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My 14 1/2 year old cocker spaniel had a malignant melanoma…

My 14 1/2 year old...
My 14 1/2 year old cocker spaniel had a malignant melanoma mass, 3.4 cm, removed. Has clean margins. What advice do you have for this diagnosis. She will not be receiving
Any chemo treatments. She is doing great right now. Has a small lymph node that is being monitored. Should I know anything else about signs that I should look for if this progresses.
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Answered in 2 minutes by:
3/7/2018
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 18,976
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian
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Hello, I'm Dr. Kara. I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian and I'd like to help. Please give me a moment to review your concerns.

Where was the tumor located?

How long has the tumor been present?

Did she have chest radiographs taken and were those clear?

Was her lymph node aspirated to check for tumor cells?

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
It was on the mouth, outside area. It grew rapidly. Had checkup Dec 8 and nothing was noted. From jan 12 thru jan 26, she was boarded and upon our return had this growth and then surgically removed jan 31. She has had a hear murmur. Xrays did not show anything abnormal.
The mass was sent to a tech diagnostics and they confirmed malignant melonoma.
No the lymph node was not aspirated.
Customer reply replied 5 months ago
No need for phone call. I am just wanting to know what signs, if any, I should be aware of that her health is changing

Melanomas in dogs behave much differently depending upon where they originate.

Those found in the oral cavity are extremely malignant and aggressive. Even with clean margins we expect the tumor to recur if we do not follow up with radiation, and chemotherapy and/or vaccine therapy. That's because by the time we see the tumor it has sent cells out into circulation and we would expect some malignant cells to be found in the tissue around where the tumor was originally found, distant from the tumor itself so not necessarily seen on the original pathology check, and are also often found in the regional lymph node and possibly the lungs.

Because she has a lymph node that appears abnormal I would recommend aspirating the node to look for tumor cells.

Treatment of choice with the best possible outcome for melanomas includes surgery, then radiation treatment if there is any possibility of an incomplete excision, followed by the Merial melanoma vaccine (Oncept). This vaccine is a new DNA vaccine treatment. This is not traditional chemotherapy, it works by stimulating your dog's immune system to fight the tumor and is tolerated extremely well by most dogs. It is expensive but it increases survival rate and good quality of life from a few months for dogs that have no treatment to two plus years in many dogs that have surgery, the vaccine therapy, +/- radiation therapy if needed.
Because she has an enlarged lymph node I would consider she has tumor spread.
I understand not wanting to put her through chemotherapy, because when we think of chemotherapy we think of making them sicker. Chemotherapy in dogs is different than in people. Chemotherapy can be used for dogs that have tumors that we cannot remove surgically and are not responsive to radiation therapy, or when metastatic spread (tumor cells found in the lymph nodes or other filter organs in the body like the lungs, liver and spleen) is present. We use chemotherapy to keep them feeling as well as possible as long as possible. We do not expect a cure with our canine patients. There is a promising new therapy using small molecules that block tyrosine kinase receptors that you might want to discuss with a veterinary oncologist if your pup has tumor metastases.

If you choose to do nothing expect the tumor to come back very quickly, usually within a couple months, but almost always within 6 months. Expect to see drooling, often with blood, difficulty chewing, foul breath, and eventually difficulty breathing when it spreads to the lungs. The lymph node will likely to increase in size too.
Best of luck with your pup, please let me know if you have any further questions.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Thank you so much. That info helps more than you realize

You are very welcome, my best to your girl. I know this is tough given how fast things have progressed. Please let me know how things go for her.

Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 18,976
Experience: Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian
Verified
Dr. Kara and 87 other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
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Hi Lupita Gray,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Guadalupe Gray. How is everything going?

Dr. Kara
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