Q. Should I remove a possible mast cell tumor on my senior dog
DR. CHRISTIE LONG, D.V.M., C.V.A.
A. Age, specifically, isn't a contraindication to anesthesia. Removing a MCT does require general anesthesia, typically, because we want to take wide margins of healthy tissue around the mass. Studies tell us that by taking 1.5 - 2 cm margins around the MCT we can almost always be assured of getting all of the disease and achieving a cure.
Left on the body, MCTs may metastasize to internal organs, or to other subcutaneous areas. Unfortunately it's impossible to determine the grade of a MCT and predict how aggressive it will be without a biopsy, and that means removing the mass.
Will your vet do blood work before the surgery, to look for other potential health problems that might make the anesthesia more risky? Will he do chest x-rays to ensure that the lungs are healthy? Is he competent and comfortable with doing anesthesia on senior animals? These are all questions you should ask before considering the surgery. In my experience dogs with low grade MCTs do very well.
A. You should have your vet examine your dog and the mass. A needle aspirate biopsy can be performed in the clinic and submitted for pathology to rule in/out MCT. If it is a MCT, consider a consult with a veterinary oncologist to have the tumor staged. You can also discuss treatment options and prognoses at that time.