Name: Jon Jameson, from Roundwood, Co Wicklow
Animal: Hardy, her nine-year-old Collie
Summary: Hardy had a rapidly growing wart beside his left ear
Hardy became a well-known dog in Ireland eight years ago, when he was rescued by Ash Animal Sanctuary in Co Wicklow. He had suffered horrific injuries to his head, when the right side of his face was shredded by the blast of a shotgun. In most cases, a stray dog with severe injuries of this type would be euthanased on humane grounds, but Hardy's tail never stopped wagging despite all that had happened to him. It was obvious that he wanted to live and his rescuers decided to do everything to help him.
Hardy needed extensive reconstructive surgery in a specialist centre, with a high price tag. A financial appeal was set up for Hardy on TV3, and viewers responded generously, ensuring that he was given the best possible treatment.
He went on to make a full recovery, although the right side of his face is still distorted, with his tongue lolling out in a strange-looking way. He lives a normal, contented life with Jon in the Wicklow countryside.
A few weeks ago, Jon noticed a small bump, just in front of Hardy's left ear. At first she thought it was a newly attached tick, but on closer inspection, she couldn't see any of the tiny tell-tale legs that protrude from a tick's body. It looked more like a small wart.
Jon knew that harmless warts are common in older dogs, so she decided just to keep an eye on it.
When the wart had doubled in size after a week, Jon began to be a little concerned. Another week passed, and the wart had doubled in size again: it was now four times the original size. It was still small, but Jon thought it was safer to ask for my opinion.
The challenge for vets in this type of situation is that although small wart-like growths are usually harmless, a small number can become aggressive or malignant. It's important to treat each case individually, taking everything into account.
There are three key reasons why it may be sensible to surgically remove a small growth of this type.
First, small tumours often start to bleed. Second, they sometimes begin to irritate the dog because they feel itchy. And third, as in this case, they occasionally increase rapidly in size. If any of these three changes occur, it's best to carry out the small operation needed to remove the growth.
In Hardy's case, it was the increase in size that worried me. If the small tumour doubled in size a couple more times, it would be as big as a small grape, and then a few weeks later, it might be as big as a large grape, then after that, as big as a plum.
The longer the tumour was left, the bigger it would become, and the more difficult it would be to remove. I decided that prompt removal, while it was still small, was the safest approach.
Hardy is a calm, gentle dog, so I was able to carry out the operation using only local anaesthesia in the consulting room. I froze the area with a single injection, and when I cut out the growth a few minutes later, Hardy didn't even notice. No stitches were needed: I used electrocautery to seal off the small amount of oozing blood.
Hardy made a rapid recovery: it was as if nothing had happened. After having major reconstructive surgery to repair life-threatening facial injuries, the removal of a wart was nothing at all to worry about for a heroic dog like Hardy.
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