Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at

    Includes Expert Content
    Mast Cell Tumor - Surgery - Chemo
    sc0hen posted:
    Hi! I have an 8 1/2 year old/male German shepherd, dalmation mix that weighs 85 pounds named Jack. Jack started limping about a month ago and we took him to the vet where it was determined that he had a stage-2 mast cell tumor on the bottom of his front paw located between the pads on the bottom and also touches the 2-weight bearing toes. The tumor cannot be removed cleanly without amputation of his leg (not an option in my eyes - why put him through that in view of his age). We have gone through testing of the lymph nodes, a sonogram for the stomach, liver, spleen and bone marrow test as well. All results (including a physical inspection of his body) were clean. The oncologist/surgeon we were referred to has suggested more aggressive surgery followed by radiation (mon - fri for 3 1/2 weeks) treatments or more aggressive surgery followed by chemotherapy (once a week for 4-weeks and the every other week for 4 more sessions - total of 8-sessions) as alternatives to amputation or just doing nothing. By doing nothing, she indicated that we would probably have a 'decision' to deal with within the next 6-months. We are just at a complete loss and don't know what to do?!?!?! Obviously, we want to do what we can to save Jack (we have had him since he was 2-weeks old) but we do not want to either fool ourselves into thinking the surgery/chemo option will work! We are concerned with causing additional trauma for Jack if we go this route and worried that the quality/quantity of his life will not be any better. At this point in time, Jack is acting completely normal and shows no outward signs of illness. Also, I don't believe the surgery/radiation will be a 'real' optiojn for us to pursue because it might be too much for Jack to have to be sedated everyday for treatment for 3 1/2 weeks and then to endure and recover from the radiation burns on the bottom of his paw. If there is anyone out there that can advise me on the surgery (and more specifically) chemotherapy route - That would be great! Someone that has either had experience with it or knows someone that has and can speak to it??? I have to make my final decision today as I have been tossing this back and forth since Monday and will have to get the surgery scheduled for early next week if that will be the route. Anyone with similar Mast Cell Tumor experience - Please chime in as well???? Thanks!
    smacri601 responded:
    Hi There -

    I stumbled upon this post while doing my own search and I had to respond as I was in your exact position about 6 years ago. My 8 year old lab mix had this "bump" on his paw, and it turned out to be a stage-3 mast cell tumor. We did everything you did, the aspirates, checking the liver, kidneys, everything you are describing was exactly what we went through. The option our team gave us was ambutation (it was his rear left lef), and weekly chemo for I believe 8 weeks (it was a while ago so don't quote me on the 8 weeks). It was that, or do nothing and have 6 months with him.

    I have to tell you, I completely understand your struggle, as I was worried about his quality of life, would he be miserable? It was simply the unknown that was concerning us.

    I speak to you 6 years later, and he is still with us, and has had the best 6 years! We made the decision to amputate his leg and do the chemo. He was walking within 24 hours of them amputating his leg! He literally did not miss it! The doctor's explained to me that dogs don't have the same processes that humans do regarding amputation. They don't feel the "phantom pain", things of that nature. The chemo didn't effect him at all, again it is not the same as what think of as human chemo.

    Now, I don't know if your dog will have the same experience, but when I tell you how much we struggled with the idea, and how much I am thankful that we made the decision we did, I mean it. He is 14 now, and just starting to slow down. He had remained completely cancer free for 6 years, and still moving on those 3 legs.

    Good luck with your decision, I do understand your struggle, but I just had to post my experience with you, and they could not be more identical! Good luck!
    Bonnie Beaver, BS, DVM, MS responded:
    Tough decisions and no one is wrong. There are a couple of things that owners typically don't know about surgery and chemotherapy. Limb amputation of most dogs is not a big deal relative to their quality of life as long as the other limbs are healthy (no osteoarthritis). These dogs get around, up and down, just fine. The other thing is that chemotherapy is not nearly as hard on the dog as it is on a person. They don't lose their hair and get nauseated like we do.

    Mast cell tumors can cause a dog to go shocky if not removed. They can also cause the stomach to ulcerate because of histamine release in both cases. A dog that is not treated needs to be on lifetime medication of an antihistamine like Benadryl and stomach protectant like Pepcid AC. Both of these can have side effects too when used that long.

    It sounds like the people working with you are giving excellent advice. That doesn't make your decisions any easier but at least you have a great medical team whichever way you go. Good luck.
    Grandmaof03 responded:
    It is a really hard decission to treat or not to treat and make our dogs comfortable...

    I didn't have the same experence as my dog had lymphoma...and the only advice I have for you is to follow what is in your heart..Yes you are struggling with your decission as I think everyone does in yoru position..

    When Mikey was being treated, my oncoligist told me that it is all about quality of life and if the treatment makes them to sick then they change treatments so that the patient is not miserable. Also there are so many medications they can give to help with the symptoms of Chemo...

    Mikey's cancer was really advanced...I lost him and wish so badly I would have known he was sick long before I did..

    I have another dog who has other medical problems and honestly if I thought for one second she had any symptoms of cancer I would not walk but run to the oncoligist for treatment..

    Good Luck to you as you make your decission.. I will keep you in my prayers...

    sc0hen replied to Grandmaof03's response:
    Thanks to all for your thoughts/comments and experiences. To let you know, we have decided to go through with a more aggressive surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible without any amputation and will follow that with 8-sessions of chemotherapy (once a week for 4-weeks and then once every other week for 4 more sessions). Hoping fro the best of both worlds this way - Definitely did not want to put Jack through more than he need to especially at almost 9-years old!! We are hoping the future will now bring us several more years of joy in addition to quality time for Jack!!
    Grandmaof03 replied to sc0hen's response:
    Please let us know how he is doing from time to time...

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers...

    energizerbunny responded:
    I was wondering how your dog is doing now. A few months ago right after my golden retriever delivered puppies, I noticed a bump on her right paw. The vet took biopsies and came back with this MTC diagnosis and referred me to an oncologist. I am ready to make an appointment with the specialist now that Sadie is done nursing and the puppies are at their new homes. Your post and the responses have been helpful. I'd like to know how everyone's pets are doing of those who responded to your initial post.
    Debramag responded:
    Wow...I didn't realize you posted this 3 years ago! Well, I'll put my two cents in anyway....I would do exactly what the other person did....amputate and chemo! I love my dogs way to much to lose them....BUT I JUST LOST FOUR IN A YEAR AND A HALF!!! I did pit bull rescue for years and ended up keeping four beautiful, sweet babies...well they WERNT babies ....problem was is they were all around two when I rescued then kept them. I DESPISE MAST CELL!!!!! With a passion. On one hand my big boy Theo was a bullmastiff/pit mix....135 pounds of pure gentleness and love. He had a few mast cells taken off but then I started going to a very good holistic vet here in Rhode Island...very well respected in this community. She advised me that because every time I had one taken off another would show up to stop taking them off. The last one he had was huge on his chest. The oncologist I went to said even with chemo and removal the most we'd have with his is six months. With holistic supplements he lived another 4 years! But and it's a huge BUT Maggie Mae had one on her hip. I did the same with her...two years ago I called her down for breakfast she came happy as always, I was leaning over loving her then her head went back then she fell and died right there. I was horrified. I had been taking her to another vet at the same place for a year and a half complaining she was coughing...all I kept getting was cough medicine ..finally I insisted on an X-ray and there was a tiny white thing on the film. The vet didn't think it was anything but bronchitis. I even made them send the films to a radiologist who came to the same conclusion. When she passed I was beside myself and had the closest vet that I took her to do a necropsy. They found that her lung..every single lobe was loaded with cancer! You have no idea how pissed I was because I had continued to insist something was wrong not just bronchitis!! I believe you are blessed to have the choice of amputation...I didn't have that choice but that's exactly what I would do. They believe the lung cancer metastasized from the damn mast cell!!! Well, if you see this please,please let me know how things turned out because I now have an English bulldog I rescued with what looks like a mast cell to me and its on his paw pad. Only problem is I don't have the money for amputation. But if that's what will save him...I will get it someway somehow!!!!

    Helpful Tips

    Excellent website for information on parasites in dogs and catsExpert
    I just conducted a seminar and hands-on demonstration on diagnosis of fecal parasites to veterinarians and technicians. An excellent ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    33 of 48 found this helpful

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

    Learn more about the AVMA

    WebMD Special Sections