Mast Cell Tumours in Pugs – Tinker’s Journey

Guest Blog: Tinker & Nigella the Pugs Mum

Tinker 2009 Recovered from MC Surgery #1
Tinker in 2009 just recovered from MC Surgery #1

My Vet: Dr John at Belrose Vet Hospital told me, in his experience the frequency of Mast Cell Tumours in Pugs is becoming as prevalent as boxers, which was considered the most predisposed breed.

My sweet little Tinker was diagnosed 6 years ago with her first mast cell tumour, it was considerably large about the size of a 20 cent piece and appeared almost overnight. It was located in her neck, and a trip to the vet (we were renovating a house down south at the time) resulted in immediate surgery, a wound that extended from her lip down to her front leg, and required over 15 staples. When I picked her up post-op she literally jumped into my arms and I burst into tears, she was an absoute mess.

To my surprise, three years later I found another small bump on her leg that looked surprising similar. Dr John confirmed my worst fears, after inserting a small needle into the bump (tumour) and examination of the cells – it was a mast cell tumour. Surgery performed again almost immediately, bump removed… Dr John was so much more gentle with my baby girl, a few small stitches and Tinker was home to recover…. the removed tumour and surrounding skin cells was sent for testing to ensure Dr John had removed all of the cancer cells and was confirmed clear!

Feeling thankful my little girl was ok we made her healing days post-op as happy as possible…and then, ten days later I found another bump, and another, and another. #devastated Surgery again to remove 5 mast cells – I used a sharpie to draw a circle around the area on her coat so that they could be easily identified, as you know a fawn pugs coat is so thick finding the tumours is challenging. Tinker might have looked a little silly, but you just can’t mess around with these nasty cells. Home again, and to cut a long story short.. I found another one! Almost in tears I called Dr John and asked him to perform a surgical shave so we could find them and remove them all…. drastic I know, but I couldn’t keep putting her under time and time again – almost 5 hours in surgery, a total of 16 additional tumours removed, over 100 stitches and Tinker was finally tumour free.

Because of the large number of mast cells, Dr John suggested chemotherapy, we

Tinker During Chemo :(
Tinker During Chemo 🙁

started on a three month journey, blood tests every two weeks to make sure everything was ok, it was hard to give her a drug every day that was making her so unwell, especially when you can’t tell her why.

Tinker has always slept at my feet, and I started resting my foot against her side so I could feel the rise and fall of chest, I was petrified she would stop breathing.

Dr John called every week to check in and see how little Tinks was going, the support Dr John gave us and Tinker was so reassuring, just to be able to ask him about her behaviour and for him to confirm it was normal, made the journey a little easier. #thanksdrjohn

At the two month mark Tinker had a seizure at about 4am in the morning, she was convulsing, she lost control of her bladder and her body was stiff and rigid, thank goodness it didn’t last for a long time, but it felt like an eternity. At 7am I rang Dr John’s office, they don’t open until 8:30, but he was already in and he advised it was time to stop chemo. To this day, Tinker has not suffered from another seizure!

I wish I could tell you, this is where Tinker’s story stops, but that was almost two years ago now. Unfortunately more mast cells grew, and Tinker had another surgery two days ago; a surgical shave identified another 11 mast cells, which Dr John & Kimberly successfully removed.

Tinker recovering post-op, she is a good little patient.
Tinker recovering post-op, she is a good little patient.

Despite Tinkers age (12) and her tiny size, she is a strong little girl, she is recovering well despite all the wounds covering her little body, a belly full of her favourite roast chicken, cuddles and kisses from us and naps in her favourite spot – and after two days she has that cheeky look on her face and a shine in her eyes.

We don’t know whats around the corner, or where this journey will take us, but we are thankful to have such amazing support from Dr John and Kimberley at Belrose Veterinary Hospital and also Jane at PugLove as a pug breeder and fifteen years experience in Veterinary Nursing she has been a wealth of support, has given us endless advice, and always been available to pick up the phone and help ease our worry and concern about Tinker’s surgeries and recovery.

As I write this, Tinks is by my side, snoozing as she does best! xxx

For information on Mast Cell Tumours, we recommend K9 Health Support 

Tinker waiting for her roast chicken dinner post-op.
Tinker waiting for her roast chicken dinner post-op.
Tinks & Dr John Post-Op (Day 2 Checkup)