Few months ago, 13-year-old Milo the Maltese developed an ulcerated mass on his neck. He was having difficulty eating and started losing weight.
The mass was sent for histopathological diagnosis and confirmed to be Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Due to its aggressive nature, the cancer is likely to regrow rapidly or metastasise (spread to other parts of the body).
One factor associated with the development of SCC is prolonged exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet radiation). As with most forms of carcinoma, SCC is more commonly seen in older dogs.
Clinical signs of Squamous cell carcinoma include:
- difficulty in eating
- weight loss
- halitosis (bad breath)
- facial swelling
Milo also had two oronasal fistulas, measuring 2cm x 3cm and 3cm x 0.5cm. Symptoms of oronasal fistulas include chronic nasal discharge (with or without bleeding), sneezing, bad breath. Left untreated, oronasal fistulas would cause irritation of the nose, infection and aspiration pneumonia.
Causes of oronasal fistulas include:
- Bite wound
- Oral cancer
- Periodontal disease
- Upper jaw overbites (canine teeth in bottom jaw pierce the hard palate/roof of mouth)
The smaller fistula was surgically repaired by creating a flap of gingival tissue on the buccal surface and suturing it over the defect. The other fistula was too large to be repaired at the same time. It was suspected that the fistulas developed due to SCC. If so, the repair will likely fail. Antibiotics are prescribed to control any possible infection.
Although prognosis for SCC patients is poor, Milo still has that sparkle in his eyes. And cancer can’t wipe that smile off his sweet face.
Towards the end of your pet’s life, I guess the best thing to do is remember the memories you have created (even the frustrating ones!) and cherish the moments you have left (yes there will be times your old friend needs to pee at 3am).
When the day comes to bid farewell, do so with a smile amidst the tears. Because he has been such a good dog.