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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

The Oncologist’s thoughts on mast cell tumors

Updated: November 22nd, 2018

If ever there was a tumor that fits the saying: “one size does NOT fit all”, it is mast cell tumors (MCT). These tumors are common, particularly skin tumors, in dogs. You may know a dog that had a mast cell tumor removed with surgery and went on to live many happy years to never hear from the MCT again. On the other end of the spectrum, you may know a dog with an aggressive MCT that recurred and/or metastasized quickly and lived just a few months.

What gives? Why is there so much variation in outcome? If your dog has a MCT, will it be a “good” MCT or a “bad” MCT? Can that be predicted? Why is there a new grading system? Do the new c-kit inhibitors (Palladia and Kinavet) work? In my next series of blogs, I hope to answer many questions about the complicated mast cell tumor.

First, let’s understand what MCT are. Normal mast cells are a type of immune system cell and play an important role in inflammation. While other immune system cells tend to circulate throughout the body, mast cells don’t – once they mature, they take up residence in specific tissues. While they can be found anywhere, many live in tissues that mark the boundary between the outside and internal environments; for example, the skin, the mouth, the digestive tract, the nasal passages, and the lungs.

Mast cells hold structures inside their cell walls called granules, which are like little sacks. The granules are filled with substances, or cytokines, including heparin and histamine, which help the immune system respond to problems. Heparin is a blood thinner which helps defend the body against foreign invaders, and histamine is a chemical that triggers inflammation. Normal mast cells release these substances when prompted by the immune system. In addition to their role in inflammation, mast cells are involved in allergies, anaphylaxis (systemic inflammation), the healing of wounds, and defense against outside pathogens.

In this seminar, Dr. Dressler addresses a number of important topics on Mast Cell Tumors, so be sure to get your copy for more information!

Mast cell tumors are cancerous accumulations of mast cells with a malignant potential. MCT is very rarely found in humans, but it is the most common malignant skin tumor in dogs, accounting for 15-20% of all skin tumors. Mast cell tumors first occur in the skin and the subcutaneous tissues beneath the skin. It’s very rare to find MCT in internal organs without a primary skin tumor, but skin tumors can spread to the regional lymph nodes, the spleen, the liver, other places deep in the abdomen, and to the bone marrow.

What causes MCT? Like most tumors, the exact cause is not known. About one-third of dogs have a genetic mutation in a protein called the c-kit oncogene. Unlike skin cancer in humans, which is often associated with sun exposure, studies have found no link between sun exposure and MCT in dogs. But chronic inflammation of the skin may predispose dogs to develop MCT, as can the repeated application of skin irritants.

We also tend to see it more commonly in the following breeds: Boxers, Boston Terriers, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Boxers tend to develop low and intermediate grade tumors.

MCT are one of the most common tumors I see in my oncology practice at the Animal Specialty Center. When should you see an oncologist for MCT? We will pick up there at my next post. In the meantime, remember there is a lot more information about MCT in the Guide.

Get the book to read more on Mast Cell Tumors from an Oncologists Perspective!

Discover the Full Spectrum Approach to Dog Cancer

Leave a Comment

  1. Jane Webster on October 27, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    My 10yr old cairn terrier has developed a mast tumour near her front leg and chest . She is having it surgically removed .She is on oral benadryl.I will
    need more information to aid in her recovery.
    J.Webster ,Perth Ontario,Canada


    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on October 28, 2019 at 8:21 am

      Hello Jane,

      Thanks for writing. We have a number of MCT articles on the Dog Cancer Blog that you may find helpful. Here’s the link: https://www.dogcancerblog.com/collection/articles/cancer-type/mast-cell-tumors/

      Dr. Sue also wrote an entire chapter on MCT in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide where she discusses diagnosis, prognosis, grade, protocols and much more, that you may also find beneficial 🙂

    • Jayne Whittle on October 29, 2019 at 3:32 am

      Jane…invest in the book by Dr Demian Dressler and Dr Sue Ettinger…A survival guide to canine cancer I believe…investigate Apocaps whom Dr Dressler developed, also I’m Yunity(Penn State did a small study on this supplement), as well there is another supplement Dr Dressler developed…and Yunnan Bayiou…also a lot of folks in Canada are using Essiac Tea capsules…I wish I had made it to Dr Sue Ettinger…if it were me…Dr Sue is only as far asa Norwalk CT…I’d make the trip…as well I met a man in Bangor ME…his dog had anal gland cancer and had some surgery but it did not get it all…put on palladia…they gave the dog 4 months but if he lived longer they wanted him to stay on palladia for 9…the canine could only do 5 months…that was 3 yrs ago, Jayne Nova Scotia Canada

  2. Natalie Forowa on October 23, 2019 at 8:39 am

    How does exercise affect mast cell tumor in a dog?

  3. Sandy Boyce on March 19, 2019 at 3:57 am

    My golden retriever has recurring Mast cell tumors. She has 4 or 5 very small tumors right now…..actually hard to find.

    They don’t bother her for the most part, but if she starts scratching and snags one of the bumps it gets really itchy and I spray hydrocortisone spray on it directly. It seems to soothe and eventually they are not so irritated and the redness goes away. Would you recommend using this all the time ? She takes a lot of supplements (apocaps) and other pills so I don’t like to overdose her on taking more pills. Also, has there ever been a procedure done to try to freeze the Mast cell and remove ? She had had several surgeries and between the anesthesia and the healing time it’s a lot to put her through.

    • Dog Cancer Vet Team on March 20, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Hello Sandy,

      Thanks for writing. As we’re not veterinarians here in customer support, we can’t offer you medical advice. You do have to be cautious when making any changes to your dog’s current treatment plan, this is why we always recommend consulting with your vet to get their approval. They will be able to let you know what you can do to help with the scratching, and what you can safely use on the bumps for your specific dog 🙂

  4. Susanne Gannon on March 11, 2019 at 10:18 am

    My dog (about an 11 year old lab/Australian mix) has had a stage 3 mast cell tumor removed from her nipple area. Not sure how to proceed.

  5. Dee Ratcliff on February 27, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    My 10 year old frenchie was diagnosed with bone cancer in her nasal passage and given 4-6 months, it’s been well over a year, either having her blessed or the herb Yunnan Bayiou has worked or could it be mid diagnosed? Lately her appetite has increased dramatically but she’s off balance, have to carry her for stairs and she trips and falls over easily. Confused that she is eating great but off in other ways. Could the cancer be spreading or could it be hearing and vision or senility? I don’t want her to suffer.

    • Molly Jacobson on March 5, 2019 at 11:47 am

      Hello Dee, thanks for writing! I’m so pleased to hear your girl has been going strong for so long — that’s wonderful! It sounds like another visit to the veterinarian is in order to find out what is causing her symptoms. Nasal tumors sometimes grow into the skull and impact the brain, so it’s possible that the tumor hasn’t spread, necessarily, but has invaded other areas and is impacting your girl’s balance. But it could be something else, too. There’s really no way to know for certain without a veterinarian examining her. They will be able to at least eliminate as many other causes as possible. And if there is something that might help, they’ll know what it is. Many blessings.

  6. Jacquie Zelcer on October 15, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Hi I am Jacquie Zelcer, all the way from Auckland, New Zealand. I am just requesting some advice as I see you are experts in the field of MCT. My 13.5 year old shih tzu dog Charlie, has had x3 MCT – the first 2.5 years ago where he had x4 rounds of vinblastin and helixor. In the past 3 months he has had 1 large MCT removed (vet says doesn’t look like it has gone to liver or spleen) and now a new one has appeared this week (large pink spongy dome under his rib cage). Had a needle biopsy, came back positive MCT and unusually, they commented it was aggressive and intrusive. Options are yet another operation to remove (dog is not coping with operations his quality of life has gone down). Our dilemma is do we remove this MCT or do we let our dog live out his last days tranquilly. He is on meloxicam 0.7mls and neurontin every day for pain (reumatism) do we stop this and give him Prednisone? I would love to hear your opinion if it is not too much trouble. Regards, Jacquie

  7. anthony cade minniti on September 21, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    Hey Margaret,

    You should look at Texas A&M Small Animal Hosptial, for your Mast Cell Treatment, I had a dog have 3 MCT removed with ultrasound, X-rays, fine need aspiration, for $1400, and now he needs chemo and that is only $2000. They are also one of the best Oncology departments in the US.

    Best of luck

  8. Margaret Sheehy on August 2, 2018 at 7:32 am

    After $6700 worth of tests and 3 days care at a specialty pet hospital, my dog was diagnosed with a Mast Cell tumor internally on the chest wall between where the neck end and chest begins? I find this an odd diagnosis for this type of tumor but certainly something is there causing compression and swelling, as well as difficulty swallowing/breathing. They left no stone unturned to find something to treat, that’s for certain. They started her on Palladia yesterday, Ignoring the significant expense, I am not hearing from anyone but the prescribing Vet that this has the likelihood to do much of anything long term except make her sicker. I feel I’ve been taken advantage of, as the emotions involved at a time like this generally don’t allow rational decision while you are in the middle of it. The Oncologist telling you they’ve been in the field 20 years and your skepticism and reluctance are the result of being ignorant on the subject is manipulative at best. After investing that much cash to find out you aren’t going to be able to “save” them, you are then coerced into attempting to “extend” their life a few months for a $10,000 investment. This is abusive at the very least as it is not only emotionally devastating but financially a disaster for many. We will be paying the credit card off long after Sadie has left us.

  9. DeeRN on July 27, 2018 at 6:05 am

    Question of very LONG-TERM, low dose corticosteroids for CAD.
    My last mixed-breed dog, an Armenian born intact male, lived 18yrs 2 months. He suffered with immunity issues which at a young age 3-4 yrs., were treated w expensive, allergen elimination treatment–you now the drill. At age 11yrs. we lived in So. FL; his allergies were worse & unrelenting. So my Vet (in PA) & I discussed a protocol, I really wanted to give a shot. It was, 1mg Prednisone q.o.d. in Summer & .05 -1mg every 3rd day when allergies diminished or abated in winter months. When he was so so old & too weakened to enjoy barking at the mail-man–by 18 yrs of old age–we decided to euthanize him.
    My Vet & I were eager to see what side effects or physiological changed occured w low-dose steroids. We did a thorough Post-Mortem head to paw. The ONLY abnormality we saw was a small 3mm non-malignant mass on his L Adrenal.
    I now have an Aussie with severe CAD. We’ve tried Apoquel x 2 yrs. It became totally ineffective. Are considering Atopia next. However, what are your thoughts on the same protocol we used on my Armenian dog?
    Both my vet friend & I were shocked that he didn’t demonstrate more pathology than a simple Adrenal mass. Your thoughts please?
    P.S.Interestingly, this low-dose steroids did in fact, ameliorate ALL major allergic symptoms, for 7-8 years on steroids. The only side effect easily understood, were those seen with steroids: slight weight gain, polydipsia, polyuria, some oral candida etc. BS wnl no neurogenic symptoms-basically general good health ).

  10. Bianca on April 6, 2018 at 1:30 am

    I have a chinese sharpei he have s tumor between his legs near his tummy,it is getting bigger like a gholf ball,and it is hanging is it painful

  11. Paula Goodridge on November 6, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Hello Dr Ettinger,
    I have an 8 year old puggle (pug/beagle cross). She has been in very good health. However, she had her first MCT diagnosed in April this year, on her shoulder which was removed but found to be a Grade 2 MCT requiring further surgery and tissue removal, which was then all clear. At the same time, 2 minor cysts were removed from either side under her rib cage which were nothing more. Then a cyst which she had on her lower hind leg for 18 months, was re-tested and diagnosed an MCT, after removal it was another Grade 2. Her scans shows no spread to internal organs and she was clear in August. Unfortunately a small lump developed on her other hind leg last month, which was quickly diagnosed as MCT and removed successfully, another Grade 2. My question really is with her history in a short few months, is there any treatment which may reduce the likelihood of another MCT? She is a very active, happy dog and has bounced back without issue after each surgery. I am very apprehensive at present about a re-occurance and I want to give her the best chance of avoiding further surgery. Many thanks, Paula.

  12. Jody on October 27, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Dr. Ettinger: My 3.5 lab bitch had developed a small mass just below her rib cage midline on the torso. She had whelped 8 healthy pups 7/21/2017, and the little mass appeared just about two weeks before the pups went to their new homes. She also developed an minor itchy rash (small red bumps, which dried quickly and flaked/itched off) on her belly. At the time I did not connect the two — but the rash was clearly a contact allergy and was most likely caused by the continued exposure to whelping box pads that had been relentlessly bleached between uses. The rash lasted less than two weeks and its clearing coincided with her return to “no puppy” and “no pad” status. She has otherwise been bursting with healthy and and trouble free. Just had the small lump (about the size of a cashew) surgically removed on 10/24/2017 and am waiting for the path report. I have given my self a serious crash course in mast cell tumors, causes, treatment, etc., and my one question while I’m waiting for the path report is the question of breeding her a second time. Would you recommend she not be bred again, regardless of whether or not the tumor is classified a zero or 1 on the scale and has a low mitotic index?

    • DeeRN on July 27, 2018 at 5:52 am

      I’m not a Vet, just a nurse who’s had so many dogs over 30 yrs. (including dogs my twin sister & neice, couldn’t care for) Ergo we’ve had many, MANY vet visits. My vet & I are close friends and often discuss K9 disorders (especially immune mediate complexes) and of course other disorders. When I first read your description of “small mass just below her rib cage..” I had chills. I wonder if you’d share what the biopsy showed & the definitive diagnosis of that “mass” showed? I certainly hope it was benign. Thanks Dee

  13. Willoughby on September 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

    We have now seen the oncologist. Ultrasound showed mass on spleen and liver, but no mast cells. Lab on spleen mass came back as a common non-cancerous growth. The liver mass–reported as small, but I don’t know what size–is likely a recurrence of the hepatocellular carcinoma, and is likely the reason for the elevated liver enzymes. The grade 3 MCT removed from her ear had a MI of 17. The margins were clean but a very, very slim 1 mm in some areas. The oncologist would like to go back and do a full ear canal ablation, and is recommending Palladia for life. Is there ever a time when surgical removal of a grade 3 mct is curative? In reading about it, Palladia is almost as scary sounding as the cancer itself.

  14. Rosie Harrington on October 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    It’s October 18, 2013. I recently purchased the e-edition and I have read the Guide on Mast Cell Tumors. Since information is continually changing and evolving I think its important to address new updates rather then refer us to the Guide. The book is essential and has helped me cope among other things. Since you wrote the book and it was published what new updates do you have about…
    a) Mitotic Index- you quote in the book that these numbers will certainly be refined. Have they been?
    b) there seems to be a question about Krill vs. Fish Oil. The Pure Gold comments from a year ago come to mind. Have your thoughts and studies changed on this subject?
    c) I don’t see the new Blog that you speak of with regard to Palladia and Kinavet. The Guide refers to these C-kit inhibitors, but again the book was written and published a while back. What are the new updates and test results on these inhibitors?
    Is there anything new out there that Guardians should know about? You and your team are cutting edge. Guardians like me count on you to educate us so that we can speak intelligently to Oncologists and Vets alike. Please update me as soon as possible. DaisyMae had surgery for MCT (4) and Lymph node removal She is doing great No symptoms at all. Prognosis is hopeful,
    BUT the fight against cancer begins!
    I wish I could afford Apocaps…Would it be wise to lesson the amount you suggest rather then not buy it at all. Daisy is 83 Lbs

  15. Jo M. on May 7, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Dear dr Ettinger,
    My cattle dog mix has been diagnosed with a stage II mast cell tumor. Because it is deep in her dorsal neck muscles, tthe vet Did not get clean margins. He did not want to cause her muscle damage.
    She has one mitosis per 10 on the mitotic index . Further surgery to seek clean margins does not seem o be an option.
    Any advice would be appreciated. I am waiting to get her in to see an oncologist.
    Many thanks.

  16. Natalie Lucia on March 25, 2013 at 6:08 am

    My 13 yr old Siberian husky was diagnosed with a grade 3 mass cell tumor. Mitotic rate 2-4/ hpf. The tumor has been romoved with clean margins of 1 -1.5 cm. she has been taking prednisone daily and vinablastine once a week . I have consulted with 3 oncologists ,all have a different opinion . one has suggested radiation 5 times per week for four weeks even with the clean margins . Another oncologist has suggested adding palladia during the treatment of prednisone and vinablastine . He says this is a very agressive tumor and needs the combination of the 3 drugs . The other oncologist wants to use the vinablastine and prednisone and save the palladia for when the cancer returns . Please help any advise would be appreciated

  17. Jennifer on February 2, 2013 at 5:59 am


    Our American Bulldog was just diagnosed with a grade 2 mast cell tumor. The report says the tumor extends to the deep surgical cut margin, does this mean the cells are still in his body? It also says the skin specimen contains an infiltrative neoplasm composed of atypical mast cells and eosinophils. Mitotic figures are not seen in 10 HPFs. What does this mean? Thanks so much!

  18. Mast cell tumor treatment: surgery and radiation on December 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    […] spent a number of recent blogs understanding how MCT behave, how to confirm the diagnosis, MCT grade, what staging tests to consider, and what the prognostic […]

  19. Amy on December 4, 2012 at 7:24 am

    My dog was first diagnosed with mast grade 2 four and half yrs ago. Last week he had a second tumor removed from the exact same location this came back grade 3 with mitotic index of 24 per 10 hpfs. He will be 8 in feb 2013 I am not sure what to do next please any ideas will help I have been thru so much with this dog he almost died at 10 months and we thought we beat the cancer now after 4 and half yrs it’s back and grade has moved from 2 to 3

  20. Misty Sanderson on November 25, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Dear Dr.,
    I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving! I am writing with questions feeling a bit lost. Three weeks ago my recently-turned 6-year-old, Saint Bernard, Tango, had 2-4 raised bumps on his back haunch. He’s a very in shape and healthy pooch..daily walks and weighs 115 pounds. The bumps were about the size of a quarter each. They happened instantaneously as the night before he was being petted all over and there was no lumpiness or bumps. Now the bumps just appear as raised fur and are definately below the fur. Anyway, I had my husband take him to the vet the next day because more bumps appeared along his back haunch and his left lymph node became the size of a baseball. It was huge. The vet said we’ll put him on prednisone for 3 days–it’s probably a hive reaction. 5 days later I am not believing in the vet’s diagnosis and I get online to find all of this information on MCT. His bumps would go up and down on size at any given time and his lymph node had shrunk but now the pred prescription was gone and the bumps seemed more, along with a growing lymph again. I set another appt. and again hubby took him (I’m not able to during the week due to my 7:30-5:30 work schedule). They tried getting blood and once they did they said his CBC came back fine. They aspirated the lymph and called to say they found bacteria in it so he must have an ear infection draining into the lymph and causing a hive reaction in the body. They do not run pathology on any of the aspirates they do–just look under a slide (it’s a smalltown NW Iowa vet). Anyway, it had been 2 weeks now….they put him on cephalexon, mometemax (ear infection) and prednisone again. Now forward to yesterday. Tango has an obvious fever, not eating or drinking and not wanting a daily walk. He looks sad and breathing is irregular. I call the vet yesterday morning-the bumps on the back of his body have gone down in size but are everywhere except on his stomach, privates, ears, or legs…the lymph is still somewhat enlarged (egg size) and now pea-sized bumps are along his sides of his ribs, his top of his head & cheek, he appears sad. Also a newly developed bump/tumor on his right shoulder is the size of an egg. It’s Saturday so I take him to the vet. I talk to the vet in lenghth about the histamine reaction/imitation that MCT’s also have so perhaps was the hives diagnosis incorrect and could it be a mast cell tumor? I want to know, does he have cancer? I just had to put my sweet 9 year old pup, Mannie down 6 months ago a day after he received his cancer diagnosis–xrays showed tumors all over his body. I have to be prepared and helpful to my pooch. The vet doesn’t know that much details about MCT (he practices on cows, pigs, horses, dogs, cats, etc..not small animal specialty) and admits it. He tells you do not want a MCT cancer..it’s deadly but they don’t do much with dogs diagnosed. He’s a great vet but very much of the mentality that if your dog gets cancer, it’s a death sentence and you can wait or euthanize. No chemo/radiation here. Anyway, I tell him I need this exam to be very thorough and point out the new shoulder tumor. The haunch bumps are gone for now. The tumor on his shoulder had burst open and was leaking. I asked him to please aspirate it so he did and put it on a slide. He is going to look at it more later and call me tomorrow. They did a chest xray to reveal there are no tumors on his lungs or heart. Whew sigh of relief there for me. His breathing could be due to his 103.5 degree fever. They didn’t weigh and I wished they would have. I know Tango is losing weight. They did another CBC and said nothing is showing up really different. WBC is normal, etc. so now they believe that the fever and lack of effect of the antibiotic–he probably has cancer. They gave me 50 capsules of prednisone, famotidine for his stomach, and I have 3 days left of cephalexon to finish out. I am giving him pred 2xs daily for 3 days and then down to once a day (I fear the once-a-day return because bumps grow then). So I have changed his diet and am feeding him cooked meals the past 2 days, have much more research to do, but am waiting. I have not been able to find anything like Tango’s tumors/bumps where there are many small ones and some big..plus the fact that one is leaking and that lymph node is still enlarged to ping pong size—is this bad? I asked the vet if it is cancerous, can they tell me is it stage 1, 2, or 3. He said they don’t do that. UGH! So I feel like my hands are tired and I’m super suspicious that Tango contracted a virus and now has MCT.
    Anyway, I want to order pills for him so I am asking you for your advice. Do I get him apocaps? Another med? I feel like i need to do something and order pills to get them here asap to help the pooch. Now that he’s been on 2 pills of pred yesterday, he is eating and acts more like Tango. He is restless at nighttime though. Do I give him Apocaps and pred??? How about kinavet-is that for him? I don’t know. I don’t want this to be a death sentence if it is MCT and I want to help him! I’m uplifted by the stories of those who have had help on apocaps and have been able to get their dog healthier for a couple of more years. I’m nervous with the leaking one and the lymph node. Anyway, any of your thoughts will help! I miss my city vet but am now living in rural town USA where I definately have to be my dog’s advocate!
    Big hugs,

  21. Jodi on September 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Dear Dr. Ettinger:
    My 8 yr old Italian Greyhound was diagnosed with MCT in July 2012, a couple of weeks later we had the 3 tumors removed (one of the tumors was 7 years old, in all cases we were told the tumors were nothing when first having them aspirated). I have him on Palladia (20mg 3 days per week) and chlorambucil now everyday. I’m concerned this is invading the quality of his life and wanted to give you his pathology report to ask your opinion on if I’m doing the right thing. At first I was giving him 10mg palladia Mon, Wed and Fri and Chlorambucil Tues, Thurs, Sat and Sunday. No side effect at all. Now the dosage increased to 20mg palladia Mon, Wed and Friday and the chlorambucial once per day, everyday. He threw up one time and has had very loose, if not water stools. I’m scared to death I’m doing the wrong treatment. Here is his pathology: on his chest Mitotic indext is less than one. Diag: grade 2 (the grading scale seems very subjective to me). The cranial margin is tumor free by approx 0.2 cm. The deep martin is approx 0.2 cm. Ventral and dorsal margins are approx 1.5 cm. On his ear, mitotic index is less then one, they grade this tumor a 1. Excision appears complete with a proximal normal margin of approx 1cm. Finally his let, again the mitotic index is less than 1. This tumor was also graded a 2. excision appears to be complete with margins of approx 0.5 cm medially and laterally. Distal and proximal margins are approx 1.5 cm. I also have my dog on some supplements including k9 critical and curcuVET-SA 50. The supplements are great for him, I have tried him with and without the supplements and am of the opinion the supplements help. My question is this.. the tumors were all successfully removed and the chemo is for preventative care, as I have been told he has a 50% chance of growing another tumor. I love my dog and would bear no expense to ensure his health and happiness. Can you tell me what your opinion of chemo is, at least in my dogs situation? I do not want to take away from his happiness. It should also be noted we did not bring him into the vet for cancer, he was acting just fine ie: food, exercise (3 mile walks), mood, etc. We brought him into the vet for a dental and asked to have all of the 3 tumors re checked because although they did not get bigger, they likewise did not go away. The findings the 2nd time around came back with mast cell cancer. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!!!

  22. Adam on September 20, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Have just started reading the excellent book but had a question in the meantime please. Our labrador has recently had a sizeable Grade 3 MCT removed from his chest cavity. It had a relatviely low MI of 3 but the invasiveness and other factors determined it was a Grade 3. The surgery was a success with clean margins and staging (ultra sound, CT scan, bloods, urinalysis, apsirates of spleen and lymph nodes) were all clear. However because it was a Grade 3 follow up treament is required. The chemo (vinblastine) given before surgery did not really shrink the tumor. Consequently he has been put on Palladia in conjucntion with steriods.

    My question really is that there is nothing to measure the success of the Palladia treatment as the tumor was internal and all his staging tests are clear anyway. There is no obvious end in site with the use of the drug and i dont want to keep him on strong meds longer than necessary but equally am consicous that he may well need them given the grade. Appreciate there is no definitive answer but interested to know thoughts with regards to this and how long should remain on Palladia if remains symptom free. If a grade 3 MCT that has shown no signs of Metataszie at the point of removal is removed with clean margins then is the dog potentially cancer free at this point. A bit confused !

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on September 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Dear Adam
      we are all confused. nobody knows. you guess.
      btw don’t forget about all the other aspects of dog cancer treatment

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on September 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      If I am understanding all the info about your dog, grade 3 MCT with no evidence of metastasis at diagnosis, I think chemo post surgery in a great idea. Grade 3 tumors have a 50-90% spread rate, so the goal is to prevent spread. I would suggest about 6 months of therapy. Then if no evidence of spread at that time, discussed stopping therapy with your oncologist.
      Good luck! All my best, Dr Sue

  23. Dennis Sullivan on September 16, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Dr. Ettinger,
    I have a 6 yo brindle boxer. She is petite < 50 lbs. She has a mass in her ear and 2 small bumps on her side since she was around 2. The vet told me that they were nothing to worry about. Last wee the tumor in her ear became double the size. Little larger that a quarter. It was red and purple and was oozing/seeping blood and a clear liquid and became irritation. On Tuesday I brought he to the vet and had them remove it. The biopsy came back grade 2 with a mitotic rate of around 1 or 2. It did not have clean margins. The next day her 2 bumps on her side became larger reddish and oozing a clear liquid. I brought her back and they were aspirated. That came back as positive for mast cell. She now seems to have around 8 tumors on her right side. 2 on the left . 3 on her thigh 1 on the shoulder on on neck below her collar 1 on her ankle and the rest are on her trunk spaced between her 2 nipple and an inch from her spine. They are spread across her right side. This is all happening in less that a week and a half. I am going to bring her to an oncologist this week. Do you have some recommendations on what questions I should be asking? For the surgery to take all the tumors would be a lot of skin and the ear would have to go. I red that tumor with lo mitotic rates don't grow fast. I am really confused an d lost.

  24. Sam on August 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    My wonderful Bischon, Snowball, died on June 24th. He would have been 14 in September. I miss him so much and never have cried so much since my sister died. I never suspected that he had any cancer until it was too late. In looking back, I feel guilty that I may have missed some signs. Maybe you can tell me.
    I found a dark little sore on his body that I found when brushing him. If I wasn’t careful, I could scrub the scab off it and it would bleed. My vet said not to be concerned with it and an operation would be far more dangerous. I always checked it and seemed to never grow and never bleed. Much later, he did develop another smaller one on his body.
    He would throw up on occasions which the vet and I thought that he had a sensitive stomach. He had some bouts with diarrhea which was corrected with pumpkin mixed in with his food.
    He never was sick except a day or two here and there. As I look back, I wonder if some of the things I attributed to growing older was his sickness taking over. He no longer chewed on some of his bones, etc.
    It wasn’t until he fell over after one of our walks in early June that I knew something wasn’t right. I thought he had a seizure but found out later on that he passed out. I had him checked over by my vet and was told that he appeared alright but to keep an eye on him. After that episode, Snowball was never the same. He plodded along way behind me on our walks with his tail always down. It broke my heart to see this sudden change in him and he and I knew that something was wrong but we didn’t know what it was. His breathing also seemed not right. The day before Father’s Day while bathing him, I found blood in his ear. I spent Father’s Day at an emergency clinic with him. They found two
    growths in his ear and recommended that they be removed, either by them or my vet. I had my vet check him over again and look at his ear. He felt we should monitor it and only remove the growth if it became necessary.
    Snowball’s breathing became a real concern to me and by the following Friday, my vet referred me to a cardiologist who also could find no problem with his heart. He suggested an x-ray, which we had done. After examining the x-ray, he gave me the bad news…Snowball had lung cancer. It had metastasized to his lungs from somewhere else in his body. He only lived another two days and died in my arms as I was carrying him in to my vet to be put to sleep.
    It haunts me that somehow I missed the signs of cancer in him.
    I wonder about those dark spots on his body. Were they cancerous?

  25. Chris Kelly on August 12, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I have a 5 year old pit bull mix (shar pei maybe the other half) that I adopted from a family in April that was moving out of state. Turns out that the lumps (3 in all) were MCT graded as II with miotic indexes of less than 1. She has had all three removed and a hermanginoma (which was benign). She was pretty sick after her thrid surgery in 2 weeks so I opted for no chemo but the oncolgy vet has prescribed kinavet. She has had 2 doses and seems to be doing ok with it so far. Do you find kinavet to work but with less side effects than the chemo drug palladia? Will you cover it in your next news letter.

  26. Johanna on August 11, 2012 at 6:10 am

    My 7 year old toy poodle had his first mast cell tumor removed from an area between his chest and arm pit last summer (July, 2011). It was a Grade II, low. The biopsy report indicated that he needed surgery to get clean margins. I also did a blood panel and everything came back negative which was just great. Then six months later, he developed another mast cell between his back and neck. It was a grade II, low. I found it when it was very small. I was surprised because he had all negative results on his blood panel. My vet called an oncologist at the AMC again. She said that some dogs are just little “mast cell factories.” Since the margins were clean on the biosy nothing more according the oncologist needed to be done other than being extremely vigilant about checking his skin. About a week ago I discovered another – the smallest thing my vet said she had ever removed. It came back a Grade 1 with clean margins, hence nothing more had to be done. Since my dog is groomed regularly, I find that he comes back itchy and wonder if I should have the groomer use a special shampoo, although we have tried oatmeal and others, could you recommend something else. Also he tends to get red spots on his tummy when he lies on the grass; then they go away. Obviously, he has a very allergic skin. I adore this poodle with all my heart and soul! Is there anything else you feel I should be doing? I want him around for a long time – he is my little boy!!
    I bought your book after Edward had the first mast cell and am very much looking forward to all your future blogs!! What else can I do for my little boy? I was cooking special meals for him but he got pancreatitis and now has to be on a strict Hill’s diet of I/D. I am not crazy about Hill’s prescription diets, but what can I do?

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Johanna,
      unfortunately some dogs go make multiple MCT. I am glad he is under the care of an oncologist.
      I really like the Apocaps supplement for dogs with MCT, if not on steroids or NSAIDs. Keep reading the book. Dr D has lots of good advice on supplements in there!
      All my best,
      Dr Sue

  27. JOAN on August 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I have a big (not fat) 150 pound American Bulldog who is 6 1/2 yrs old diagnosed with Mast Cell Neoplasia. The vet insisted on 4 biopsies that he needled aspirated & charged $500. He next came back with a minimum estimate of $6000 to remove 2 tumors that were cancerous. He further wanted me agree to the removal of the dogs leg if he thought it necessary for an additional $3000 and he made it pretty clear he would think it necessary. He then said chemo would be an additonal $3500. Further he said the dog would probably need additional surgery every six months for returning tumors. He was the only vet I found willing to operate on a dog this large. I am on disability raising a 4 yr old grandchild. The doctor told me if I didn’t operate the dog would die shortly. This was far beyond anything I could afford. As a retired nurse I questioned this almost immediate death sentence. The dog had one swelling the size of a peach pit and another the size of a pea that tested cancerous, all sitting on the skin surface, with no redness or broken skin. The dog is active and I cart with him. If it wasn’t for the tumor swelling I would not know anything was wrong. There is no way I could assist a 3 legged 150 lb animal to go defecate as I have impaired balance myself. I contacted several bully breeders who directed me to your website. THANK GOD! I have him on Cimetidine 500mg and Benadryl 50mg BID for one week and today I noticed the smaller tumor was barely noticeable and the larger one was shrinking. He has no other symptoms. If the tumor is still visible after 3 wks should I continue with the Cimetidine and Tagamet until it is no longer visible? One breeder suggested even if the tumor disappeared, I should give my dog this treatment every six months to prevent a reoccurence. (Said it made the remissions last longer). I am an organic vegetable gardener, and he loves the cancer diet. I am hopeful with the diet, supplements and OTC chemo, the dog will be able to live out his normal life span which I am told is 8-9 yrs because of his excessive size. Thank you very much and God Bless for the work you do.

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Joan,
      I am sorry about your dog. This is a complicated case and I cannot really make specific comments with the medical records and an examination, because I could be missing important info and make recommendations that are not specific to his case.
      I am glad you found the site, and I would encourage you to read the chapter on MCT in the book. Cimetidine and Benadryl are addressing the substances release by the cancer cells, but they do not kill the cancer cells the way chemo does. So he may need to be on those for awhile. If you were not happy with your vet, trying seeing another who can help guide you with his meds. If surgery is not an option, chemotherapy for multiple MCT is an option.
      All my best, Dr Sue

  28. Pamela on August 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    My 11 year old Border Collie was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma May 31, 2012. While having his teeth cleaned they found a mass on his tonsils and called me to approve a biopsy. The vet was only able to tell me it’s a fast spreading aggressive cancer and gave him 3 months to live. He also said chemo or radiation might prolong his life but only by a few months and the quality of life he would have would have would not be worth having the treatments.

    I went online and ordered your amazing book and have had the pleasure of talking to someone on the “hotline” twice. The book doesn’t say much about the type of cancer my dog has nor did the vet give me any advice except for 3 months left. I’ve been following the diet to the T, and have stocked up on Apocaps, K-9 Immunity Plus (I called the manufacturer and they have since removed the sugar), digestive enzymes and everything recommended in the book. Is there any advice you could pass on other than the 3 months the vet gave for my dog to live?

    In Gratitude,

    Pamela Marentis

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      I am so sorry about your dog. Tonsilar SCC is mentioned in the oral tumors chapter, but there was not space in the book to cover it all.
      Overall they are uncommon in dogs, they can be aggressive, but treatment can be considered, and I have seen successes when they are caught early and treated aggressively. Have you considered a 2nd opinion with an oncologist?
      Other than that, it sound like you are covering your other bases as recommended in the book. Good luck!
      All my best, Dr Sue

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Sorry to hear about your Border Collie. Tonsillar SCC is an aggressive tumor, but uncommon. I believe I mention it briefly in the oral tumor chapters. I personally have had some dogs do well with combined surgery, radiation and chemo, so it may be something to consider. I would encourage you to consult with an oncologist for more specific recommendations as it is impossible for me to do that appropriately through this blog. It’s great you have the book and the supplements. Good luck!
      All my best, Dr Sue

  29. Jeannette Botza on August 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Please write some information on Hemangiosarcoma. What are your thoughts
    about metronomic therapy after four sessions of doxirubicin? I am confused
    and would like some clarification. What is the prognosis once it is

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 10, 2012 at 11:52 am

      I think metronomic after IV doxorubicin is a good idea, but I personally give 6 IV doses before switching. Prognosis for hemangiosarcom varies based on location (spleen, heart, muscle, subcutaneous, skin). Sorry you are confused. Have you read the chapter in the Guide?
      All my best, Dr Sue

  30. Elaine Claar on August 10, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Our Boxer, Spike has had a MCT Grade III removed twice. He is now four years old. He has been on Kinavet for a year now with no recurrence of the tumor. I am very interested in reading your thoughts on the drug and MCT in general. Thank you for your newsletter! Elaine

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 10, 2012 at 11:49 am

      Thanks for reading! I have a few more posts planned on MCT so stay tuned. =) I do cover Kinavet and Palladia, both c-kit inhibitors, in the Guide too. Love to hear that spike is doing so well!
      All my best, Dr Sue

  31. Esther on August 10, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Very interresting! I lost a dog to mastcel cancer, he was a Shar Pei, had skin problems all his life. Primary tumor was never found, tumor was in his lymph (on the side and leg behind). Masivet (in VS called Kinavet) did not help.
    I see more and more Shar Peis dying in these last few years. Also at young ages!

    • Dr. Susan Ettinger on August 10, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Thanks for your comments. Some MCT can be very aggressive. Sorry for your loss.
      All my best, Dr Sue

  32. Helen sargent on August 10, 2012 at 12:17 am

    My 7yr springer has had a grade 3 tumour removed & has had an ultrasound, aspirates etc no spread was detected thankfully, she is undergoing radiotherapy & chemo to kill off any remaining cells, my question is once treatment is over & she has recovered can she have vaccinations? we are in the uk & our kennels here do not accept titre test result certificates, I keep reading about vaccinations bringing back cancer but I don’t know if these are just scare stories or if there is some truth in them?

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