Next time we went to the vets, she helpfully advised that as it was small, and appeared to almost float just beneath his skin, it was probably best left alone unless it changed in size or appeared to bother him in some way.
The next I felt was probably 6 months or so ago, on his chest just to the front of his front left leg. It was a little firmer, but still small, and not bothering him. I wasn't unduly worried given previous advice but just kept an eye on it and again got some reassuring words from our vet.
Last week we had our usual trip for annual boosters and a once over. He has had reoccurring skin problems for years so as usual we discussed various treatments, diet etc and were prescribed Malaceb shampoo twice weekly for a month. We talked about ear cleaning routines which all spaniel owners are probably well used to. We talked about the first signs of cataracts appearing...I had noticed a very slight cloudiness recently but not to worry....he can still spot a treat from a mile away and catch a ball travelling at full pelt! We also talked of lumps and bumps and how most are just fatty lumps which can cause problems if big and in the wrong place, but generally are best left alone.
So, that was Thursday......a reasonably health dog showing some signs of middle age. Friday came and it was off to the groomers for a clip before a weekend in the Lakes. When I picked him up she pointed out a fair sized swelling on his hind leg, just on the outside of his 'knee' joint. The fact that I had not felt it before, and that it certainly wasn't there 6 weeks or so ago before his hair grew from his last clip, came as a bit of a shock. Perhaps he has banged it was a first thought, but I couldn't remember any knocks and he hadn't had any limp recently. Anyway, I agreed with our groomer's comment that the lump needed checking out and left a worried man with a nicely clipped dog, with one leg fatter than the other!
Seeing him run over the weekend it was obvious it wasn't bothering him much if at all, but I knew it wasn't right and got a quick appointment at the vets on Monday. Events then took me by surprise as the vet demonstrated that he was in fact reluctant to bend his leg, and recommended it (the lump) be removed. A more thorough check also revealed a further lump on his chest which for me sealed the fact this new lump on his leg needed sorting. Surgery was booked for Wednesday (today).
I wonder if all dog owners in similar positions go through the same thought process?...... 'My dog has got cancer'. No one wants to say it but I imagine most of us think it. Then maybe some tears follow. Maybe some frantic googling looking for reassurance or information on what these lumps might be and what causes them. Maybe a guilt trip that you didn't spot it sooner, or that somehow you have caused it. I did and thought all these things. I also had some big sad cuddles. The poor dog probably couldn't understand what the fuss was all about.
On Tuesday morning (yesterday) some sense of reality returned. I had a fit dog - his heart rate was compared to a 1 year old last week. At the weekend he ran and played as normal for several hours in woods and fields. His weight is about 27/28 kilos, pretty much the same as it was last year, the year before that, and the year before that (he's a stocky show strain before anyone calls him fat :) ). His appetite is good. His poo is normal. Combine those things with the hundreds of articles on google about fatty lumps, posts in forums providing words of reassurance and words of support from fellow dog owners and it's hard to see why you would jump immediately to a conclusion that your dog is seriously ill.....but I did it anyway as I suspect many do.
Today was surgery day. Dropping him off at 9am wasn't great. The doubt was still there. Even without the fear of finding something cancerous an operation is still not something to look forward to. Pre med injections were fine so I left him in capable hands, having also advised that my wife had found yet another lump on his underside on Tuesday night. 4 lumps were going to be removed in all. All small, but with his hind leg being the one that really needed looking at.
2pm came, the time to call the surgery to see how things were going. After a short while I heard he was still in theatre but just being stitched up. All the lumps had been removed. All were fatty lumps and not worthy of being sent away for biopsy. The best news I could have wished for. Having told the veterinary nurse I could have cried I was so happy I passed on the news to my better half.
We picked him up a 6pm. He isn't himself of course. I wouldn't be if I'd been cut open in four places. He is home though, less 4 fatty lumps and with I hope many more years of good times with us.
Maybe someone will be frantically googling 'my dog has a lump', 'fatty lumps in dogs', 'cancer in dogs' or other such terms and read this. Maybe it will help them to think rationally. Maybe it might encourage someone to get that lump checked out. Maybe someone just wants a story with what looks like a happy ending. Whatever the reason you ended up reading this, I hope all goes well. Life is never certain, and I'm under no illusion that just because these lumps are gone that life is everlasting, but it's a good end to a bad few days. I hope yours go the same way.