Czar and the mystery lump

Thankyou to everyone that’s wished us luck and to everyone that I’ve made poke and prod at Czar and talk about lumps and bumps and vets and bills in the last few weeks - the short version of this is that Czar is ok.  

The long version is that for a few weeks now, Czar has been crying out in pain at random intervals. Anyone who has met Czar has probably heard his voice, which is quite... um, distinctive... and loud... yes, very loud. Huskies come in two varieties - ridiculously stoic (Ishka and Bolo almost never yelped or whimpered ever, no matter what) and total wimps (Czar and Frankie are definitely the latter). We haven’t been able to pin down the cause - he’s had a good appetite, no diarrhea or vomiting, no heat or swelling anywhere, no obvious injuries, little consistency about where he is or what he’s doing when he yelps. We did find one little lump, about 2.5cm long, on his right flank.

It is a strange lump, not rounded or raised, but elongated and flat, slightly pointed at each end. I took Czar to the local vet and they couldn’t find anything else wrong either. They inserted a needle into the lump area and drew out some fluid. No blood or pus, just clear lymph fluid. The vet was hopeful but microscopic examination showed no cells in the fluid, nothing to indicate what the lump might be. 

Regardless, said the vet, it probably should come out. I asked for a quote, wincing at the idea of spending several hundred dollars on veterinary surgery. When I got the quote, it was three times higher than I expected, with a top estimate of $1200. Much as I’d like to say that money is no object when it comes to the health of our family, human or canine, you can’t spend money you don’t have. My maternity leave finishes soon and things will be (financially) better then, but lately every penny has been pinched til it squeaks.  I rang around and asked other local vets to quote on the surgery, but the price was the same.

I spoke to a few friends at the SHCV Cup Race weekend and everyone that touched the lump said “oh that’s really weird, but I guess it has to come out” Our consensus was that the lump was possibly a thorn or grass seed, and that it was going to cause problems sooner or later. One friend suggested a veterinary hospital in south eastern Melbourne as being remarkably affordable. I looked them up and not only are they affordable, but they are transparent and up front about their prices, removing the difficulty of asking the awkward question, brilliant!

I rang them the next day and got an appointment. The second vet agreed that the lump seemed more like a foreign body, but pointed out that not only was there no sign of infection, there was also no sign of entry or the kind of “track” that a thorn, seed or spine might make as it worked it’s way in. Based on the surface location, small size, clear margins of the lump, he was happy to quote a much cheaper rate for a quick and easy surgery. We booked it in for the following week.

Today, I locked Frankie on the deck, Kit in the yard (worried that otherwise poor Frankie would be tormented by Kit’s attempts to play) and packed Czar in the car. I dropped Wee Monster at childcare and then Czar at the vet. I signed the consent form, including my contact details for the day. Lil Bunyip and I said goodbye Czar-zar and headed off.

 * * *

When the phone rang, my heart sank. What was wrong? Fortunately, nothing.

The vet that was ringing was a different person to the one we’d seen the week before.

”I’ve been reviewing the case notes and I’ve looked at the lump and I’m not sure he needs the surgery.” 

We discussed the case history and I realised that I might have inadvertently biased the vets by drawing their attention to the mystery lump. The lump wasn’t inflamed or infected. The real reason we were there was actually the random yelping. I described how Czar had started yelping when he was randomly lying around - the vet thought the yelping might have been related to gastrointestinal pain, and asked about changes to diet. I admitted that we’d been giving bones much more frequently since Kit arrived, trying to keep Kit entertained. The vet suggested that Czar’s random yelping sounded more like colic or griping than anything else.

The vet also had a much more plausible theory on the lump than anyone else. He asked about Czar’s previous surgical history and suggested that the lump could be a drain tube section from a previous surgery. 

“Dogs chew them off and leave little segments in the wound. My heeler had retained drain tube that kept getting infected, we’d treat with antibiotics and it’d come back. This feels the same, but it’s not infected, so I’m not sure it’s worth going through with the surgery.” 

One of the reasons we’d been so quick to assume the lump was a grass seed (apart from its shape) was the fact that Czar had had one before. That was some 7-10 years ago, before I met J, so I wasn’t sure on the details, but I knew we had photos of Czar wearing a “cone of shame” to stop him chewing at his wound. If the mystery lump was that old, that would explain why there was no entry track. 

The vet’s recommendation was to take Czar home, put him back on his old food, no extras, for six to eight weeks, and monitor for signs of pain. He felt that there was no need to remove the lump unless it became infected or swollen. After some reflection and discussion, J and I agreed. I brought Czar home.

The fact that the vet didn’t just go ahead and do the surgery that we’d agreed to was a sign of great integrity. Sometimes it feels like vets are either just trying to make money, or they’re insensitive to dog owners’ financial stresses. We are so grateful to these guys for refusing to act like a  factory line, and for taking the time to review and discuss. Putting Czar through unnecessary surgery is not a great idea. Hopefully his mystery lump stays a mystery, and we never have to go digging around.