A couple months ago I noticed Meatball had what looked like a bug bite on his chest, kind of under his front leg. I had been pretty lax about flea treatment so I thought maybe he just got bitten by something while rolling around in the yard (one of his favorite activities). I bought some flea treatment and gave it to him. But I still kept and eye on the bite and it didn’t go away.
It wasn’t getting bigger or bothering him at all, but it was still there after a week or so. I asked my friend at work who said I should have the vet look at it. I did some Google consulting and figured it must be a histiocytoma because it matched the description. A couple more weeks went by and the bump was getting bigger. It was like a little strawberry button, but still wasn’t bothering him. I had a random Friday off work so I decided to take him in to the vet. The vet looked at him and said the bump could be a histiocytoma like I suspected, or, it could be a mast cell tumor which is a nasty kind of cancer. The bumps look exactly the same and there isn’t a reliable way to test them prior to removal. She suggested we wait a couple weeks and if it was still there we should have it surgically removed. I googled around (again) this time looking for natural treatment options for histiocytoma. Multiple places recommended castor oil, including one vet who used it successfully on her own French bulldog. I figured the worst that could happen is I spent $3.50 on a bottle of castor oil and Meatball was greasy for a while. I gave it a try. The bump did start to deflate but it was not receding fast enough. I knew it wouldn’t be completely gone by the time the two weeks was up, so I made the appointment for his surgery. We took him in and I waited nervously for the call to pick him up, which came about 4 hours later. He came out of surgery in rough shape. He had a 5″ incision and about 20 stitches. He was sore, shaky, and very groggy.
Because we were removing it in case it was cancerous, it’s best to take a wide margin around the bump to ensure any bad cells are removed. I assumed a “wide margin” around a little bump would be a quarter-sized section to remove, not almost 20 stitches! We were pretty horrified, but my doggy friend assured me the vet was just being careful. We had a long road ahead keeping Meatball from scratching at his stitches. He has severe allergies to God knows what, and gets really red and really, really itchy under his front legs, exactly where his incision was. We’d have to keep him from scratching at it. We bought a few shirts for him at the pet store and bandaged his back feet with tender tape (a crepe bandage that sticks to itself). Multiple times a day we had to take the bandages off to let him outside, then bandage him back up when he came inside. I sanitized his crate every day, changed his blanket to a freshly washed and sanitized one, and his shirt to a freshly washed and sanitized one as well. Every. Day. Every. Day.
Then his incision got infected so he had to go on two antibiotic pills, twice a day. So morning and evening, he got five pills each time and they all upset his tummy so I fed him rice, chicken, hot dogs, and turkey burgers for two solid weeks. Seriously laborious work. His incision wasn’t healing well. It was really swollen (even with the antibiotics), and he had all this weird fluid building up on his side by the incision. I was talking to the vet every single day (BLESS THEM) and taking him in for check ups nearly as often (BLESS THEM SOME MORE). After at least a week, we seemed to finally turn a corner. The swelling began to very slowly recede and he seemed a tiny bit more comfortable. It was a sloooooow healing process from there.
I had a hard time knowing he could have cancer and it could be serious. Dogs with grade 3 mast cell tumors typically don’t live even a year after their surgeries, and there was no guarantee he’d have a lower grade just because he’s young. Because his whole belly got really red after his surgery, the vet warned me it was probably mast cell tumor (it’s a typical reaction when one of those tumors is removed). I was really sad and worried. I love my dog (probably too much) and I couldn’t understand why God would let me have him only to make him sick and take him away. I prayed about it a lot. I know how ridiculous that sounds, there are bigger issues in the world than a potentially sick designer dog. The cool thing is I eventually had peace about it. Y’all, I don’t have peace about anything at all in life, much less something scary, potentially sad, and worrisome. But I did have peace about this. All the same, I was incredibly relieved when the call came saying the test results showed histiocytoma, and he’s going to be just fine. YAY!!!! Of course I felt a little bad for wasting a huge chunk of money on surgery, shirts, bandages, medications, etc. but Chris said it wasn’t a waste. We were taking care of the dog God gave us. He made Meatball, too. Chris was right. Meatball got his stitches out a few days ago, doesn’t have to take any more medicine, and is almost entirely back to his normally troublesome self. The best thing will be when he’s finally cleared for a bath in another week or so because he SMELLS. It’s OK, I still love him like crazy.