DEAR DR. FOX: I just read your column titled “Help Needed for Dogs with Fatty Tumors.” My 11-year-old black Labrador retriever has had fatty tumors since he was about a year old. Most of them are small (less than an inch), but he has had a very large one (4-inch diameter) on his thigh for at least eight years.
As I find a tumor, I have the vet send in a sample to test for cancer. The large tumor has been tested twice. She has always advised leaving the tumors alone because they aren’t malignant.
My dog has now developed a tumor on his back leg, next to his rectum. It was tested and it is not cancer, but it seems to bother him when he runs. He will often sort of hop on three legs. He also sometimes drags it a bit. The vet says it shouldn’t bother his movement. In general, she is a vet who believes in just letting things be.
Should I be concerned about this fatty tumor (2-3 inches) and his running, even though it is not cancer? I would have to find another vet to remove the tumor if you think it should be removed. -- A.H., St. Louis, Missouri
DEAR A.H.: Being unable to examine your dog myself, I recommend seeking a second opinion -- with all due respect for your dog’s veterinarian who, like me, takes a conservative approach to these benign lipomas.
If your dog’s blood tests indicate good liver and kidney function, and thus a lower risk of anesthetic complications, and you can see an experienced soft-tissue veterinary surgeon, I would proceed with the surgery. The growths are only going to increase in size and cause more and more discomfort. The longer you wait, the lower your dog’s quality of life is likely to become.
DEAR DR. FOX: Our cat is a 13-year-old rescue with a host of issues, including IBD, allergies and kidney disease. She is also very emotionally needy.
Ever since she has been with us, she has had a strange interest in eating plastic, particularly plastic bags (which we keep away from her, of course). We brought this to the attention of her vets (she has many specialists) and they all found this perplexing.
A few months ago, she started eating her litter. We use Dr. Elsey’s Senior Litter, which is silica-based and has sodium bentonite in it. I’ve read conflicting reports about whether or not this is hazardous. Her internist recommended cat grass, but she is not interested. I have read that litter-eating could fulfill a dietary need or could be a condition called pica, in which case she could be doing this out of boredom or because of a psychological issue.
She is an indoor kitty, and we have tried to engage her in playtime, but she has a limited attention span and gets bored easily.
What do you make of this behavior, and how do you feel about sodium bentonite? -- M.L., St. Louis, Missouri
DEAR M.L.: Many cats like to lick and even eat plastic. Many plastics have ingredients derived from animal fat, which can make the material attractive to animals. The protective gloss on some paper money also contains stearates derived from tallow (animal fat). I know of many cats who have become money hoarders!
Regardless of what ingredients are in the cat litter you are using, eating litter could be a sign of gut irritation -- lymphatic cancer being my first consideration.
Second, it could indicate a lack of dietary fiber, especially if your cat is fed only moist canned cat food. Mix in a pinch of psyllium husks and let them soak in the food before serving, working up to 1/4 teaspoon in four small meals a day.
Pica can also have other causes, including hyperthyroidism; I would advise additional veterinary evaluation. And consider changing the kind of litter you are using and see if that makes a difference, too.
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