Mouse Tumor & Surgery

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Mouse Tumor & Surgery Empty Mouse Tumor & Surgery

Post by katiemarie55 on Wed 14 Aug 2019, 5:26 pm

I've noticed a lump on my mouse's shoulder and I took her to the vet today to get it looked at. The vet basically said that she was pretty sure it was a tumor, but whether it was a tumor or an abscess the only option would be to remove it with surgery.

The vet seemed pretty confident that she could do the surgery successfully and it would be a lot cheaper than I was expecting.

Does anyone have any experiences with mice and surgery or tumors in general? I'm concerned the surgery might not be worth it since my mouse is still acting fine and it doesn't seem to bother her so I'm worried the risks might be too high but I'm not sure.

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Post by CallaLily on Wed 14 Aug 2019, 10:56 pm

This is a tough one.  From what I’ve read surgery can be extra risky with mice due to their small size.  An exotic vet with a lot of experience working with mice would be a must.  I have seen surgeries removing tumors mentioned on other mouse groups that went well but it looked to me like more often than not the tumors grew back in a couple months.  I wonder if it’s worth the added pain and stress to put them through the surgery?  Hard to say for sure. With my mice, after confirming a tumor with my vet, I choose to keep them as comfortable as possible and spoil them for as long as I can. How old is your mouse?

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Post by katiemarie55 on Thu 15 Aug 2019, 7:23 am

@CallaLily wrote:This is a tough one.  From what I’ve read surgery can be extra risky with mice due to their small size.  An exotic vet with a lot of experience working with mice would be a must.  I have seen surgeries removing tumors mentioned on other mouse groups that went well but it looked to me like more often than not the tumors grew back in a couple months.  I wonder if it’s worth the added pain and stress to put them through the surgery?  Hard to say for sure. With my mice, after confirming a tumor with my vet, I choose to keep them as comfortable as possible and spoil them for as long as I can.  How old is your mouse?

That's pretty much what I'm thinking to. I'm a little worried about doing the surgery because the vet I brought her to (which is the only vet near me that sees small animals at all) isn't even an exotic vet and she said she had never removed a tumor on a mouse before. So I'm a little nervous about the fact that she seemed so confident/eager to do the surgery after she admitted she doesn't have any experience with it.

I'm not sure exactly how old she is since I just got her from a pet store. I've only had her for about 6 months but the vet seemed to think she's closer to a year old.

I think right now I'm leaning towards not doing the surgery because of the vets lack of experience and the fact that if my mouse is actually a year old I don't know if it's worth it to stress her out so much. I'm just so conflicted knowing that there's a possibility that surgery could help. I wish there was a clear answer as to what would be better for her :/

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Post by MerciToujoursMaPetiteBoop on Thu 15 Aug 2019, 10:23 am

It seems to me that the usual thing to do in the case of a lump of unidentified contents would be to determine the contents before pushing forward with surgical removal.

The procedure should be just the same for a mouse as for a dog or cat -- withdrawing some of the material from the lump through a fine needle (a procedure called "aspiration").  If it is an infection/abscess, the vet can probably tell right away.  If they have an on-site microscope lab, the material can be scanned on a slide to identify what bacteria are present, or if their are irregular cells that signify something more serious -- without having to send out the sample to a test lab and wait days for the results.

Then the basic treatment for infection or abscess involves draining, cleaning out, and administering antibiotics.  It could be as simple as withdrawing more pus via needle and flushing the wound with hydrogen peroxide; it could involve more extensive procedures like cutting open the abscess, removing infection-damaged tissue, stitches.  Then there would be after-care for the pet owner, such as keeping the wound clean and following the antibiotic prescription.

I know it's hard to find the right way to tell a doctor that you might have some information he/she should consider.  I had fair luck with it during my father's recent hospitalization, maybe because they didn't throw any terminology at me that I didn't already understand.  It was nice, and very confidence-boosting, when one of the doctors stopped in before 7am one day and asked ME, rather than one of the night shift ICU nurses, for an update on the patient's condition.  (I think he especially liked when the phrase "they were going to try to extubate overnight ..." rolled so easily off my tongue.)

So maybe if you just ask what the vet would do to identify or rule out an abscess on one of the normal patient-animals, and see if perhaps the same can be done to test the current lump. Be curious when you ask, not know-it-allsy.  It may be that their aspiration needles are too large in diameter for a mouse, in which case they may have to call another clinic to see if there is a proper gauge needle available nearby (rather than place a special order that might take more time to deliver), or even resort to an ol'-fashioned sterilized-needle lance, or something like that.

ANYWAY, that's infections and abscesses for you. The "easy stuff". If the vet rules that possibility out first, then you know that the lump must come out surgically. The two most tricky parts of surgerizing mousies are the anesthesia (because they are so small and have very fast metabolisms) and controlling bleeding (because they are so small and have so little blood they can safely lose). You could, perhaps, in the course of generally talking about a potential surgery, ask if the vet had any experience during undergrad or vet school days working with lab rodents, because some of those lab techs can probably practically do surgery in their sleep on mice and rats. The fact that surgeries are performed regularly in the lab-rodent environment should be an indication to all of us that it isn't something a dog-and-cat vet should be afraid or unable to perform -- just properly cautious and well prepared in advance.

Best of luck to you and your wee one. Keep us updated. We care.

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Post by katiemarie55 on Thu 15 Aug 2019, 12:27 pm

@MerciToujoursMaPetiteBoop wrote:It seems to me that the usual thing to do in the case of a lump of unidentified contents would be to determine the contents before pushing forward with surgical removal.

The procedure should be just the same for a mouse as for a dog or cat -- withdrawing some of the material from the lump through a fine needle (a procedure called "aspiration").  If it is an infection/abscess, the vet can probably tell right away.  If they have an on-site microscope lab, the material can be scanned on a slide to identify what bacteria are present, or if their are irregular cells that signify something more serious -- without having to send out the sample to a test lab and wait days for the results.

Then the basic treatment for infection or abscess involves draining, cleaning out, and administering antibiotics.  It could be as simple as withdrawing more pus via needle and flushing the wound with hydrogen peroxide; it could involve more extensive procedures like cutting open the abscess, removing infection-damaged tissue, stitches.  Then there would be after-care for the pet owner, such as keeping the wound clean and following the antibiotic prescription.

I know it's hard to find the right way to tell a doctor that you might have some information he/she should consider.  I had fair luck with it during my father's recent hospitalization, maybe because they didn't throw any terminology at me that I didn't already understand.  It was nice, and very confidence-boosting, when one of the doctors stopped in before 7am one day and asked ME, rather than one of the night shift ICU nurses, for an update on the patient's condition.  (I think he especially liked when the phrase "they were going to try to extubate overnight ..." rolled so easily off my tongue.)

So maybe if you just ask what the vet would do to identify or rule out an abscess on one of the normal patient-animals, and see if perhaps the same can be done to test the current lump.  Be curious when you ask, not know-it-allsy.  It may be that their aspiration needles are too large in diameter for a mouse, in which case they may have to call another clinic to see if there is a proper gauge needle available nearby (rather than place a special order that might take more time to deliver), or even resort to an ol'-fashioned sterilized-needle lance, or something like that.

ANYWAY, that's infections and abscesses for you.  The "easy stuff".  If the vet rules that possibility out first, then you know that the lump must come out surgically.  The two most tricky parts of surgerizing mousies are the anesthesia (because they are so small and have very fast metabolisms) and controlling bleeding (because they are so small and have so little blood they can safely lose).  You could, perhaps, in the course of generally talking about a potential surgery, ask if the vet had any experience during undergrad or vet school days working with lab rodents, because some of those lab techs can probably practically do surgery in their sleep on mice and rats.  The fact that surgeries are performed regularly in the lab-rodent environment should be an indication to all of us that it isn't something a dog-and-cat vet should be afraid or unable to perform -- just properly cautious and well prepared in advance.

Best of luck to you and your wee one.  Keep us updated.  We care.

The vet did offer to take a sample of it to find out for sure whether it was a tumor or an abscess but then she said either way it would need to be surgically removed so she didn't think it mattered much either way. I brought up the fact that I thought you could just drain abscesses like you mentioned but for whatever reason she said that it wasn't possible to do that for a mouse and it would still have to be removed through surgery.

At that point I wasn't exactly sure what to do honestly since I had read online that you could drain abscesses so I'm not really sure how much I trust the vets opinion regarding the surgery or not which is the main reason I didn't ask more about actually determining what the lump was like you suggested.
I suppose I could go back and ask about any vet techs who might have more experience like you said because I hadn't thought about that but the fact that the vet didn't think draining it would be an option if it was an abscess made me kind of wary to be honest.

The vet did also say that she thought it was more likely a tumor than an abscess since my mouse didn't have any bites or scratches/other wounds on her.

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Post by moonstarfc on Thu 15 Aug 2019, 11:19 pm

When my mouse first got her tumor, I brought her to an experienced exotics vet near me. They aspirated the lump (this is a fancy word that just means they stuck a needle into it, and pulled the plunger of the syringe back to suck out the contents of the lump). The vet determined it was a tumor.

Basically, when aspirating the lump, pus will come out if it's an abscess, and nothing will come out if it's a tumor. So yeah, if it is an abscess, it would definitely be possible to drain it, although, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics as well to get rid of the infection.

The vet said the same thing about it being unlikely to be an abscess if there's no visible wound.

The advice the vet gave me for my mouse is that there's not much to do for a tumor because tumors in mice are almost always malignant - they're likely to just grow back after being removed, if the mouse even survives the surgery.

My girl passed about a month and a half ago. She lived for probably 1-2 months after the tumor was diagnosed.
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Post by j.n379 on Mon 19 Aug 2019, 11:12 pm

It's not as much about seeing if her vet techs have the experience, but seeing if she's done it in school. Because they train them on mice, in most vet schools. It's hard to find a dog owner willing to let a vet-in-training perform surgery on their pet, so they raise their own mice at the school. The short life span allows them to see many illnesses in a short period of time.

She may have done A surgery on a mouse, just not a tumor removal specifically, and not since being licenced maybe.

They do go to the same amount of schooling for Animal surgery as your own doctor does for human medicine, so generally speaking, they'll have a good idea of what they're talking about and will absolutely tell you if they're uncomfortable performing a surgery. I've definely met vets with less information on mice than me, but they do tend to listen, usually. So if she's saying she can do it, it's because she knows her hands are steady enough to do it. More often than not, they'll say they cannot because they don't trust their hands rather than not trusting themselves to *know* what to do. It's just such a small creature. Some people are more shaky than others.

A tumor is going to result in eventual death, so I strongly advocate for doing what you feel is best. Whether that's surgery because you think you can get it all out, or not taking the anesthesia risk, is your opinion and choice.

I also think what the vet may be saying, in regards to not lancing and checking the liquid inside the growth before booking, is that maybe your mouse is too active for her to prick while awake. Perhaps by "surgery" she was simplifying, and meant "going under anesthesia to be taken care of" because she cannot get a firm enough grip safely without anesthesia. This depends on the mouse, some will sit still while others struggle against being held still. Even my dog barely can handle his vaccines while awake, from how hard he wiggles, and we can safely hold him very much more firmly than anyone can hold a mouse.
I know I could trust myself to do emergency stitches on a person that was sitting still, but definitely not one that's fighting me. I certainly couldn't give a needle to a mouse while it was awake! It's much safer to have it asleep before coming near with a sharp object. Maybe you should check if that is what she meant, if it would ease you about her skill. Holding a mouse perfectly still is VERY hard. Many mice wouldn't tolerate it.


Last edited by j.n379 on Mon 19 Aug 2019, 11:16 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Fixing autocorrect, sorry)
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Post by katiemarie55 on Mon 26 Aug 2019, 12:31 pm

Just a quick update about my mouse!

I decided to go ahead with the surgery and it was this morning. The vet said it went really well and I picked her up about an hour ago! It ended up being some sort of cyst/abscess so they were able to remove it all pretty easily.

She still hasn't eaten/drank anything since she woke up from surgery so right now I'm just making sure to watch her and trying to offer her lots of treats so she eats something, but she's pretty active and seems like shes doing well!

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