Browsing tag: lump

Ask a vet online ‘vet found a soft lump underneath one of my puppies’ – what next?

Question from Eileen Murphy

Hi I have a set of pups.all at 7wks old.took them for there vet check an she found a soft lump underneath one of the girls were her tummy is the vets said it is nothing to worry about! It is a hernia an won’t see to it unless.she gets.spayed but I am still worrying these pups.are bitchions

Answer from Shanika Winters (Online Vet)

Hi Eileen and thank you for your question regarding your puppy’s hernia, I will start by explaining what a hernia is and then discuss the treatment options.

When your puppy had her routine health check with your vet the soft lump that was felt underneath her tummy (abdomen) is what we call an umbilical hernia.  A hernia is a gap or opening that should not be there. You have most likely heard of people with a hernia, this will be describing a diseased disc in their back or an area of muscle separation leading to weakness.

The abdomen of most animals is made up of the organs inside it, a layer of fatty tissue and then three layers of muscle. These muscle layers are joined by a white strip of strong tissue called connective tissue, which forms the Linea Alba, which runs along the mid line of your pet’s abdomen just underneath the skin.

In some animals like your little puppy this strong white line is not complete and there is a gap of varying size, anything from a few millimetres up to a few centimetres.  Through this gap some of the contents of the abdomen may poke through and be felt as a soft lump around the region where your dog’s belly button (umbilicus) would be found.

Umbilical hernias are often first noticed when your puppy has its first check at the vets, provided the lump that can be felt is small, soft and easily pushed back into the abdomen then your vet will tell you not to worry about it.  If however the lump is large, not readily pushed back into the abdomen, changes colour, texture or is painful then urgent action need to be taken.

The small soft variety of lump is often left and the owner asked to feel at it every day at home and report any changes to their vet, as you have mentioned the other option is that the gap can be surgically closed under general anaesthesia specifically to treat the hernia or when your puppy is being spayed.

It is very rare for a small umbilical hernia to become an emergency situation, I have only encountered this once where the hernia became strangulated, the small amount of abdominal fat which had pushed through the gap had twisted on its self and lost its blood supply leading to a purple firm and painful lump being felt underneath the dog.  The dog came in as an emergency appointment and had surgery to remove the diseased tissue and repair the gap, she made a full recovery.

I hope that this has helped you to understand what the umbilical hernia your puppy has is and how and why we treat them.  Please remember to contact your vet immediately if there is any change to the lump that worries you, we are here to help.

 Shanika Winters MRCVS (Online Vet)

If you are worried about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet or use our interactive symptom guide.

“No! Not on the carpet!” – Vomiting in Cats

I knew it was going to be a rough day when I walked in and saw that three of my ten morning appointments were vomiting cats.  Second only to the chronically itchy dog, vomiting cats can be one of the most frustrating things we have to deal with as vets because there are so many possible reasons why it can happen.  Anything from what the cat had for dinner last night to metabolic diseases that may have been brewing for years could be the cause, and distinguishing between them can take a lot of time, money and effort.  And that’s just for the vet – as the owner of a cat that vomits frequently myself, I understand how unpleasant it is to walk downstairs in the middle of the night and step in a pile of cat sick.  Be it on the new white carpeting or the beat up old sofa, it’s not pretty.  It may be a harmless hairball, but it can also be a sign of serious illness in your cat so it’s definitely worth getting it checked out by your vet.  If you are unlucky enough to have a vomiting cat, here are some things you may want to consider.

Why do cats vomit so much?

Amber prowl cropVomiting in cats is extremely common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s normal.  Some cats are simply prone to hairballs, especially long-haired cats or those that groom excessively.  Others are particularly sensitive to the kinds of food they eat and may not be able to tolerate a particular protein such as beef or additive such as wheat gluten.  Intestinal worms can cause vomiting sometimes, and you may even see them wriggling around after they come up!  Poisonings are rare (cats have a much more discerning palate than dogs) but do occur.  Sometimes playful kittens will swallow things such as pieces of string which can be very dangerous indeed.  Metabolic disorders such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and liver problems can all cause vomiting too as can tumours of the intestinal tract such as lymphoma.  Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas, an organ which secretes digestive enzymes) or inflammatory bowel disease are other common causes which can present themselves in a wide array of confusing ways.  And of course there is one of my favourite terms, “dietary indiscretion”, which can describe the ingestion of anything from rancid rat remnants to last week’s chicken chow mein from the bin.  With such a huge range of possibilities, it’s easy to see how difficult it can be to find the underlying cause.

What should I do if my cat vomits?

Amber-drinkAs with any medical condition, the best thing to do is contact your vet.  They may tell you to simply starve your cat for a few hours (cats should never be starved for long periods of time though, and should always be brought to the vet if they go more than 24 hours without eating, as this can lead to other serious problems) and reintroduce a bland diet such as plain boiled chicken, as this may fix many acute cases of vomiting.  As always, fresh water should be available at all times.  Or, if your cat is displaying other symptoms such as lethargy, inappetence or diarrhoea they may recommend you bring him straight down to the clinic.  The vet will do a physical exam and take a detailed history, so try to remember as many details as you can about your cat’s behaviour in the past few days.  They may take a blood test or check the urine to rule out metabolic diseases.  Depending on the symptoms they may also choose to take some x-rays of the abdomen to look for anything that the cat may have swallowed, or perhaps perform an ultrasound scan to check for any tumours or other problems with the internal organs.  Because there are so many possible causes for vomiting, sometimes many different tests will be needed so it can become quite expensive at times.  Yet another case where pet insurance is a real plus!

How is vomiting treated?

As previously mentioned, if your cat is otherwise well, you may be asked to feed him something bland such as chicken or white fish with no flavourings or fats added.  Although dogs often appreciate rice or pasta mixed with their meat, cats usually do better without the addition of a carbohydrate.  Or, if you’re not up for cooking, there are a number of prescription pet foods available that can help as well.  If hairballs seem to be the problem, there are special pastes and foods that will help them pass through the body instead of being vomited up.  A worming tablet or liquid may be prescribed if there is evidence of worms.  An anti-emetic (medication that stops vomiting) can be given to help calm things for a bit, and sometimes other medications such as antibiotics or steroids are used as well.  If a foreign body is found (in other words, your cat ate something that got stuck), surgery will be performed to remove it.  Surgery can also be used to remove some types of tumours, or to take biopsy samples of different parts of the intestinal tract to help diagnose the problem.

Some cases of vomiting will resolve on their own, while others can require weeks of intensive diagnostics and treatments.  If left untreated, excessive vomiting can make the cat very ill and you also risk missing any underlying medical problems so make sure you talk to your veterinary surgeon right away if you are at all concerned.  But please be patient with your vet if they can’t fix the problem right away – and remember that we can be just as frustrated by it as you!

If you are worried about your cat vomiting, talk to your vet or use our interactice Cat Symptom Guide to check how urgent the problem may be.

Jack and Zac

Joe Inglis BVSc MRCVS is the vet for the One Show, This Morning and BBC Breakfast. He runs his own line of natural pet food called Pet’s Kitchen.

Owning a dog is much more than simply looking after a pet to many people. To many owners dogs are literally one of the family and are involved in all aspects of family life, from everyday activities to holidays, travel and even, in some cases, work.

In my case my dog Jack is not just very much at the heart of the family he’s also at the heart of my pet food business Pets’ Kitchen. Our original brand of dog food, Joe & Jack’s, was named after him and he played a significant role in developing the recipe through tasting and approving various different versions during the testing phase of development. And even now we have moved on to develop a new range of food which doesn’t bear his name, he’s still very much involved in the whole taste testing and recipe development process. Jack comes into work at Pets’ Kitchen with me when I’m not in the surgery and spends his days patrolling the warehouse hovering up stray biscuits and generally keeping an eye on his pet food empire!

Having such a close relationship with my own dog definitely helps me empathise with clients at work who feel equally strongly about their own canine companions, especially when things get difficult. At times like these empathising with the owners can help me understand what they are going through and be more sensitive in how I approach their case, but it also has its downside as I can share their sadness and stress when cases don’t turn out as hoped.

A recent case involving a dog called Zac really affected me deeply as the dog was very similar in many ways to Jack – a middle aged collie-cross dog with plenty of character and a slightly shaggy black and white coat. His owners, Meg and Peter, had been coming to the surgery with Zac since he was a puppy and even though I’d only started looking after Zac a year or so ago I quickly developed a close bond with both patient and owners and was always very happy to see Zac bounding into the surgery for his boosters every year.

A few months ago however I had to see Zac in very different circumstances. Meg brought him in looking very worried, and after saying hello to Zac, who was his usual energetic self, I asked her what the problem was.

‘I’ve found a lump in his neck,’ she answered, her voice quavering slightly.

My heart sank at this news as I immediately thought of lymphoma, a particularly unpleasant form of cancer that tends to affect collies more commonly than other breeds and typically causes lumps in the neck. And as soon as I felt under Zac’s chin my worst fears were realised as I felt two firm, golf ball sized lumps.

Breaking the news that I suspected that Zac had cancer was very difficult indeed and Meg was devastated – as I would have been had it been Jack. Over the next couple of months we confirmed the diagnosis with a biopsy and then started treatment with a cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. Thankfully Zac has responded really well and the lumps in his neck have all but disappeared, which is an immense relief to all concerned – although we are all aware that this is likely to be remission rather than cure.

Being a vet is always challenging and often difficult – but cases like this one which feel so close to my own pets and family are always the hardest to deal with of all.

If you are worried about a lump or any other symptoms your dog may have, contact your vet or use our interactive Dog Symptom Guide to help you decide what to do next.

Epulis: a gum problem seen mainly in boxers.

Tilly aged 1 year and Martha aged nearly 11

Tilly aged 1 year and Martha aged nearly 11

Although I love dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds, I do have a bit of a soft spot for boxers. We have owned one or more for over 20 years.

Personality-wise, you might describe the boxer as a mixture of boisterousness, joyfulness, fearlessness, even brainlessness, but with a huge enthusiasm for everything about life.

All breeds have certain conditions to which they are pre-disposed, that is, more likely to suffer from than their friends of other breeds. One such condition in boxers is epulis, a lumpy overgrowth of gum tissue. Other breeds can get epulis, but not as commonly as in boxers.

Epulis is a benign growth of the gum tissue, which begins as small bumps on the gums and continues to grow, sometimes becoming cauliflower-like and almost enveloping some of the teeth. Unlike a malignant growth, it does not spread to other areas of the body. It can cause problems when the growths become large and when food and bacteria become trapped in the crevices, causing infection, a bad smell and sometimes bleeding. Sometimes the centre of the growth will become quite solid and almost bone-like.

Removal may be necessary if it is extensive or causing these problems. It is carried out under general anaesthetic to prevent pain and to allow access to all the affected areas of the mouth. The growths are simply cut away, either with a surgical blade, or more commonly, by thermocautery or electrocautery. These techniques seal blood vessels as they cut and so prevent bleeding. Thermocautery uses heat to do this, and electrocautery uses an electric current running through the cutting instrument.

Pain relief is usually given after the procedure and any infection will be treated with antibiotics. Examination under a microscope of the removed tissue (histopathology) may be advisable as it can be difficult to distinguish from other types of mouth tumour with the naked eye.

The condition is likely to re-occur given time. Martha, for example, has had two anaesthetics in her life for the removal of epulis, and each time she has also had some minor dental work done. She currently has a lovely full set of nearly-pearly-white teeth and healthy gums.

Jenny Sheriff BVM&S  MRCVS

If you are concerned that your dog may have an epulis you should consult your vet for advice. Use the interactive symptom guide if you are unsure how urgently you need an appointment.

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