Posted on June 27 2017
Quick Recap: Chili our little Staffy had a small soft lump on right side of the base of her tail that turned out to be a mass cell tumor. Because of mass cell tumors can be very unpredictable we decided to have Chili's tail amputated. During the process, I turned to Google to help find out about other dogs who had gone through tail amputation due to mass cell tumors and I couldn't find very much information so I have decided to share our story to hopefully help other that find themselves in the same position. ATTENTION: There are graphic photos of her amputation site. Some may find them difficult to look at.
The Begining: Sometime around April or early May 2017 I noticed a small bump on Chili's tail that was concerning to me. I know that I tend to be an over-cautious, paranoid pet parent so I told myself it's probably just an injury from rough housing with her big brother Gibson and that I would keep an eye on it. Well, a few weeks went by and the lump was still there so I called and made a vet appointment for my Chili. After all, it was time for an annual check-up.
The Check-up: June 5th, 2017 Chilis vet appointment started in the usual way including asking about any changes in behavior, taking her temperature, and checking her heart beat. That is when the first issue came into light. He could hear an irregular heart beat with the stethoscope so he used what looked like an iPhone to record her heart beat. And there is was again, an extra heartbeat shot up about every 10 seconds. We discussed further testing and decided on an ultrasound, bloodwork and also an ECG. Now, on to the lump. He aspirated it and as you know from the title of this blog, the lump turned out to be a mass cell tumor. We briefly discussed the options for the tumor on her tail but, we needed to keep our focus on figuring out if the heart issue was caused by something even more serious. Tonight we start her on daily doses of Benadryl to help calm down her tumor and reduce the likelihood of it growing and spreading. It had swelled up quickly after the appointment because the tumor was "angry" from being aspirated.
ECG Day: June 6th, 2017 Chili received an ultrasound that showed very healthy organs including a gorgeous heart with perfect proportioned values and chambers. It was quite a relief to find out there were no surprise masses inside on any of her organs and that her heart structure was healthy. Finally some good news. The ECG did show the same extra heart beat (premature ventricular contractions for you technical folks) but we have to wait for the Cardiologist to review the ECG results.
Cardiologist: June 7th 2017 The Cardiologist reviewed her ECG and with the reassurance of the ultrasound results he concluded that we shouldn't be overly concerned with her premature ventricular contractions. Our next step was to set a date for a follow-up once the tumor has shrunken down to the original pre-aspiration size.
Follow-up: June 20th, 2017 This visit was pretty brief. Her vet examined the tumor, and we discussed the options and risks. Our options included:
1. Remove just the tumor and leave the tail intact. Pro: quicker recovery, general anesthetic so it would be less risky with her heart. Con: Not enough skin tissue to take large margins around the tumor, therefore there would be a greater chance of having to leave some of the tumor cells behind.
2. Watch and Wait Pro: No surgery required, no pain or recovery. Con: Mass cell tumors are very unpredictable in nature and can grow very quickly. If the tumor were to grow there is a chance that it would become inoperable based on its location.
3. Tail Amputation Pro: Large margins ensure the best chance of removing the whole tumor. Con: We would be taking a risk with the anesthesia with her heart. Amputation recovery will be painful and could possibly be challenging.
He expressed his opinions as to what options he felt was best and we narrowed down our options. Watch and wait was the first option to be out. The chance of her tumor growing rapidly was too high. Secondly just removing the tumor wasn't ideal either because the margins wouldn't be very good. We were left with the amputation. So, in order to go forward with the amputation, he would need to speak with another Cardiologist and an oncologist to get their opinons and suggestions. I was to go home and wait for a phone call.
Deciding phone call: June 21st 2017 Chilis vet phones and feels confident that we can safely amputate her tail with the use of a more mild anesthesia drug. We booked her appointment for Monday, June 26th. I am to make sure she doesn't have breakfast the morning of the surgery. If all goes well she will not have to stay the night at the clinic.
Surgery Day: June 26th, 2017. I drop Chili off at 8:15am, trying to hide my nerves the best I can as to not worry Chili. I am nervous about the whole surgery and also very sad about saying goodbye to her tail. I felt like today came very quickly and I didn't have enough time to admire the many micro-movements it makes and how well her tail expressions her every thought.
Day one: The first night after the tail amputation was rough on both of us. She was confused and in a lot of pain. Chili cried on and off most of the night. Listening to her cries and not being able to help her was heartbreaking. We did the best we could to keep her comfortable, gave her painkillers and carried her outside for hourly bathroom breaks until bedtime. We opted not to put the cone on her as she wasn't at all interested in the suture site and wearing the cone made her very unhappy. As per the vets' instructions we only gave her half of her usual supper. Chili did have some nausea so we were careful not to pick her up or move her to quick. One a positive note, the vet tech warned she might be incontinent and have several accidents but she only had some minor leakage and her bathroom functions were otherwise normal.
Day Two: The morning was much like the night before, still some nausea and crying. Once the afternoon came around she started to feel a little better and her crying almost stopped completely. Her suture site is very swollen and red so I tried to ice it a few times but, she really didn't like that. For the first half of today, she wouldn't settle unless I was right beside her and she is not an overly clingy dog. She has had a normal appetite but, no bowel movements today. Tomorrow I am back to work, thank goodness she can come with me and I can keep a close eye on her. I would suggest If your dog is getting his/her tail amputated taking at least two days off to help them recover.