Why would a vet make a diagnosis based on dog’s age and breed? The question I continually ask myself since Sugar was misdiagnosed of having canine cancer.
It was 2013 Christmas evening when I brought Sugar to a 24/7 emergency care (Blue Pearl). It took only a short time to diagnose her bleeding mouth, “Sugar has a mass on the right side of her tongue. At her age and breed, it is a cancerous mass (most likely).”
I am aware that cancer is common for Golden Retrievers. According to the statistics, approximately 60% of all Goldens will die from cancer and by gender, it’s 57% of females and 66% of males. Even Sugar’s regular vet had the same initial diagnosis but he said it in a very comforting way (and also providing statistical data). I was given several options on what to do and thankful that I choose to have the mass remove on Sugar’s tongue.
I can’t forget the day when Sugar’s vet delivered the good news on a surprising apologetic tone, “The mass is benign, Sugar is a lucky dog.” Sugar had another tongue surgery (removing smaller masses) and the result remained the same, benign masses.
I am thankful for the good happy results but still question …
Should a diagnosis be based on a dog’s age and breed?
Golden Thanks for Morris Animal Foundation for giving HOPE.
Wishing them the very best on their Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.
Sugar got another mass that I am watching carefully.
Sugar is due to see the vet/surgeon in 8 weeks.
Here are the links in regards to Sugar’s prognosis and surgeries …
Prognosis a Pet Parent Does Not Want To Hear
Many Thanks (after Sugar’s 1st surgery)
Power of Positive Thinking
Sleep, Rest, Recovery (Sugar’s 2nd surgery)
Maybe the Vet just wanted to paint the worse picture, just to prepare you…
XXXOOO Bella & Roxy
Ann Staub says
Oh! I didn’t know it was benign! That’s wonderful! I will have to say that age/breed/gender do all play an important role in the diagnosis of pets. We were taught to give our doctors a “signalment” when we went to inform them about their patients. This means, when we walk into the room the first things out of our mouth are “You have a 5 year old, spayed female, golden retriever” and then list what they are there for. Still, they had only looked at Sugar without any real diagnostics. Most vets would have suspected cancer I think… but maybe they should be more careful if they aren’t certain.
It is the diagnosis that no dog owner wants to hear. I am so very happy that Sugar has done so well…not sure why the vet was painting the worst picture? I do believe that there are some vets that are better prepared to deliver news…better bedside manner!! Hugs to Sugar!!
So pleased that it was good news in the end!I don’t know if this is something similar as doctors having to cover their backsides. Now when you go in for anything they have to talk through everything including the smallest negative consequences so that ‘you’ can’t sue if something goes wrong.
Cathy Connolly says
I agree with Ann, they should tell us their thoughts~~~and what the possibilities are BUT not jump to what would be their first diagnosis. One thing I have learned the hard way as usual~is that I must approach my furkids health just as I do my own. When a health issue arises with mine, I research the heck out of it. I hit every book I have and the internet. I informed our vet as calmly as I could with the death of one of our kids that if I can do the research and figure out a serious health problem then HE better be able to. That poor baby was very ill his entire life and it was a very easy fix.
Hugs and wags to Sugar and her MOM!
retro rover says
I remember 4 yrs ago when Tubby was 9 he stumbled and we brought him to the ER vet who said it was a seizure, it wasn’t, and most likely a brain tumor since they ar ecmomon in pugs Then a year ago Norberts tummy was enlarged and our vet saw it on the xray and said it was an enlarged spleen and likely a hemangiosarcoma due to Norberts age which was 10. It turned out he had bloated again but without torsion, he had previously bloated with torsion and had stomach tacking surgery. Both times I was simply relieved. I was annoyed at the Tubby diagnosis since I think he just stumbled and was not very old but I understood the Norbert one, at his age that was a very likely scenario. Im a huge worrier and I read up on a lot of dog health issues so I get thinking age and breed X is most likely. The only thing I don’t like is when people say well the dog is old and use that as an excuse not to treat or try to treat something treatable.
PS-We are so thrilled Sugar is ok
This happens so often and I almost wonder if their “go to” diagnosis without doing the actual tests. Like someone pointed out preparing you for the worst. Honestly I wish they wouldn’t do it … tell you it “may” be cancer but we can’t be sure until further testing is done. So glad that it wasn’t in Sugar’s case and she can continue making everyone smile!!
After various (cancer) experiences with my own dogs, I’m guilty of jumping to conclusions when I find something suspicious. I do NOT need that same attitude from my vet. I’m just so thankful that Sugar’s are benign!
I have no idea why. Maybe they let the statistics speak for them. But really I don’t know. I do know I am super glad that Sugar is not apart of the statics.
they do the same thing with humans, i know two women who were told they had cancer and they did not.
Maria Sadowski says
A diagnosis should never be based on a dog’s age and breed.
My first border collie Billy got sick when he was only eight, and we took him a well-renowned vet in the city where I lived at the time. Billy coughed and coughed, and the vet said that he probably swallowed a stick or something and sent us home. The cough didn’t go away after a couple of days like he said, so we contacted the vet again, and he avoided the calls. So, we took Billy to another vet who diagnosed a heart condition and told us he would need surgery. They sent us home with pills to help his body keep fluid out of the lungs, a list of possible times to do this procedure, and the task of figuring out how to pay for it. They also said it would have helped if he had been diagnosed earlier, so he could have started on the pills earlier.
I confronted the first vet, and he admitted that he felt “old dogs” weren’t worth the money and effort to say. He had outright lied to me, assuming my dog would die before I found out.
We scheduled the surgery, but there was a big Swedish holiday and it couldn’t be done until Monday. Billy got worse and all the nearby facilities were closed. I was sitting in the living room with my ex husband debating if we should drive him to the emergency center 200 miles away or if it would be better for him to wait until Monday than to take on that long car ride with all the stress. Billy had been sleeping in the hallway, and he came into the living room, looked at us as if saying “Goodbye” and fell dead down on the floor. We couldn’t revive him.
My heart dog died when was only eight, and he died because a vet misdiagnosed him on purpose thinking he was too old. I hate that man.
Okay, enough whining from my side. Big hugs to Sugar, may the day bring you banana ice cream and lots of cuddles! <3
Reilly & Denny says
It is something we hear constantly too – ‘you’re breed of dog is prone too…….” well just being prone too doesn’t mean they will get it. Equally I have had some vets saying – “no that breed doesn’t suffer from that = only to have them proved wrong”. I learned a long time ago to question many things vets say – especially if they are making generalized assumptions.
Oz the Terrier says
Ma says: poor bedside manner by some doctors is why God created Nurses (though she has known some nurses with poor bedside manner in her time)! Making a diagnosis is a double-edged sword. If a doctor doesn’t tell you the possibilities thinking something is benign, before all tests are complete, and it turns out to be worst-case scenario, then people are upset. The same can be true for when they tell you the possibility of worst-case scenario, based off age/gender/etc, and it turns out to be benign after testing is done. The only thing that makes either option well-taken is the doctor and his bedside manner.
Of course, I am GOLDEN happy that Sugar is A-OK and she (and you and her daddy) are always in our thoughts.
Cheryl Dusablon says
Sorry I sent that accidentally. To continue, the vet gave us a million diagnosis that the mass could be. Made us very comfortable that it could be taken care of. After all my baby was only 21 months old! He did mention cancer but told us not to be concerned because Dyson was so young and otherwise healthy. Two days later I got the call from the vet. We were told Dyson had Lymphoma. I was devastated ! I never in a million years expected that diagnosis. We were led to believe it was something maybe surgery could fix. Then even with aggressive chemo he “might” live 4-6 months. Again devastated! We took him home , enjoyed him every single day and lost him after 3 months.
So just a different experience. We just never suspected cancer at 21 months. I would have liked to have been better informed.
I now have two Golden boys Chase and Moose. They are nine weeks apart, not related and will both be 4 this year. I cherish everyday with them. I think Golden’s are a gift it us all. We only have them for a short time so enjoy everyday. Looks like you enjoy Sugar like I enjoy my boys. I wish you and her many more healthy years!
Two French Bulldogs says
So scary. Mom really wishes we could talk since all docs usually guess. Mom made the docs do 2 tests on my Benny to make sure he had liver cancer
Lily & Edward
Madi and Mom says
Hi Sugar my sweet I missed you. It is good to read that you are well as we all know today is a present!!!
Lots of hugs madi your bfff
stella rose says
We are so happy that it was benign!!!!
Hailey and Zaphod says
I think breed and age should be used to select which tests to start with (what is it most likely to be) but not used as a diagnosis. Am thrilled for you and Sugar that they were wrong!
Frankie and Ernie says
We think that they give the WORST case and then we are PLEASANTLY PLEASED with the BETTER final outcome… We think they do it to be KIND not to be breed or age specific.
The main thingy is that Sugar is FINE. WE are SOOOOOOO happy about THAT.
easy rider says
I think it’s good to be prepared for the worst case, but on the other hand it would be better to make a statement after the test results are in. But the main thing is that you’re fine Sugar.
Dolly the Doxie says
I went through a similar situation with a cat, except for the breed/age reason. By the time we realized something was wrong in her mouth the vet took one look and despite how bad he still recommended a biopsy. But during the biopsy he said there was no doubt and no chance. I trusted him completely and know we made the right decision. For you it proves that you always should have hope until the tests come back, we are so glad for Sugar that they did and that she has the best medical care.
Caren Gittleman says
I read Ann Staub’s comment and have to agree with her. Also, Emergency Vets aren’t known for being “warm” and delivering news “kindly”, although some of them do. They don’t have an established relationship with you like your vet does and are much more likely to just make an INITIAL diagnosis (before testing), based on age and breed. They did that once with us with Dakota when he had a minor eye irritation, they said on the phone if we didn’t bring him in immediately he might lose his eye (it was a Sunday). Our vet has given us his cell phone number and told us to STOP going to emergency vets on the weekend without calling him first. Praying the mass you are now watching with Sugar isn’t anything serious.
Comedy Plus says
I’m so happy that Sugar is okay. That’s awesome news. No, there should be testing before the word cancer is ever mentioned. That would have saved you a lot of pain.
Have a woof woof day Sugar. 🙂
I always wonder how much of the diagnosis is CYA on the doctor’s part. Since they’re benign, have they given you any indication of what’s causing tongue lumps?
Sugar: Golden Woofs says
Mass on the tongue is uncommon. The current mass is located on her mouth. Being diligent about dental care, not sure “why” this mass exists. Again, the word” old age” comes up on talking to our vet and from reading articles. It’s a TOPIC for another discussion.
Glad Sugar is OK and hope it continues that way. We’ve been fortunate with our Vet and I think that knowing the dogs and seeing them frequently kind of helps her to know their norms. I have the same issues seeing emergency doctors as a human. There is always an issue in trying to get it right and I have a specialist who always ends up intervening to get things settled
It shouldn’t be based solely on age and breed, but those two things should definitely be taken into consideration. On the opposite side, a disease shouldn’t be discounted simply because the dog’s age and breed doesn’t fit into the statistical ranges.
Keep up the positiveness, Sugar. You’re such a beautiful girl and we like to see you happy. 🙂
Steve Briggs Jr/Allie's says
Sugar, glad to hear you’re doing okay but I see why anyone would be upset about how the Vet handled it. Sometimes vets and doctors don’t have the best bedside manner as they should, and some even jump to conclusions before proper tests and surgeries have been performed. I’ll give you an example of myself, I had tests on me for various reasons to figure out why I had severe anemia at one point. After one test, the doctor took biopsies and assumed it was cancer, rather than wait till after the biopsies were tested and such. For two weeks I went home thinking I had cancer, when comes to find out I had crohn’s. I didn’t blame the doctor, I just acknowledged that he had awful bedside manner and created unneeded stress before anything was set in stone. In regards to breeds, I think vets will always play off of the breed’s typical flaws and look at those before assuming any other possibilities, which can be very wrong. Vets should be open to any possibility that a dog could have a disease that the breed normally doesn’t contract. Just my two cents on it!
Tiffany & the Cattle Aussies says
As a pet parent, that must have been so scary to hear when the vet said it was most likely a cancerous mass. Not sure how we feel about this-we’re torn. So glad that they were benign though.
sharon damato says
We just had the same thing happen with our Maggie. She had 2 masses removed and we were paranoid (we’ve already lost 2 to hermangiosarcoma) waiting for the results. They were benign! I do think the vets often want to prepare for the worst news as it often is, but the waiting is so difficult. I personally feel it is better for them to say “we really won’t know until the biopsy is back”, instead of “it’s probably cancer”. So glad for Sugar!
Amy and Toby says
Thank goodness you had the mass removed instead of jumping to the assumption that you were looking at end-of-life choices. Similar with a terrier mix of ours, when she was 10 she was diagnosed with a lg. mass on the liver. We were told our best option was probably euthanasia, but the vet agreed (reluctantly) to remove the mass he thought was 90% likely to be cancerous. It was benign and she lived 5 more years. (He was a good vet, he just assumed due to size and location of the mass).
So happy for Sugar and for you. Sugar is lucky to have such a wise and loving owner.
I have found it’s often a vet may jump to a diagnosis based on age, especially. We are fairly certain Zeus has cancer, which I really need to sit down and blog about… we did a needle aspiration but have chosen NOT to have the lump in question removed for various reasons that have far more cons than removing it at this time… I really do need to write that post.
Molly The Wally says
We are so happy for you but we think the vet jumping to conclusions based on age and breed is not right and caused you unnecessary worry. Have a marvellous Monday.
Best wishes Molly
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
I have to agree with Ann and Dawn — the pet’s age and breed should not be used to determine the diagnosis, but rather to determine what tests need to be done to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Some vets — like human doctors — will simply give a CYA response to our pets’ symptoms. Thankfully, our vet asks pertinent questions and LISTENS to our answers AND examines first, then gives us educated guesses and suggests the steps he would take with his own dogs under the same circumstances, and lets us decide how to proceed. In the nearly 14 years I’ve been taking our dogs to him, I’ve never regretted following his advice.
So glad that Sugar’s masses on her tongue have been benign! I have no doubt that this one you’re watching now will be benign as well, but will continue to keep Sugar, you, and Sugar’s Dad in my (positive) thoughts and prayers.
Brian Frum says
I agree with Ann and Caren, the Emergency Vets, while fantastic, usually call it the way they see it in the moment.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
No one should assum anything but it does seem to be what happens. That’s why there is a pathologist to tell us what exactly things are as one can’t tell by looking at them (some tumors you can, a lot you can’t). So it’s just best to send the lumps of and find out forsure. I was one of those people that assumed the worse, I am one of those people in the vet care profession as a tech I have seen a lot of stuff and even with my own dogs I assum the worse. Don’t ask me why but I do I guess I figure if it is going to be bad and happen to me it will. I never go by assuming alone, I do the required tests to find out what is going on and make a decision after that. I am so glad your vet gave you all the options and guided you and that you chose the route you did. I do think there are some out there that go by what people say and make decisions on that and in the end might be the wrong decisions. Hugs to you and Sugar and glad all is great!
M. K. Clinton says
I am so glad the masses were benign and I know you are keeping an extra close eye on Sugar. I don’t think a vet or a human doctor should give a diagnosis like cancer until they are certain. It is scary enough when your baby is sick without bombing with the Big C scare just because of your pet’s age. I’m sorry that you had that additional fear instilled in your already worried mind! Kisses for Sugar <3
Beagles and Bargains says
I think that is a good question. One that can probably be asked of people too. Just like ages and breeds in dogs, certain races and ages are more prone to some illnesses and diseases. There are so many more factors than breed and age. I find it unreasonable to have a diagnosis before tests are done. Obvious qualities, like breed and age could help guide those tests, but should not be conclusive without tests supporting the diagnosis.
We’re so glad that Sugar’s masses were benign and we hope she never, ever, ever has cancer! Our dog Midnight got the same diagnosis from the vets regarding the mass on her tongue since supposedly it was common for chows with their black tongues. She had surgery but the mass went all the way down her throat so she never woke up from surgery. We wished we had been told all the possibilities even the bad ones because we didn’t get to say goodbye to her since they made us believe she would be coming home after her surgery. I’ll never regret that and it breaks my heart to this day.
Scylla, Socks, Tuiren & Fenris says
No, diagnosis shouldn’t be made based on a dogs age and breed. The information might be useful in determining what to test for but that shouldn’t determine the diagnosis are treatment.
So glad that Sugar’s masses are benign. We hope they continue to be. Healing purrs and love for Sugar.
I guess Mom would like the vet to say we won’t know until the tumor is evaluated but chances are with the breed and age it is cancer. She would never want to be told it is cancer because of the age and breed. Older dogs tend to get lots of masses and many of them are just nothing. Katie has one too that is nothing and doesn’t need to be removed. As long as you know they are there and the vet checks them out, that is the best way in our opinion. We hope Sugar stays healthy and just happens to get benign masses, nothing more.
Emily @ Adventures of a Dog Mom says
I don’t think I diagnosis should be based on breed, age or sex. Working in the veterinary industry I will say though that the location and fast growing aspect of a mass may lead a doctor to that jump of warning of potential cancer. I’m glad in this case that the vet was wrong and the masses were benign!
The OP Pack says
Our vet is very good about giving us the bad news in the best possible way, always explaining the options and weighing the pros and cons as well as the age and general health factor. We have taken a very conservative approach with Phantom’s latest tumors on his tail. They ARE malignant, but the big one is so big that removing it may not leave enough skin to close the wound. At 15 1/2 and in generally poor to fair health, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put him through the surgery. Every situation is unique and Mom and Dad try to make the best choice. We all hope Sugar’s latest growth will not cause any problems.
Woos – Phantom, Ciara, and Lightning
Dachshund Nola says
I think it’s fine to take them in, AS FACTORS, but not as a hard and fast diagnosis. Certain things are more common among certain dogs of a particular age, and while it makes sense to examine them and rule them out, it shouldn’t be the immediate conclusion.
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
Wow that would be so scary getting that news that your pup has cancer.but I am super glad to hear that it was not!!!!! That’s great news!!!
That’s such good news Sugar, so glad to hear those results. But I do agree with you that vet’s shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Maybe at Sugar’s age the likelihood is higher, but they cannot be certain until the run the tests. Our Labs have always had lots of bumps and lumps and our vet checks every single one. We know the risk but they never suggest doing anything until they get the results.
Rosy Rue says
We understand how you feel, but we saw it from the other side. We felt something was wrong with Bear so the vet automatically suggested an ultrasound due to his Golden breed and age (10). We wish the radiologist paid more attention to the spots on his liver and spleen that she called benign. Two months later, he had an emergency splenectomy and part of his liver taken due to hemangiosarcoma. The surgeon just had to look at the old ultrasound to be concerned. I would much rather get a scary diagnosis and get good news than a good diagnosis and find out it was wrong with bad news.
We are so happy Sugar is doing well and got great news from pessimistic vets. Lucky Sugar, and lucky family.
Jana Rade says
Well, no, a diagnosis should not be based on ANY ONE thing. Though taking a breed and age in consideration does make sense.
We saw Sugar’s update on Facebook and we’re so happy that the tumours in her mouth are benign!
The canine cancer walk here in Toronto was started because someone lost too many of their goldens to the big “C”. It’s a pretty scary statistic, but a diagnosis should never be based on statistics alone.
I think it’s a fair thing to asses when based on statistics. They want to be ready to treat what may be there. If you think of it from the other side, you had a dog whose breed had a known issue and they became ill….the vet ran all sorts of tests and took a lot of time to diagnose. It turns out that the dog has a common ailment of the breed, would you be upset that the vet didn’t look into that first? I think common sense says go with what you know works, and explore from there.
No it should not! Nothing should ever be diagnosed without taking steps to confirm it. It is one thing for a vet to say, “we suspect xyz based on this” but until we confirm it with abc, we can’t be sure. Sampson was diagnosed the beginning of January with Degenerative Myleopathy. Research shows that once dogs are diagnosed with this, they have six months to a year. thankfully my own vet suggested some anti-inflammatories and upon checking him herself determined it was a partial ACL tear which while serious is hugely different from DM.
I’m so glad that Sugar’s tumors were benign and can imagine how horrible it was for you, thinking she had cancer.
2 brown dawgs says
I suppose age and breed do help vet’s to diagnose diseases. I think the vet should have made clear it was a tentative diagnosis. Some vet’s have poor bedside manners.
I am very happy for Sugar. She has recovered well and I want to thank the Vet also who treated him so carefully. Age must be taken as a factor however I am not sure about the breed. Why Golden Retriever’s are so prone to cancer?