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Bailey, a 12 ½-year old golden retriever from Dover, Mass., had his owners worried when he developed a lump in his chest that grew from the size of a baseball to something more like a volleyball, at a weight of more than 6 pounds. The mass scraped the ground, preventing Bailey from walking. But thanks to successful surgery by Dr. John Berg and the staff at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, he is leading an active life again.
January 29, 2015

Bailey_1-e1422557351116-225x300Bailey, a 12 1/2-year old golden retriever who lives in Dover, Mass. with his owner Rick Young, hails from good stock.

Bailey was obtained from a breeder in Maine who also provides puppies that adorn L.L. Bean catalogues.

Bailey may not have had his moment in the catalogue spotlight but he came through his recent medical ordeal like a champion, with a strong assist from veterinarian Dr. John Berg and the staff at Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

“We had a very good experience,’’ Young said.

Bailey’s problems began about a year before he came to Foster Hospital when Bailey developed a lump on his chest. Young’s local veterinarian examined Bailey and advised Young to keep an eye on the lump.

As time went on, the lump grew to the size of a baseball. The lump, Young was told, was a lipoma, a fatty, non-cancerous tumor. His local veterinarian offered two options: Bailey could have surgery or they could take a “wait and see’’ approach.

Young chose the second approach, leery of surgery. “I was concerned about the anesthesia he would have to have’’ during surgery and its potential impact on Bailey.

Over the next few months, the mass grew to the size of a volleyball and weighed more than six pounds. The mass was beginning to scrape the ground as Bailey walked and the weight of the mass made it difficult for the dog to get up and down and walk.

Young’s veterinarian suggested it was “time to take him to Tufts.’’ He recommended Dr. Berg, who he had trained with. The local vet described Berg as “one of, if not the, best in the state.’’

So Young and Bailey headed to Foster Hospital. Dr. Berg performed a needle aspirate in the exam room “and the material retrieved was consistent with a lipoma,’’ Dr. Berg said. “These are extremely common, benign fatty tumors of middle aged and older dogs. They develop beneath the skin and are typically soft, mobile, and non-painful. ‘’

Most lipomas are small, do not cause a problem, and can simply be monitored, Dr. Berg said. But occasionally they can become very large and impair function, as happened with Bailey.

The size of Bailey’s lipoma was unusual, Dr. Berg said. “This points out the importance of the owner monitoring any lipoma (or any other mass, for that matter) to be sure it is not rapidly growing or becoming quite large. ‘’

Surgery to remove lipomas the size of Bailey’s can create a larger incision that might be needed if the operation was done earlier, Dr. Berg said. Surgery at this stage of lipoma also creates a greater risk for blood loss, he said.

Fortunately, and to Young’s great relief, the surgery went well. Bailey required about 15 stitches and had a “big scar down the center of his chest.’’

He was advised to keep Bailey “under wraps for a few days’’ as the dog recovered.

The story had a happy ending. Bailey recovered well and is an active dog for his age, Young said.

He still enjoys running and playing catch, Young said, and “has a better quality of life’’ than before. “This has improved his mobility.’’

Young is grateful for the staff at Foster Hospital. The hospital staff remained in constant contact with Young and impressed him with their level of care and dedication to detail.

“They pay attention to everything,’’ he said. “I would highly recommend them. It’s a very professionally run operation.’’

At Foster Hospital, staff members recognize that caring for the animal represents only part of an often emotional equation.

“They’re good with the patients and they’re good with the owners,’’ Young said.