UF veterinarians successfully remove massive tumor from dog’s face

University of Florida veterinary student Kim Herron, Dr. Nick Bacon and Dr. Sarah Boston are shown at UF’s Small Animal Hospital with Bubbles on Nov. 29, the day before her discharge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Smith, Noah’s Ark Rescue)A lovable 5-year-old Neapolitan mastiff mix’s health burden is lighter and her future brighter thanks to University of Florida veterinarians who removed a life-threatening, 9-pound tumor from the dog’s skull Nov. 25.

“She needed a chance, and we were able to give her one with help from the UF veterinary oncology team,” said Jennifer Smith, director of Noah’s Arks Rescue, which is based in Okatie, S.C. The group had taken in the dog, named Bubbles, earlier that month after she was found as a stray in Baltimore, and remained dedicated to caring for her and getting her the medical help she needed.

Smith personally drove Bubbles 10 hours to Gainesville, Fla., for the surgical procedure, which was led by Nick Bacon, Vet.M.B., the Imparato endowed associate professor in surgical oncology and chief of the oncology service at the UF Veterinary Hospitals, a part of UF Health. Assisting in the procedure was Sarah Boston, D.V.M., D.V.Sc., an associate professor of surgical oncology at UF. The surgical team noted that although there were additional issues to consider due to the size of Bubbles’ tumor, they’ve performed similar complex operations many times before.

“This was a complicated surgery, but I was confident the procedure would go as planned, based on the physical examination and CT scan Bubbles received when she got here,” Bacon said. “Although massive, there were a few key features of her tumor that made me optimistic. She’s a very lucky girl in that respect. She’s also lucky to have met Jennifer Smith.”

Smith said she had explored every option for the treatment of Bubbles’ condition, consulting with veterinary specialists all over the country before deciding to bring her to UF for care.

“Bubbles’ story is really one of hope and survival,” Smith said. “I know there’s still a lot ahead for her, but she’ll have a great home now. The worst is over for this dog. Whatever life she has left will be a good life, because of all the people who understood that Bubbles is a fabulous dog who deserved her chance.”

The type of cancer Bubbles had is known as multilobular osteochondrosarcoma, a locally aggressive tumor that tends to grow in the flat bones of the skull. Although Bubbles’ tumor was unusually large, the typical treatment for such a growth involves surgically removing the part of the skull where the cancer originates, regardless of size, said Bacon, an American College of Veterinary Surgeons founding fellow in surgical oncology who has a reputation for tackling difficult cases such as this one.

Although Bubbles still must undergo additional future treatment, including chemotherapy and possibly radiation therapy, Bacon said he was “very encouraged” by how well the surgery went.

“We are all amazed at the progress Bubbles has made to this point,” he added. “We are aiming to save at least some of the vision in her left eye that had been compressed by the tumor for so long, and also keep infection at bay while Bubbles continues to recuperate.”

He said UF’s oncology team would determine the exact nature of Bubbles’ future treatment when her full pathology report is received in a few days.

The night Smith arrived back in South Carolina with Bubbles in tow, she posted an update on the Noah’s Ark website informing followers that they were home and Bubbles was doing “remarkably well” and enjoyed some outdoor exercise after they’d arrived.

“Bubbles was having a field day chasing me around, and I was so busy watching her that I tripped over a garden hose,” Smith said. “Before I knew it, she was on the ground next to me with her really big paws wrapped around my neck and showering me with sloppy kisses.”

Smith said that Bubbles is eating out of a regular dog bowl, as her head will now fit in it, and gaining weight – about a half-pound per day.

“She’s like a different dog,” Smith said. “‘Life is good’ is her new motto.”

For additional updates on Bubbles or to donate to her care, please visit the Noah’s Arks Rescue website at http://www.noahs-arks.net.

About the Author

Sarah Carey's picture

Sarah Carey

Public Relations Director, College of Veterinary Medicine

Sarah Carey, M.A., A.P.R., is director of public relations at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, a job she has held since 1990. Formerly, she was editor of... Read More

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