Mast Cells And Brooke

It’s time again for Give Cancer The Paw blog hop.

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Thanks to our hostess’s Pooch Smooches and Peggy’s Pet Place for this great blog hop!

Brooke’s story……

Way back in July of 98 John and I picked up our first Chesapeake puppy that we were owning together. Brooke was born 5/8/98. We wanted a male but couldn’t find a breeder that had a litter with a male so we went with getting a female and named her Brooke. She didn’t come from someone I would necessary call a breeder, this was his first litter and us being young really didn’t know what we were looking for. Even know I was a Veterinary Technician and I checked that OFA’s were done on the hips but other than that I really didn’t check things out, didn’t know how to read pedigree’s, they didn’t have the health clearance’s then that we have now so that was limited. Brooke came with a birthmark, her momma had bit the tip of her ear off so we would always know which puppy was Brooke.

Lovely puppy Brooke.

Lovely puppy Brooke.

Brooke did a great job hunting her first year.

Brooke did a great job hunting her first year.

After her first year things went downhill. We never did any formal training with her and let her Chesapeake natural retrieving skill do the job. She hunted her first year then she put the breaks on and wouldn’t pick up another bird after that. She became aggressive as she got older, she was going to be our first breeding Chesapeake but with the aggression issues and then failing OFA hips we had her spayed. She was a great companion and guard dog for us but too many people couldn’t take care of her.

Brooke and Norman.

Brooke and Norman.

When Brooke was 6 years old and still having aggression issues my Grandpa died so that left my Grandma living alone out in the country by herself. We lived 3 miles from her but it wasn’t right next door and she was afraid to be by herself. She had a couple occasions when creepy people came knocking at her door so after that she asked me if she could “borrow” Brooke for a few days. I took Brooke over and had a talk with Grandma what she could and couldn’t do with Brooke if she wanted to keep her fingers. I was a little leary leaving Brooke there but that soon ended as Grandma and Brooke hit it off. For the next 4 years Brooke kept the strangers away, slept on Grandma’s bed and made her feel safe. It was a match made in heaven and I was so pleased at how this relationship went so well. I do have to mention that Grandma was a farm girl and never had dogs in the house nor did any vet care except Rabies vaccinations. So when Brooke was diagnosed at age 8.5 yrs with having Mast Cell tumors I really didn’t think Grandma was going to do anything but I was surprised and she wanted to treat her and keep her around for as long as possible as she made her feel safe.

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What started out as one small lump on Brooke’s side developed into many lumps. A lump appeared on Brooke’s side, no big deal right? They get lumps and bumps and some are adenoma’s, some are fatty lumps, some are much worse. I gave the lump a couple weeks to see what was going to happen with it, if it was going to grow, if it was going to shrink, if it was going to change in anyway to give me a idea what it was. It grew and then it became ulcerated so I knew I had to get it checked out. I took her to work with me and we did a FNA (fine needle aspirate) on it. Looking at the cells under the microscope I could tell right away it was a Mast Cell tumor. Brooke then had surgery to remove the lump, while she was under we noticed some red plaque like structures on her abdomen, we took a biopsy of one to see what that was (turned out to be more mast cells). We sent the lumps to the pathologist to confirm what we already knew and to have them stage it.

Staging the Mast Cell Tumor

In order for a rational therapeutic plan to be devised, the extent of tumor spread (or stage of the tumor) must be determined. The World Health Organization has determined a clinical staging system based on the body areas affected by the tumor. Between the stage and the grade, a plan can be devised. The tumor is staged 0 through IV as described below:

  • Stage 0: one tumor but incompletely excised from the skin.
  • Stage I: one tumor confined to the skin with no regional lymph node involvement.
  • Stage II: one tumor confined to the skin but with regional lymph node involvement present.
  • Stage III: many tumors or large deeply infiltrating tumors, with or without lymph node involvement.
  • Stage IV: any tumor with distant spread evident. This stage is further divided into substage A (no clinical signs of illness) and substage B (with clinical signs of illness). In order to determine the tumor stage some probing of other lymphoid organs must be performed.

When you do surgery on Mast Cells you need to have a wide margin around the tumor to get it all. Any cells left behind will regrow and need to have surgery done on them again to get it all. Stage I & II are usually curative with complete excision. Stage III  and IV not so much.

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After we removed the Mast Cells, she did have more occur. The more that occurred the worse they got. It was time to make a decision on what we were going to do. Grandma wanted to do everything she could for her so we started chemotherapy. Brooke had 6 months of chemo. She did excellent with chemo. Brooke was good for awhile then the tumors came back with a vengeance, they were bigger and she had multiple ones that would become necrotic and break open there were so many and so large surgery wasn’t a option anymore. We did chemo again and after chemo the tumors would shrink up until they would fester again and break open. My doctor said that Brooke was the worse case of Mast Cell tumors that she has ever seen. Grandma wasn’t ready to put Brooke down yet so we continued chemo to shrink the tumors. Brooke never knew anything was wrong.  We managed to keep Brooke going for 1.5 yrs when the tumors spread to her internal organs and she passed away in her sleep one night. She was 10 yrs old when she passed.

Mast Cells are nasty tumors, they start out small and people aren’t concerned with them because they look so innocent but they aren’t. Mast Cells need to be removed immediately and they need to be sent into the pathologist to find out just what you are dealing with. If more come up they need to be removed also. If you have a tumor that comes and goes it could be a Mast Cell. They release histamine and swell up and then the histamine goes away so the tumor shrinks so if you have a lump that comes and goes have it checked out. If you have a small red lump you should have it check out, you should have all lumps checked out to be on the safe side.

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24 Replies to “Mast Cells And Brooke”

  1. SlimDoggy (@MySlimDoggy)

    Thanks for this article and explanation. Our first pup, Sally developed a mast cell when she was only about 9 years old. We were fortunate that we caught it soon and they were able to excise with good wide margins and it never recurred. But having Labs, who are susceptible to all sorts of lumps, we get our dogs checked constantly. I even keep a little map of their lumps so I know which ones have been checked out and which haven’t.

    Reply
  2. Diane Silver (@ToDogWithLove)

    So sorry Brooke had to fight cancer, but hope it’s comforting that she spent her final years with a loving Grandma. Thanks for sharing this important info. We experienced a lung tumor, but not mast cell tumors. There’s just so many kinds of cancer, it’s good to know what to watch out for.

    Reply
  3. amywern

    Great explanation. I too love imagining your Grandma and Brooke holding down the farm. A pair of badass chicks! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Sue at Talking Dogs

    What a beauty Brooke was! So sorry you lost her to the big C. Totally agree with you about checking for lumps and bumps. It’s routine at our house. So glad you included the staging information. I meant to do that in my tripawd post and forgot all about it. Terrific post with some wonderful photos!

    Reply
  5. Jackie Bouchard

    Thanks for the great post – this is important info for folks to know about mast cell tumors. I knew many dogs when we were in an online support group for 3-legged dogs that had lost a leg due to a mast cell tumor. (Luckily for them, those dogs usually did much better/lasted longer than the dogs who had osteosarcoma, like our Abby.)

    I loved this story – well, except for the cancer part of course! Loved that Grandma and Brooke were so perfect for each other, and that the “farm girl” let the dog sleep on her bed and fought so hard for her. Shows how special our bonds are with our pups. xoxo

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  6. Donna O.

    I think this statement here is wonderful: “she was going to be our first breeding Chesapeake but with the aggression issues and then failing OFA hips we had her spayed.” – especially considering how just a moment before you admitted you were young at the time and did not know much about breeding and what to look for. It’s awesome that you waited, not everyone would.

    I’m so sorry that you lost your girl to mast cell cancer. It sure sounds like you and your Grandma and Brooke fought the good fight. I’m glad it gained you extra time together. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Nothing But Norman #30 | Sand Spring Chesapeakes

  8. Jan K

    I tried to leave a comment yesterday and had computer issues….now I need to remember what I was going to say! I loved the happy part of your story, where your grandma and Brooke became such good friends, and your Grandma wanted to do everything she could to keep Brooke with her as long as possible. And I am glad they were able to have some more quality time together too.

    Reply

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