Welcome to www.tendlife.com !!!

Large Growth on Old Dogs Head

Our 13-year-old retriever isn't in too bad shape for his age overall, but one problem is especially bothersome not so much for the dog, but everyone else. He has a large growth on the top of his head (a cyst?), it started growing about a year ago and was barely noticeable, but now it's the size of a golf ball. The big problem isn't just that it looks bad... it constantly oozes pus and blood, and stinks to high heaven. My parents have been taking care of him, cleaning the growth and applying fresh bandages at least twice a day, but it isn't enough. It looks grotesque and smells just as bad, by morning the smell has sometimes permeated the whole house. It really spoils the dogs appearance; visitors often gasp in horror when they see him, even though the actual growth is covered with a bandage.
The vet looked at the growth when it was much smaller and said that surgery was the only option. However, due to the dogs age and size, he said it was unlikely that the dog would survive the surgery. That was almost a year ago. Today, my parents have basically given up - they won't take him to the vet at all anymore and are basically just waiting for him to die. I've contacted another vet but they were no help at all, wanting to see the dog (and charge big $ for the exam) before they'd give any advice at all.
So the poor old dog doesn't have much quality of life (and neither does anyone else!), nobody wants to go near him anymore and nobody is willing to even try to remedy the problem. But nobody wants to do away with him either. Otherwise his health isn't too bad, he doesn't get around as well as he used to, but his vision, hearing, and other functions are still just fine.
Is there anything we can do to treat the growth short of having surgery? We can't afford to gamble $500+ on a 50/50 chance he'd die on the operating table.
Thanks for any advice.

If it smells that bad it sounds like its probably infected. It will get worse. I'm not sure but since the cyst burst they don't have to have surgery to remove it..they just have to clean it and give the dog some antibiotics.

if the vet hasnt seen it in a while and it has changes the dog defiately needs to go to the vet again.
pussing, and odor definately imply an infection. left untreated it can get in to the blood stream and cause multi organ failure. this is painful and unnessesary suffering for the dog.
the vet may say that the risk of surgery outway the risks of not having the surgery. maybe oral anibiotics may help? the situation has changed and the dog needs to be properly diagnosed.
the dog may not complain of pain, but most animals dont act as if they are in pain when infact they are.
how would you or your parents feel with a rotting golf ball sized growth on them. and its gotten so bad he gets minimal interaction and affection!
please try to convince your parents to not allow the dog to suffer and take him to the vet, if its really expensive call around and try to find a cheaper vet.

Our golden had a similar cyst on her tail that they had also said could only be removed with surgery. Well, it finally bust one night and yes had the blood and the smell so we took her to the vet to see what her chances were with the surgery. Just like cpietra has said, no surgery necessary...just had them clean it out, antibiotics, and no bandages...has to dry out by itself in the air. That was a year ago and there is not sign of where the cyst used to be. Ginger will be 13 in June (God willing) so we are also very aware of the dangers of surgery so I can imagine your parents concern. Please bring your dog in...you might be surprised how manageable this situation is.

What you've described is quite upsetting and irresponsible of your parents, I'm surprised someone hasn't reported the neglect yet, what kind of people gasp in horror and then walk away and do nothing?? If no one is willing to have him treated or get a second opinion than you will have to surrender him to a local shelter or bring him in to be euthanized yourself. It is good you are seeking some advice, I hope you will help him ASAP so he doesn't have to keep suffering like this.

I highly doubt this was life threatening when it was in the early stage, it may be now and it will be a painful death untreated.

So packkrat to summarize....it sounds like the worst is over BUT your parents absolutely must must must take their dog to the Vet to have the site cleaned properly (no, they cannot flush it themselves ~ they don't have the equipment or the solutions) and get a prescription for anti-biotics (no, there is nothing over the counter that will work). These are MUSTS. No ifs, ands, or buts.

If they are unable to do this AFTER asking the Vet about costs and payment plans then perhaps they can call the local SPCA about assistance options or other alternatives.

To reply to some of your comments.....

The growth isn't the kind that grows for a while and then pops (like a pimple)... it's actually quite a hard mass. It's as if it's filled not only with bloody pus but cartiledge or something else as well. The vet's original prognosis was probably quite correct.

My parents are not purposely mistreating the dog, the only reason he's lived this long is because they've indeed taken quite good care of him to this point.... including regular check-ups, shots, etc. But as I said in my first post, they now figure he's just about done for and have given up.
One other problem I only touched on before, and this is why they don't like taking him places, is because his hips are quite lame. He can still walk, but if he tries to walk on anything other than a flat, well-gripping surface, he falls flat and often has to be helped up. The problem started 3 years ago and we figured he was done for then, but we started giving him Glucosamine tablets and these have kept him mobile to this point. But my folks still figure (or at least use the excuse) that the 30-mile drive to the vet would be too much for his tired old hips. In fact they don't take him for car rides at all anymore for that very reason (and he used to love car rides :-( ).
At 13 years old, and given the fact that the dog is at least 15 pounds overweight, nobody expects him to live into the next decade nor does he owe it to us. But if we could at least clear up this growth, it would certainly make his twilight years (or months) a bit more enjoyable for everyone.
I will try discussing the matter with my folks again but I don't expect to change their minds. At least now I have a bit more info to give them.
Thanks for the advice.

If the dog is in good health and it's pre-operative blood work looks perfectly fine then why would it's age be an issue?

I have researched the age issue with dogs and operations and there seem to be conflicting stories on it. I just had my soon to be 11 year old operated on and she did fine. She went under twice in a 3 week span.

I agree. He sounds like he's fine otherwise. 15lbs isn't much extra weight... From your posts, it seems like they're stuck in this idea that he's old and the care isn't worth it, and I find that sad. Thirteen is the new 10 for a lot of dogs...

You and your parents owe him quality of life for his remaining time so why don't you arrange the visit yourself, get the growth cleaned up and some medical advice how to maintain it at home. Just because he's old doesn't mean he should be any less properly taken care of.

We have good reason to suspect the dog wouldn't survive a surgery. He had an operation 5 years ago to remove a (much smaller) growth on his lip... the operation was successful but it took him weeks to recover from the anesthetic; he could hardly walk and had no energy at all. Add five more years of age and two already-weak hips to that and I don't think it would be a good scenario.
The other factor is money... even $50 for an exam is more than we can afford, as we are now living below the poverty line. Nor am I in a position to take care of things myself as I don't have a means of transportation, nor a steady income (I make even less than my parents).
It might not be fair but sadly it's just the way life is. This is why I objected to getting the dog in the first place 13 years ago.... yes he's been a great pet and we've enjoyed him, but I knew this day would someday come.
I guess I'll just have to be content with the situation as it is, and hope maybe the growth will go away on its own. There isn't much I can do about things from my position.
I appreciate the advice just the same, even if it falls on the deaf ears of my parents. At least I can say I tried.

I suppose if you measure a sick dog in money, he isn't worth much to your parents. Very sad situation, because money can always be found if a friend is suffering. Guess that's not how they see it when it comes to the 4-legged kind. Maybe your parents have had a hard life and don't think the dog should have it any better. And yet he has given them everything. I suspect the vet has picked up on their reluctance and is responding accordingly. S/he must know that there have been advances in anaesthetics in the past five years and maybe using the newer technology he would be quite OK.

I dont have anything to add that already hasnt been said. But all I have to say is " Poor old guy/gal" all those years of unconditional love and compassion towards your parents and now because its old. Nothing can be done
I know that there is little you can do, but honestly pet ownership holds some responsiblitly and one of those responsibilities is not to allow needless suffering. ( actually its illegal) I too am suprised no one has reported this, perhaps its just been luck thus far.
However, the charges that could be brought against your parents for neglect ( im sorry but thats what it would fall under) would be far more than a vet check would have been.

I live $500 dollars below the poverty and am unable to work due to serious health problems yet I still managed to find a way to have my cat looked at and cared for before he was euthanized. (I also have 0 family) As I mentioned earlier you will need to surrender him to the SPCA if no one will be kind enough to help him. It is heartbreaking and unfair but it is something you will need to do unless you want to continue to watch him suffer. Dogs and cats do not show thier pain until it is VERY BAD and they are simply unable to hide it any longer. You can probably arrange to have him picked up by a shelter if it is really that impossible for any of you to do anything for him.

As erykah1310 mentioned it will be far more trouble for you all if this is reported. This isn't just tough luck or "life" this is neglect because there are organizations that will take him off your hands.

I agree with Maya and Erykah.....even though it is heartbreaking to do, you cannot let the dog suffer. Please convince your parents and/or show them this thread to read.

He probably won't make it into the adoption pool at the SPCA, unless they are rigourously no-kill, and not many are. The vet there will take one look at him, and you know the rest. A rescue group might take him on, although they usually don't have much money for surgeries either.
If this situation is not going to change and he will simply be allowed to - perhaps - die by inches, then why don't you jump on the phone and see if any rescues will sympathize with your situation. You never know. They may even be able to guide you to a sympathetic vet, who would be willing to take payments over many months.
The fact that you posted in the first place makes me think that you have a conscience about this and yet you are fed up with arguing about it with your - sorry - clueless parents. So instead of saying nothing can be done, not my dog, etc., why don't you just try, because without you, the dog appears to have no hope.

Packrat,I can understand what you are saying,your parents are poor,but this poor old dog is your family too.
I don't understand,are they going to watch him die in pain,because you can be sure it's not going to be a painless death.
Also his little old heart must be breaking,if nobody wants to cuddle and comfort him,maybe he's even kept tied up outside,because of his odor
The idea of him beeing thrown in to a shelter for his last days,seems really cruel,but dying a slow painful death at home,while his organs shut down,even more so..please get him help
Maybe going a month without Internet and Cable will give your parents enough to pay for the vet

are your parents really old? are they on pension or governement support. they could try farley's foundation.
i hope its ok with the mods that i post this link, i think its a wonderful cause.


I finally convinced my parents to take him to the vet and have the growth looked at, the vet cleaned it up and prescribed an antibiotic. The dog had to be helped in and out of the car due to his lame hips, so this was not an easy ordeal. The smell is a lot better today and this should at least prevent any infection from spreading, but surgery is still out of the question. This vet (a different one than last year) also said it was unlikely he'd survive the surgery, and that it was better to try and treat the growth rather than remove it. So we're not a whole lot better off than before, but at least I can say we tried, and hopefully appease anyone who thinks we were mistreating this dog.
I guess that's wraps up this story for now... now hopefully this poor old dog can enjoy his remaining days in a reasonably comfortable state.

glad you seeked medical attention, not to appease us but to save this poor dog from unnecessary discomfort

Making sure he (name?) is not in pain is for his sake not for anyone elses unless you and your parents are going to feel remorse if he is suffering needlessly(not somthing you want to live with). Self delusion takes the remorse away for most people I think because it hurts too much to admit we or the people we love may be making mistakes. Anyway, I think it is wonderful that you were able to get through, obviously you all do care for him and hopefully will continue to look out for him to his end, he deserves it. Cherish this last bit of time because once he is gone you will never have the chance again. And thanks for letting us know what happened, it really is good to hear things took a turn for the better. Good luck.

Thank's for telling us,you did what is right for your dog,hopefully the antibiotics will help,at least make him feel better.
If it is an abcess and nothing more serious,it might even heal up

Good luck with him. I can somewhat relate to your situation. My parents have an older dog with hip displaysia who doesn't have much more than a few months left. He has more tumors than I can count now and barely gets around. Rather than prolonging his pain or finding him almost gone on the floor one day we've decided to have the vet come out (we're a farm and have a vet out regularly for routine livestock calls) next month and euthanize him. I swear that he's humiliated by his condition and absolutely hates having anyone help him get up. I couldn't imagine trying to get him in a vehicle at this point.

Maybe you can arrange to have a vet come out when it's his time to go or maybe you could have him sedated first so that he doesn't really feel the pain of being moved to and from the car.

*hugs* to you. Enjoy your last bit of time with your old friend.

Copyright © 2007 - 2012 www.tendlife.com