Is this something to be worried about? Evaluating growths on your pet
As a veterinarian, I use all of the skills, knowledge, experience, and information given to me to come to a confident diagnosis. Though I have to say, I am still challenged by answering the question “Is this something to be worried about?”, after my client points to a growth on their pet. Although I wish I could have the power to diagnose the moment I get asked the question, I unfortunately do not. Being human has its limitations. There is no doubt that when you notice any type of growth on your pet, you should have your veterinarian thoroughly evaluate it.
Here are a couple of things you can be mindful of prior to veterinary examination that will help you and your veterinarian diagnose the growth more accurately and more efficiently:
1. How long has the growth been there? Where is the growth located exactly?
- You may notice the growth suddenly when you are petting your furry companion. However, if you have noticed it prior to examination for a certain period of time, please share that information with us.
- I advise that you do a thorough body inspection on a daily basis of your pet; that way growths don’t go unnoticed!
2. What is the shape, size, color, mobility, and texture of the growth? For the growths that have been on the pet for a longer period of time, have any of these criteria changed and how long has the change been apparent?
- This is very important information as it will help your veterinarian prioritize certain types of diagnoses.
- Using a caliper to get a more accurate size is advisable. Call your veterinarian to discuss the right caliper to purchase for you and your pet.
- I recommend keeping a little journal where you can write everything down, in detail!
3. Has your pet had a change in behavior coincidentally and/or surrounding the time when the growth was noticed?
- Some growths can be associated with certain behavioral changes. Knowing whether your pet has experienced a change in demeanor will provide another piece of valuable information for your veterinarian.
4. Are there any more growths on your pet?
- As mentioned previously, it is good to keep a journal where you jot down all the important and detailed information about any growths you appreciate on your pet.
These are just some of the questions that you can easily prepare prior to your pet’s scheduled veterinary appointment. I mentioned earlier that I recommend keeping a journal, where detailed information can be jotted down. In this journal, I also recommend that you create a little “body map” of your pet. This is a very simple thing to do and gives you an opportunity to get creative! Please talk to your veterinarian so they can provide you an example and discuss this in more detail.
Once you have discussed the pertinent information with your veterinarian and a thorough physical examination have been performed, further diagnostic testing may be recommended. This is an essential part in determining a diagnosis. Depending on the presentation of the growth, your veterinarian will decide whether it is best to take a sample in the form of an impression smear, a fine needle aspirate, an incisional biopsy, or an excisional biopsy. Because the conversation can get very lengthy regarding these techniques, I encourage you to inquire about them during your scheduled veterinary appointment so that you and your veterinarian can determine the best course of action for your pet.
As I am sure you realized, the answer to the question “Is this something to be worried about?” is pretty complicated. Veterinarians greatly value the information and truly appreciate the time spent and effort invested by clientele so that growths get diagnosed quickly and efficiently.
Iwona Popkowski, DVM