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Old 02-04-2015, 04:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Oral tumor

I found out today that my sweet little hedgie has a tumor in his mouth. I know there are hundreds of posts about this on the forum already (I've probably read them all by now...), but I wanted to start my own because I'm devastated and don't know what to do.

Last week I noticed Cilantro had a gray/purple spot on his chest, so I took him to the vet to get it checked out. They said it ruptured when they got a sample. Over the next few days he seemed fine, but I was starting to suspect that his mouth looked a little swollen. On Sunday night I managed to get a look inside and sure enough, the roof of his mouth on his left side was swollen. I took him in the next day, and the vet said it was very concerning how fast it had grown, since she had checked his mouth the previous week and hadn't noticed anything. (Is there a chance that the first possible tumor rupturing could have triggered tumors in other places?)

Since then I've pretty much been operating on the assumption that it's cancer, but got the confirmation from the test results today. The vet is prescribing an anti-inflammatory for now, but said that without surgery we're looking at weeks or less. From everything I've read on here, it sounds like surgery just isn't worth it -- but the vet made me temporarily hopeful again by saying it could extend his life by as much as 6 months and given the fact that it hasn't spread to his jaw or bones yet, the surgery itself might not be terrible. She also said that his bloodwork came back normal. Has anyone had any positive experience with surgery for oral tumors? How long did the recovery from the actual surgery take, and how long did it actually extend the hedgie's life? I'm definitely leaning towards just putting him out of his misery once the time comes, but it's very tempting to be hopeful about the outcome of the surgery.

It's just so hard to see everything be completely fine one week and be thinking about euthanizing the next. I know this comes with the territory, but he's my first hedgehog and he's not quite 3 years old, so I'm having a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that he'll be gone soon. I want to do what's best for him but I'm just so devastated.
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Old 02-04-2015, 06:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't have any experience with oral tumors, so I'm afraid I can't help much. Nancy or Kalandra would be the best ones to help with advice and such. I just wanted to say I'm very sorry for the news you received. It's never easy, especially when they're so young. I'll be sending you and your little guy good thoughts.
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks Lilysmommy. It's helpful to at least have this community of fellow hedgehog owners to fall back on.

So just to update, I requested the cytology report from the vet, and I'm a little confused because the way I'm reading it, it's inconclusive at best about whether this is in fact a tumor. It sounds like the sample the vet sent them was primarily blood, and most of their findings were that the area is very inflamed. I had to look all of this stuff up, but in case anyone else has experience with this, here's the basic findings in the report:

* 76% nondegenerate neutrophils
* 13% small lymphocytes
* 7% eosinophils
* 4% large mononuclear cells
* low numbers of superficial epithelial cells
* several platelet clumps

The cytology report says no cytological abnormalities, and it's most consistent with aspiration of blood, i.e. the sample was mostly blood. The vet says she called the pathologist, who said "considering the vascularity, growth rate, and location, it's most likely to be of a malignant nature, but cannot be certain."

All of this is making me very confused and uncertain. It's possible they just got a bad sample, but none of this is necessarily convincing that there is a malignant tumor. Maybe this is false hope, but I'm wondering if it's worth getting a second opinion. I don't necessarily want to put Cilantro through the whole vet visit with anesthesia again, but it seems like something I want to be sure about before we have him put to sleep.

In the meantime, I've given him his first dose of Metacam, so hopefully that will at least help a bit with the inflammation for now.
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Old 02-06-2015, 06:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default same boat as you!

Absolutely go for the surgery at which time they will biopsy the tissue sample and send it in for pathology. What if you had operable cancer? Try to think of it that way, unless you absolutely cannot afford it, it is his only chance for survival. My hedgehog Sola was diagnosed w/ a similar tumor on the upper right hand side of her mouth one month ago, but it has already spread to the jaw and is inoperable. If it is confined to the soft tissue by all means, get it out. I mean, there is no guarantee that it will not come back, but then again, if you do nothing then you know the outcome of that....

I can tell you what we have done so far. She was on a medicine called ApoCaps for the first 3 weeks and the tumor grew by "only" 20%. Then my vet switched her to Doxycylene, Piroxicam, and vetri-DMG. She was doing alright until about 4 days ago when the tumor started to take off again. She hates getting all that medicine, but I know it is the only thing keeping her tumor somewhat in check. I know it is only a matter of time until I have to put her down and it is awful. I love her dearly and I just want the stupid thing to go away...

If you want to talk about it you can PM me. I would also ask that you fill out this form: The hedgehog welfare society is doing a study on oral tumors.
http://www.hedgehogwelfare.org/jaw_tumor.asp

Best wishes to you! I definitely feel your pain.
-Susan H.
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Old 02-08-2015, 09:49 AM   #5 (permalink)
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If this tumour was on his lower jaw, then surgery might be more of an option. Being on the roof of his mouth, there is no way of knowing how deep into his head the tumour has progressed. Removing or even debulking a tumour in that location is going to be an invasive surgery.

As you are seeing, these tumours grow incredibly fast and usually what we can see is only the tip of the iceberg.

There comes a time when we have to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Is it worth doing a painful, risky surgery to perhaps buy him another month. You might loose him on the table which given the location, is a high risk.

Go with the medication and since you are questioning the verdict, go to a different vet for a second opinion. Hopefully a second opinion will help ease your mind and help you come to a decision either way.

I'm sorry you are going through this. Oral tumours are horrible and grow by leaps and bounds. Usually by the time they are discovered they are already past the point of doing anything. I've been there way too many times and lost a girl on Friday to an oral tumour.
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Old 02-11-2015, 07:56 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks everyone. Yesterday evening we had to say goodbye to Cilantro. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. He was happy and active till the very end, so I hope he didn't have to experience too much pain over the last week.

When we took him to a specialist to get a second opinion, she showed us pictures of the inside of his mouth. The tumor had grown substantially and was taking up most of the top half of his mouth. Even worse, they also discovered a large mass behind one of his legs, and said he vocalized when they tried touching it, despite being under anesthesia. He's never vocalized for anything before, even the couple of times that I accidentally cut his nails a bit too far. With all of the concern for his mouth, I hadn't even noticed his leg -- though he did have some balance problems in the last week, and the last several days didn't run as much as before. We were able to see and feel the mass after he passed yesterday. I couldn't believe how quickly it had grown, it was huge.

Knowing that he already had tumors in multiple places, at least one of which was causing him significant discomfort, I know we ultimately did the right thing in having him put to sleep. It's just hard because he was still acting like his normal self, so I can't help but wonder how much longer he might have had before things got significantly worse. Of course it's impossible to know, and really it's a good thing that we helped him go before he was in so much pain that he started showing it. He was my first hedgehog and the first pet I've ever had to put to sleep, so I'm having a very hard time with it. I can't help feeling like I betrayed him in some way.

This forum has been so helpful to me over the past 3 years, thanks to everyone.
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Old 02-11-2015, 10:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm so sorry. I know it's really hard to let them go, but I'm glad he went before he was in a lot of pain. You did the last selfless thing you could for him - you put him and his welfare first. I know that doesn't always help right now, but I hope you'll try to remember that. Sending you good thoughts & hugs.
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Old 02-12-2015, 12:30 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I am so sorry, this is the second one today.

Stupid oral tumors. You did the right thing, in letting him go now before he was unable to eat or walk. You don't want to have a hemorrhage on a weekend or at night when there would be no help.

Hugs to you.

ML
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