She looked as if she were unable to move. However, on Saturday I took her and the other dog for an hour and half walk, and she did fine. Then on Sunday afternoon she collapsed again, and seemed to be paralyzed for a few seconds. Monday night when I was walking her again, she had another episode of collapse, but was able to resume movement after a short time. Nevertheless, I carried her part of the way back home. I stayed up until 2 a.m. watching her. Tuesday morning (8/14) she was up about 5:30 a.m., just lying on the bed in an upright position. She did get up and drank a lot of water. She came back to the bedroom, but she went again to the kitchen to drink some more water. A little later she was walking again towards the kitchen, and she threw up the water and stomach contents (about three times). She fell against the wall, but she recovered. I took her to the vet. She was a little lethargic, but she became very animated when she saw the vet’s office and started barking. She wanted to explore the grounds before I took her into the building. After x-rays and a blood test, the vet told me she was somewhat anemic and the collapses were probably the result of a lack of oxygen in her blood. The x-rays showed she had a tumor either in the spleen or liver. He couldn’t tell. He said if they did surgery and the tumor was in the spleen, they could remove it, but if it were in the liver, there was nothing more to be done. Surgery seemed so “iffy” to me, so I opted for euthanasia. However, I am having so much regret. I was there for the euthanasia procedure. Before that, my dog just wanted to go home; she kept going to the door. I wonder whether I should have just taken her home and given her a few more weeks of life. I have put down two dogs previously, but they were both in the throes of death. This dog was still eating and interacting with life. However, I was concerned about the collapsing problem, and the vet said the tumor could rupture. My dog had surgery a month or so ago after having been bitten by the other dog, and she recovered nicely from that. At that time her blood work was normal. I didn’t want my dog to suffer, but I question whether I could have given a few more weeks of a quality life. The only other symptom I noticed prior to the collapse episodes was an intermittent lameness about a couple of times when we walked, but it seemed to resolve itself because she walked that hour-and-a-half walk very well.
    I really don’t know if I made the right decision. I wouldn’t have wanted her to suffer, but I was unsure about the continued effects that this tumor was having on her system.

  22. I noticed maybe four months ago my coonhound looked a little fuller in the ribs and abdomen. Two weeks ago I noticed the fullness was a hard mass between her sternum and navel. She had no other symptoms. A trip to the vet, and x-ray and some blood work showed a large mass on her spleen. Blood work indicated that the mass had not ruptured but had microscopic bleeds. The vet recommended the veterinary surgical center the next town over. They quoted me over $5000, which was completely undoable. My vet then agreed to do the surgery for $1100. It was more risky because splenic tumors tend to bleed excessively and he could not do a blood transfusion. It was worth the chance and my vet removed a mass the size of a football. It was touch and go for the first 24 hours after surgery but a week later, she’s as good as new. The pathology exam discovered that the tumor was a myelolipoma, a benign tumor made up of blood vessel an d fatty tissue. It will never come back

    1. Your story gives me hope. I have my dog on Yunnan Baiyao and I pray his tumors they see from ultra sound are just benign blood vessels. They gave him a week to live. Since putting him on the Yunnan Baiyao the tumor on hip has shrunk an half inch and he is feeling 90 percent. I don’t think the vets actually know until surgery is done and tumor is tested. The lump was tested and inconclusive. They just know a lot of blood vessels. His platelets dropped and no surgery could be done. Your story gives me hope.

  23. My 12 year old chihuahua had some blood in her urine. ultra sound revealed a small mass in her bladder but they couldn’t tell for sure if it was cancer. i opted for a urine test that detects cancer she is only 4 pounds 7 ounces so anything invasive was out. the test came back today negative 85 per cent no cancer cells. we are opting for another urine test that will tell 95 percent. she will pass this test too and then some steroids to shrink the small mass in her bladder. we are so happy. there is hope for every dog with a mass and i will pray for all of them to be benign

  24. We have a nine year old Japanese Chin. She has been fairly healthy for most of her life. She stopped eating a couple weeks ago. She has always been a big eater and never seems to get enough, so that was a sign something was wrong. We took her to a Vet the next day. Her blood work showed she was anemic and her white blood count was bottomed out. They did a chest X-ray and thought her spleen might be enlarged, so they did an ultrasound. That showed she had a tumor, but they can’t tell if it’s attached to an organ. The first vet thought it may be attached to her kidney. A second Vet thinks it could be on her adrenal glands. I have to take her to an oncologist on Friday. They are supposed to do more xrays and give me more info – I hope. I don’t think it would be wise to do a biopsy or surgery if her white blood count is low. Is she more susceptible to infection? My gut feeling is – if it’s cancer, we won’t treat it. We just can’t afford it. We are already over $1,000 just trying to get a diagnosis. The last few days, she is back to eating without a problem. She just acts a little weak. Not as active or happy.

  25. My beautiful 10 year old White Schnauzer Max who most people think is 2 or 3 because of his happy jumpy personality suddenly and with no warning got a distended abdomen and was in great pain. A tumor on his spleen partially ruptured and now as I write this on a Saturday evening he is stabilized at an animal hospital preparing to have surgery on Monday morning to have his spleen removed. I’m praying that it’s benign despite the vet saying the odds are stacked against him. Wish us luck!

    1. Update: Max had his surgery last Monday and they kept him until Wednesday when they released him. Honestly I was so scared to possibly see Max in pain and suffering from the surgery that I didn’t visit him and opted to just wait until the day he was released from the hospital. When they walked him out wearing the e-collar he was acting like nothing happened! He was jumping and barking and made a bee line straight out of the front door and towards my car! As soon as we got home he demanded a walk and promptly kicked his dog dish asking for it to be filled! I was so happy and full of hope that his biopsied spleen would come back negative for cancer. Well, I got the call this morning, Max has cancer despite nothing showing up on his lungs, heart and stomach. I’m devastated and drifting into denial. Max is better than ever after surgery to remove his spleen with a baseball sized tumor on it. It’s almost like he’s a puppy again. Now I have to decide on whether to pursue chemo and hope he can live a longer and relatively comfortable life. I can’t breathe right now……….

      1. I was told my Golden h ( and saw xray) had large mass on her spleen, detected while there for an annual check up. My vet had me in tears, more or less told me it could rupture at anytime. Led me to believe more than likely cancer. My girl just had turned 9, gave me no indication nor showed any symptoms of being ill. Took her home & started her the next day on Yunnan Baiyo and 3 days later added CBD oil to her diet as well. 4 weeks later she is still going strong, eating more than ever, still walking 3 1/2 miles a day & playing catch every morning. Went to vet for re- check & found her mass has shrunk (she could not even feel it so did another xray) also moved slightly near her rib cage. Vet is baffled & pleasantly surprised to find the mass is going away, for now anyway. So I intend to keep my Golden (Lucy) on the regimen & see how she continues. Good Luck!

      2. Hello Art, i am sorry you have to go through that. I have a white schnauzer too, He just turned 8 & his name is Benji. I left the vet earlier this morning, and they detected something near his stomach, they are not sure what it is, but they think is a mass, ultrasound hasn’t been scheduled yet, still waiting for them to get back to me. But i am very scared and nervous, i pray max defeats this! pray for him i will also pray for you. Dogs are like kids, and being a pet owner is so rewarding, but yet so painful. Best of luck to you God bless.

        1. Michelle, both me and Max thank you for your prayers.
          The pain is real (for me). Max is running around playful as ever now. His surgical incision is nearly completely healed 10 days later. But I know the cancer is inside him and it just kills me. The surgeon told me in large dogs the odds are 30% that a spleen tumor is benign. In smaller dogs like my Max, the odds improve to approximately 50%. Unfortunately Max did not win the gamble. I’m praying that while Max’s luck ran out, the 50% benign side of the coin will go to another White Schnauzer named Benji. Good luck and please update us on Benji’s progress.

          1. Thank you Art, Benjis Ultrasound yesterday confirmed he has a tumor on his liver, I’m waiting for the biopsy results. My poors baby belly is swollen, vet says that’s fluid in this stomach, he’s urinating a lot and drinking a lot of water. I’m anxious for the results. I hate seeing him like this. I pray for both our dogs to get through this. Please pray for us. With faith God will save our dogs. Through Jesus they will be healed.

  26. Art, sending prayers your way for Max and for you. My Rommel (Dobie) will be 5 years old on the 26th of this month. I took him to vet Monday because he would not eat, and passed blood (I changed vets because there was inconsistency between the two vets and how they were treating his symptoms and Rom got sicker)The new vet did ultrasound and told me his spleen was enlarged and that they do feel it looks like cancer, I was devastated as he is my world. He had surgery yesterday so very quick decision I had to make. They removed enlarged spleen which had some lesions. I am waiting on results which will take a week. The article above along with the many comments has provided me hope. Rommel is home tonight vet felt he would recover faster if home with us. I am wishing you much luck and prayers for Max and for all of us waiting…

      1. Art I am so sorry to hear about Max you both will be in my thoughts and prayers. Rom’s Spleen biopsy came back negative I was so happy but the following week he did not get better, his lymph nodes got huge in his neck, he got horrible bloody nose I rushed him back to vet and they did biopsy of fluid in the lymph nodes and that also came back negative but he continued to get worse. They were stumped, he did come back positive for multiple tick deseases but vets did not feel this was likely they felt that must have been triggered by something else but did put him on doxycycline just in case . They were back to thinking cancer of lymph nodes and did second surgery to do biopsy on tissue, which came back saying vet did not get lymph node tissue but she knew she did, it was full os puss, she felt comfortable to put him on steroids. He is improving now, he is not himself I continue to pray. I truly home for the best for your Max.

  27. This is so hard. My 15 yr old beagle and I are in the same boat. She had controlled Cushings and was doing fine until 4 days ago when she stopped eating and had vomiting episodes. She had an ultrasound today and it’s a large splenic mass pushing on her stomach. Vet thinks we should do the surgery(would be at a different vet for 24 hr care), my husband and brothers think we should euthanize her now when she us pretty happy and comfortable.And I have been up all night going back and forth.

  28. Hello guys, my 8 year old schnauzer was diagnosed with a 4-6 Cm tumor in his liver. We are still waiting for the biopsy results. Is it necessary to wait for surgery until the results come in? I’m very anxious. My dog doesn’t eat only drinks a lot
    Of water. He eats very little by force. Please pray for us. They also found masses in his abdomen, they think is swollen lymph nodes, due to neuplasia? Please pray for my Benji.

  29. I see that spleen masses seem to be a very common thing in our beloved dogs. My 11 year old fox terrier was just fine, he has episodes of not wanting to eat, but always had, and then he recovered, so The last time I thought it was normal on him because we recently moved. But I took him to the vet to get his vaccins ans while there i asked if there was a test we could run as a preventive thing to make sure he is healthy and will have some more quality years with us. So the blood work came back and his white count was really low so he is anemic. His gums are really pale. They did an xray of his chest and stomach and they saw a mass on the spleen. We are waitting for the interpretation today so depending on what they say to us, we will have to decide the next steps. Reading all of your comments make me feel I am not alone in this and that chances have to be on our side. Lucas has been with me since he was 6 weeks old and now is not the time to let him down. Since he is not eating dry food, I am cooking chicken, grounded meat with veggies and I will keep doing this until I am sure that he will pass this over and be the same amazing dog he has been.

    1. Lorena I understand what your going through. Your story just like mine. It’s hard to think best decision when your hearts telling you one thing and your head another. Reading the other testimonies seem happy endings. Hope yours is too.

  30. my Oliver CKCS whose 11 in January had the same eating habits for past few weeks. Lethargy not interested in going out for walks. I noticed around 2 weeks ago his body temperature, pads, ears were intermittently cold. Kissed him close to the mouth on Saturday 1/12/18 and also noticed how cold his mouth was. Closer inspection in his gums were white. That evening he became disorientated and losing balance. Rushed him out of hours vets completed bloods which were really low explaining anemia. He then completed a urgent scan and results showed a mass unsure if spleen but within that area and with abdominal fluid. My vets took blood Monday which were slightly improved. Scan planned for Friday. In absolute turmoil. Facts are quality of life, should surgery to remove be done with risks of anaesthic and bleeding, after care and continual infections if spleen removed due to be immunosuppressive. Finally aftercare whilst you have to work and your beloved pet will be on his own? So much to bear in mind. Family friends work colleagues give good advice but such a difficult decision!!!!!

  31. I am so thankful I found this article and these comments. My heart goes out to all who have been faced with these diagnoses. My German-shepard mix rescue dog, Brandi, is more than 14.5 years old. She has arthritis and a joint disease that is controlled with medication. She limps and gets pretty tired at the end of a walk, but she is a happy and sweet girl. I came home one day to notice she was lying on her bed panting. Then she got up, walked toward her food bowl about 15 steps and collapsed. She didn’t want to get up. She didn’t eat. She was down for quite a while, but I didn’t panic because we’ve seen her do this before, which we presumed was her joint condition and the fact that her back leg muscles are weak. I gave her water thinking she might be dehydrated. She drank, then got up shortly after that and even went upstairs to bed. She didn’t eat, but she appeared better, but not right. I called the vet in the morning and they wanted to see her right away based on the episode I described, and also I mentioned her gums had been pale the night before. I didn’t realize that was a sign of internal bleeding at the time. I was looking for dehydration. The vet did an ultrasound and Brandi was diagnosed with a large splenic mass, about as large as the spleen itself. They said it must have been bleeding, which led to collapse, then clotted over, which is why she was better. But she had this tumor in her and they advised the only solutions were surgery, and commented on her age, or euthanasia. I was shocked and devastated. Of course I knew that at 14.5 years she might leave us soon, but not like this. I took her home, told the family, and we didn’t consider surgery at the time. We thought it would be too much for her at her age. We called a pet hospice organization and considered in-home euthanasia. Her pain got worse, and it seemed she couldn’t get around well. The hospice dr. thought the arthritis and joint condition were causing more pain than the tumor. We gave her pain meds and an anxiety med to keep her comfortable, thinking we would do so until we felt it was her time to go. We got close to making the final appointment, then we noticed she had bad days, but then good days. This went on for two weeks. We camped out in the living room since she couldn’t make it upstairs to bed, and kept a close watch on her to make sure she wasn’t in too much pain or having an emergency episode.

    I prayed for guidance. It was a risk that the tumor could rupture at any time, but otherwise how could I make this decision when she still had good days and an acceptable quality of life? I watched for a “help me out of this” look, one I’ve seen from other pets. The looks would be short lived, then she would feel better. One day she played in the snow with my daughter. After that, I started researching this condition further and came across this article and comments. We decided on the surgery after all. I’ve heard “age is not a disease,” and as the article says, we can’t be sure it’s cancer unless a biopsy says it’s cancer. The second-opinion vet thought the tumor could be causing weakness that looked like the joint disease pain, so removing it and letting her gain strength back after internal bleeding stopped should help. Even if it was cancer, at least we would know when it came time to make the final decision and she might feel a little better with that bleeding tumor out of her. The weight of that end-of-life decision was killing me.

    I’m so happy to report we got the biopsy results yesterday, and it is not cancer! She was in rough shape for a couple of days following surgery, which is understandable since they remove the tumor and the spleen in these cases. She was also on a lot of pain meds. Now, each day she is getting a little better and closer to her old self. Surgery was six days ago, and the vet said she should be feeling quite a bit better a couple of weeks post surgery either way (cancer or no).

    If you’re reading this, my heart goes out to you because you are probably searching for answers. The surgery was expensive, but if you can afford it and are struggling with the decisions I was, I hope this post is helpful. I’m thrilled it’s not cancer, and I feel for all of those who received the opposite news. I lost a six-year-old dog a while back due to cancer, and it is heartbreaking. But, as the article says, a vet can’t tell it’s cancer without surgery, and making the final decision for a pet’s life is especially hard if the pet isn’t telling us what they would want. In Brandi’s case, I’m glad I came across these stories and made the decision I did. Brandi is an elderly dog, yes, but it turns out that she’s meant to be with us a little longer.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! You give me some hope for my Lola. X-rays today show she has an abdominal mass, but they can’t do an ultrasound until Monday. The vet said very likely cancer. But I will hold out hope that it’s not.

  32. I’m so glad I found this article. Annie, my 11 year old Maltese, is scheduled to have surgery this Friday. She went into the vet for a slight tummy ache and the vet felt what she thought were enlarged organs. The ultrasound shows a large mass at/in her left kidney. Her right kidney appears normal. We’ve decided to do the surgery. She has been acting a bit off for a few weeks, maybe a little slower, but nothing more significant than that. I figured just that she was getting older. Overall, her blood work is good. I’ve had a few people telling me not to put her through the pain of this surgery, so I was second guessing my decision even though the our longtime trusted vet feels confident that we need to do this. I’m dreading Friday. Thanks for listening.

    1. Linda, you are following your heart, and it sounds like you have a trusted vet as a partner in Annie’s health, which is such a good thing. I’m sending positive thoughts to you and Annie.

  33. My Kelsey, 13 yr old lab, brought her home at 7 weeks, was diagnosed with a spleen mass today. I’m so terribly sad. We also did xrays on her heat to see if anything spread and there were no signs of anything in her chest. We are figuring out surgery options ASAP. I’ve been terribly sad but this article and your comments bring me hope. I can’t lose her now. She’s too happy and amazing – not ready to go. Please wish us luck. XO Marisa

  34. I’m hoping and preying that all of your dogs are okay. We found out towards the end of October, beginning of November that my 10 year old dog Rosie was diagnosed with a big tumor on her spleen. My family and I were so devistated because the doctor said she had 3 months to live. We’ve immediately decided to switch her to a raw diet to hopefully take down the tumor, along with her meds to take down the swelling. She’s been doing great with eating and going for walks. I would like to have her go into surgery but it’s a lot of money. We are doing all that we can to keep her healthy and strong. We want her to stay longer.

  35. My 10 year old Scottish Terrier has grown thin in recent months and her appetite has changed dramatically. We took her to our vet yesterday and xrays and an ultrasound showed a mass on her spleen. She is anemic and her platelets are low so we are medicating for 2 weeks and then she will undergo surgery. Her other organs look clear and she is otherwise in good heath and still runs after squirrels. Hopefully by removing the tumor her appetite will return to normal and she will put on some weight and go on enjoying life. Fingers crossed!

  36. My 10 year old wolfhound/cairn terrier mix was acting strange the other day. We too him to emergency care yesterday and they did an ultrasound sound and told us that he had a mass on his spleen that was bleeding and they needed to perform surgery ASAP. They did surgery that day to remove the mass and the spleen. They told us 75% of these are cancerous and 25% of that 75% is the aggressive kind where he won’t live more than a couple weeks. I’m soooo scared. They said we should get results in 3-5 business days. I can’t say goodbye to him. I never had a dog before that felt sooo much like my soulmate and spirit animal. I will just be devastated if it is not good news. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories. I was so defeated but now have some hope. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high though just to have them possibly come crashing down. I don’t want to lose him.

  37. Our 6.5 year old golden has two mast one on the spleen and one on the liver. We want to do whatever we can. Our vet said they can’t operate bc it’s in the liver now. She said we could do a bypsy but there is a risk with internal bleeding due to taking the bypsy from the mast. We are so torn on what to do. Has anyone had any success with mast in liver and spleen? He still has pep. And we don’t want to lose our baby…

  38. I, too, am so glad I found this site. My Schnauzer Annabelle will be 12 in March, if we make it that long. Six weeks ago we received a “double-diagnosis”. Her liver was “failing” (a BAD 6 or 7 on a scale of 10) and there was a small “mass” on her spleen. Anna’s had a myriad of medical problems since I adopted her at age 1-1/2. She had NO Veterinary attention whatsoever before that and came with very complicated gastro issues, chronic pancreatitis, constant UTI’s, fecal infections & ear infections, just to name a few, and since then she’s been on so many different supplements and special script dog foods and ended up so “immune-deficient” that I instinctively knew we HAD to solve the liver problem FIRST before tackling the spleen. My prior Vet said “DUH, I dunno – dogs can LIVE without a spleen, ya know” and he also hadn’t the first CLUE what to do, or what to feed, to reconstitute the liver (except he prescribed pills that didn’t work). I immediately changed Vets and got busy doing the RESEARCH for a complete diet change. First, I learned absolutely NO tap water (only Pedialyte (for electrolytes) and Baby Purified (or distilled) water, with a tiny tsp of lo-fat goat’s milk thrown in to encourage drinking. Second – absolutely NOTHING man-made in the dog food department, including scripted foods. To reconstitute that liver and get it working again (which CAN be done, incidentally), it took 5-1/2 weeks. Two months before changing Anna’s diet, her fecals had gone from light brown, to dark yellow, to light yellow and finally to BRIGHT ORANGE, which meant RAPID LIVER FAILURE. After 5-1/2 weeks, this 5-ingredient “diet” proved successful: Three times/day, I feed 1/2 cup of the following, which makes five (5) half-cup meals. In a bowl, I combine together: 3/4 cup Greek lo-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (or 1/2 a can), 2 microed (1 minute+) “hard boiled” eggs (mashed up), 1/2 “packed” cup cooked chicken (white & dark), and 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal. Anna is 19 pounds, so she requires 1/2 cup 3X day of this “lumpy, orange-colored” recipe. A little splash of “dark greens” are also important, either green veggies or dark green lettuce. For simplicity, I bought a large head of dark leaf lettuce, food processed it, froze it in a freezer bag, and I break off about 1 TBSP into each meal. You can substitute green veggies FOR the lettuce greens (but greenbeans or zucchini weren’t working for Anna for some reason). Last, to keep your dog “busy”, forget any kind of man-made “treats”, no matter how healthy they claim to be. From your grocery store’s meat dept., just ask for some raw, small marrow bones. They’re not very expensive. When you get them home, cut OFF all fat from the outer edges (cancer loves feeding off fat), BUT leave any raw meat plus the healthy pink marrow inside, which is good for your dog. Freeze those little bones in a bag till you need one. That’s IT – the way to reconstitute (or begin reconstituting) a failing liver to process waste properly. Two days ago, Anna finally produced her first normal, firm, dark brown fecal — and I would’ve started screaming with joy on the street but it was 4:30 am. So now we’re only half-way through the battle. Tomorrow Anna will have a simple blood draw to determine if her liver numbers have improved enough to begin figuring out what to do about her spleen mass. By the way, my new Vet emailed me back and said this “normal fecal color” was an absolutely terrific SIGN. Remember – benign spleen masses grow slowly, malignant ones grow faster, and no “partial” removal of masses leaving the rest of the spleen inside is wise because should any cancer nodes be left inside, they’ll spread like wildfire & you’ve lost your dog. So, before I put Anna thru surgery, another ultrasound will be done to study the mass growth over two months. Regardless, her whole spleen would have to be removed (if she can even survive the surgery), and if it is benign, I might be able to save my dog. If cancerous, I’ll need more research on the possibility of destroying or shrinking the mass. I do apologize for being so long-winded, but I’ve read all your posts which have provided me with lots of questions for the Vet tomorrow. This is just another of life’s horrible crises and dilemmas we suffer as “pet parents”, having to make frustrating health decisions for both our younger and older pets – to give them a chance to live or at least to make sure, if they can’t, that there won’t be any unnecessary suffering. I’m 76, my Annabelle is my soul-mate and she’s all I have. Although my kitchen now resembles a “science lab”, I refuse to give up without a fight. I wish each and every one of you, and your wonderful pets, the best of all kinds of luck, love and the inner strength to get through this scary, uncertain time. Also, I hope my liver reconstition diet (which does work!) is helpful to some of you. In my life, I’ve lost seven Schnauzers, the first from Parvo (the vet’s fault), one from kidney failure, one from stroke, then diabetes, cancer and finally Cushing’s. If I still have one more Schnauzer after I lose my Anna (sooner or later), I think I’ll completely STOP feeding even scripted kibbles and make homemade dog food instead. While I’m at it, I’ll also find myself a “holistic” vet. Commercially prepared & altered dog food, as well as human food, seems to be the cuprit “killing us all”, so it might be finally time to try another path. I keep hearing about dogs living to 18, 19 and even 20 years old on “table scraps”! Once I had a 19 year-old Shelty and all his life we fed him cooked meat, eggs and rice – & my Grandma gave him a piece of buttered jelly toast every single morning! Love to all.

  39. OK, everyone – we were just handed a MIRACLE. Took a blood draw yesterday to get Anna’s new liver numbers. Vet came back into the exam room “dancing” & smiling ear to ear — Anna’s liver numbers in both categories are back to NORMAL, meaning the above-outlined liver diet I posted above which I’d researched for 23 hours and implemented 5-1/2 weeks ago has miraculously WORKED to stabilize her out-of-control failing liver — not just 50%, or 75% – but 100%. Meaning, Anna went from a BAD 8 (per the new Vet) on a scale of 10, back to a ZERO, or “Normal”. It wasn’t ALL good news (it never is), and a complete spleenectomy was recommended ASAP for the mass, and that we forgo the 2nd ultrasound to see if the mass has grown (waste of time and $). Whether malignant or benign, the spleen still has to come out. Busy arranging appointment at inconvenient out-of-town hospital (1 hour away) to do all pre-op evaluations, including an optional “histeopathy” to detect w/95% certainty if spleen mass IS cancer, and then (during surgery while “under”) a biopsy of Anna’s compromised intestine because of her long history w/gastro issues. So, with baby’s liver now operating normally, we’re halfway there in the GUINNESS BOOK OF MIRACLES! Will keep her story posted on this – the only – site I’ve ever found which offered some real hope. Amen, for now,

  40. P. S. This one-liner about the liver reversal escaped somehow from my message above – and I thought it was worth repeating:

    Vet couldn’t believe it – I couldn’t believe it – but we’ll take it!

  41. We adopted Lucy an 8 year old bully Pitt back in August. She has a mass the size of a softball on her spleen. Unfortunately, the Dr said she cannot live without her spleen if she had babesia. A tick borne disease. We tested her and found she does have it. Her body is managing to keep the disease at bay. We tried the medicine combination of antibiotics and atovoquone. In order to treat and rid the disease. Unfortunately, that almost killed her. She became very weak and could not stand up. She also could not go to the bathroom. Finally the medicine began to wear off and it took her several days to return to her old self. So now must live with the spleen the way it is & we just hope that it does not continue to grow rapidly or rupture and bleed. So one thing to think about – if a dog has babesia, having the spleen is necessary. And babesia treatment may not be able to be tolerated by some dogs as with ours.

  42. Our 10 year old yellow lab kept collapsing and was weak and had w big stomach. So we took him to the ER. He already has heart issues like afib and arrhythmias and dcm. I figured these symptoms were because of that. They did ultra sound in stomach and saw a large mass on his spleen. I was devastated. They told us it is almost always cancer. But u refused to give up. They did xrays on his heart and liver to see if cancer was there. These results came back negative thank goodness! We opted to have him admitted to the hospital overnight and have a speenectomy the next day. They did 1 more test next morning to make sure his heart was healthy enough for surgery. Thank goodness it was! They proceeded with the surgery and it went well!!! There was very minimal bleeding. We took him home the next day for the recovery process to begin
    Last we had to wait for the histopathy results. We got a call the next day……BENIGN!!!!!! I started crying! I just knew in my heart that he would be ok. I prayed like crazy! My prayers were answered! Here all the drs were so negative! Our Hunter is now happy to be home and continue to be a regular dog again! Im so glad i went with my gut! The surgery was 6000$ But he is everything to me! Im so thankful and blessed! Please have hope if u are going through this!

    1. My sweet boy bud. A medium size mix breed. Sharpee and pit. I rescued him at 3 months old from a 3 foot chain with no shelter ,food or water. Very timid sweet dog. Hes 11 now. He developed a fever one day about 5 years ago. I thought he had an ear infection. Took him to the vet ,I also asked them to check weight because his belly had gotten so big. Turns out, a huge mass was seen. Didnt know what it was connected to. They told me he needed to go right into surgery but he had a 50/50 chance of surving. I was floored . Went from possible ear infection to losing him. I opted to take him home overnight to say my goodbyes and have him there for surgery at 7 am. It was on his spleen. 13 pounds. She practically guaranteed it was cancer as she had removed 20 other small tumors while in there around his abdominal area. Including on his liver , stomach etc. He did good with a long recovery. Pale gums for 14 days. Got the test back..benign!! Dr was shocked I was thrilled. Now I’m faced with him having rectal tumors years later. It would protrude thru his anus after/while pooping. They removed 1 six months ago. Now it’s back. He had surgery this morning , and the dr was so optimistic this morning. Then called and said “he didnt have very good news”. I almost fell down..as he talked I hung on every word. He said he removed 1 with no problem. Then he found another. Removed it. Then felt a huge mass near his intestines. So he removed that because he said he wouldn’t live with it there. He made it thru surgery. But he says there’s a chance he nicked his intestine. Bad bad news if he did. He says he didnt think he did, but it’s possible. He also couldn’t stop a small bleeder which he packed up and Hope’s it clots. I’m going crazy with worry. This morning my bud was playing with his ball. Ate good. And was hanging out of the window on the way to the vet. Happy as could be, but I know he was uncomfortable with this tumor. I could put on a glove and push it back in. But I knew it was growing. Now they want to observe him a couple of days. I went to see him and though he was standing up , no tail wag, no nothing. I had to leave him and I’m so scared. I’m sure he is too. I hated leaving him there. If something happens I want him home. He is loaded with tumors and the vet said after surgery he didnt know if he should recover him. I told him we have to. If I only have a few weeks with him , we both need it. I just dont know where all these benign tumors come from. I feel like it’s the breed. I also feel broken hearted although im so thankful he was a miracle with the 1st surgery. Drs always think tumors are cancer. Never give up hope

  43. My 11.5 year old Labrador Bennie had been having minor episodes of not eating and being lethargic but within 24-48 hours he was ok again. I had him to the vets several times and they couldn’t find out what was wrong with him, he had an ECG and other tests but all came back ok. These episodes became more frequent and he seemed to have slowed down a bit but i put it down to his age anyway after a really bad episode, where he was unresponsive for a while I rushed him to the vets. 48 hours later he was fine again but they wanted to do a scan of the abdomen where they found a mass attached to what they hoped was his spleen. He was rushed into surgery the next day and removed a 3.5kg tumour along with his spleen. The vet was convinced it was cancer but 10 days later the results are in and amazing news it’s benign and Bennie is running around with a new lease of life, he’s like a new dog. So don’t ever give up hope and sometimes prayers are answered.

  44. I was lucky to find this site last year as it was more positive about surgery of spleen and tumor removal. So sorry for all of you going through that heart breaking decision whether to operate.
    My dog Bruce had a large tumor on his spleen it was very difficult to detect as he had good and bad days. But I knew something wasn’t right as he was lethargic and bloated. I eventually took him to the vet as I thought he had bloat. Was in total shock when the vet took him out back.on returning he said Bruce had a large tumor on his spleen. Said he could do op but could not tell if it was cancerous or benign until he opened him up.
    He had op. Vet said he lost a lot of blood and advised blood transfusion. But we would have to move him and take him to another practice who catered for this. We said no as we didn’t want to stress him more and would let him recover there. Anyway went to see him same evening. He got up on his legs coming towards me. I cried he was fighting. Took him home next day.
    This is nearly 9 months ago. He is coming up to his 12th birthday. I didn’t have a biopsy
    on the tumor at the time but it must have been beingn thank god. So never give up. It was costly but worth every penny.

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