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Mass Removal

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UsagiChan

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It's been a long time since I've been on here. I still have Thumper, a black mini-rex with a white nose and Pegasus, a white mini lop with grey himalayan markings. He often has one ear up so he resembles a unicorn, hence his name Pegasus.

Last night he was very lethargic and didn't seem to want to eat. His belly was very doughy. Nonetheless I gave him a bit of simethicone which I know is for gas, even though he didn't seem to show symptoms of having gas. I had to go to work so it was a quick desperate attempt to do something. He took the syringe quite well. I held him close to my face and then he started licking me, somethinmg he never normally does. That was another sign that something was wrong. It was as if he meant to say, "Daddy, please help me, I'm hurting."

While at work, I'm allowed to surf the internet so I studied and suspected it was an upper respiratory infection. He had sneezed a few times a few days ago.

When I got out of work I took him to a local rabbit-savy vet. By then he was acting almost his normal self. They assured me that he was fine, no infection. But they discovered a mass about the size of a walnut on his right shoulder. It's irregular in shape and rather lumpy. They think it needs to be removed. They quoted me between $500 and $1000. That seems to be a lot of money to me. I'm not wealthy and that will be a real strain on the budget. They left it to me to decide if I wanted a biopsy before or after removal or not at all. I love Pegasus dearly but I don't relish the idea of prolonging matters if the tumor is cancerous and spreads. I could spend a lot of money only to see him die anyways.

They said they could use a needle, take a sample and biopsy it so I'd have an idea if it's benign or not.

Pegasus is 6 now (he was estimated to be a year old when I got him) He is VERY tightly bonded to Thumper. I know she would miss him terribly if he died. He should have another 7 or so years of life if he survives and lives to a typical age.

I have another bunny, Nigel. He is a grey Jersey Wooly. He simply adores people and loves to lick their faces and hands. Nigel does not like Thumper and the feeling is mutual so I haven't bonded the three together.

Any thoughts, ideas or advice?
 

Bunnylova4eva

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Are they referring to afine needle aspirate when they say take a smaple to biopsy? Doing that would not be that expensive and I'd think it was be a wise idea to do that at a minimum.

How big is the lump on Pegasus's shoulder? What color discharge is there when he sneezes?

If it were my bunny, I would have him looked at by the vet and also have the sample taken of the lump on his shoulder. I'd ask if it seems he has tummy problems, and also see what their thoughts are on the sneezing/runny nose. I can understand your concerns about cost etc.-when they're and you're trying to treat something when other issues are going on, someitmes its hard to make decisions.

Pegisus is an adorable bunny-I love Frosty point Hollands :) Praying he gets better soon~
 

UsagiChan

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@ Bunnylova4eva

Thanks for responding. Last year Thumper had a growth in her dewlap. The same vet told me that aspirating some tissue with a needle seldom produces reliable results so I'm not convinced that doing that procedure would help. Beyond it being unreliable, what would it show? If the mass is cancerous then there is little hope for Pegasus. If it isn't cancerous then it would cost a lot of money to remove a benign growth.

I should add here that Pegasus is now totally back to normal. There is a ramp up into his cage and he runs up and down that in a flash, every bit as good as Thumper. He hops over obtacles and seems to be totally well now. The sneezes were unusual and I haven't noticed any since. The vet told me that she suspects that he had a slight stasis problem and that the simethicone brought him out of that.

I spoke with a friend who has had rats and hamsters that developed tumors. She told me her vet removed them for between $100 and $200. Unfortunately she lives a long ways away so I can't call on her vet. I do believe the quote I got is ridiculously high. IT was in the form of an itemized list of seventeen items. It says specifically that it will cost $553.11 - $963.09. Some of the items are an obvious rip-off. My doctor prescribed meloxicam for me and I bought a considerable supply from Walmart for $4. It is listed on the quote for $20.70 and the quantity of the drug is miniscule. At that rate my $4 supply of meloxicam would sell for well over $1000.

I emailed the local vet school and they emailed me back saying they'd be happy to see Pegasus for an initial visit fee of $65, which is $15 more than my vet. That fact makes me very suspicious that to remove the tumor, they would charge even more than my vet. I had hoped that they might be interested in doing it as an teaching exercise.

The growth that Thumper had in her dewlap seems to have disappeared. Maybe that will be the case with Pegasus? I don't know. Yes, I am worried, VERY worried. I am also quite angry. I have the distinct impression that vets are perfectly aware that most of us really love our animals and they use that fact to fleece us and charge outrageous fees for services.
 

gmas rabbit

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One of our bunnies developed a growth on his side. They removed it and it was cancerous. 2 months later it spread to his lungs. I was wishing at the time if I had known it was cancerous before I had it removed, I would have just left it and watched him for signs of stress and pain and then quietly put him down. You will have to do what you can afford and what you feel is best for you bunny. Hard as that decision is, money can be a huge determining factor when it is limited like so many of us. Whatever you decide, I know you will do with love for him. There should be bunny vet insurance like dogs and cats. The vet bills are so out of line at times. Very frustrating isn't it?
 

missyscove

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My Fiona had a cancerous mammary tumor removed and she lived for roughly another year. The surgery cost us about $500. When we discovered the lump, my vet did a fine needle aspirate to confirm that it was not an abscess before we decided to remove it. I'm assuming that your vet has reason to think that it is not an abscess.
The decision is entirely up to you. If you decide not to do the surgery, please discuss palliative care options like pain relief (that meloxicam you mentioned is probably metacam which is a meloxicam suspension) with your vet should they become necessary. I've always heard that the typical rabbit life span is 7-10 years although every rabbit is obviously an individual.
As far as the costs of veterinary care (and this is coming from a first year veterinary student), it is important to remember that veterinarians are small business owners and they do have to turn a profit if they want to feed, clothe and house themselves. Veterinary care is not typically subsidized like human medical care is and pet insurance is not particularly popular so in general there are no insurance companies to cover the cost. If you were having a mass removed from your shoulder, I'm sure it would cost well over $1000 (although you may have health insurance that would cover the cost, it would still get paid). Your typical veterinary student will be at least $250,000 in debt by the time they graduate and must start making payments on those loans within 6 months. The mean salary for a vet in the US is roughly $91,000. The mean salary for a doctor in family practice is about twice that. Trust me, if veterinarians were in it for the money they would be in a different field.
 

Usagi_Chan

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I notice you're from Ithaca NY. I lived near there (Dryden) many years ago.

Actually well cared for rabbts typically live 10-15 years and some even reach 18 or so.

I contacted the vet school here and found that they don't accept needy animals to be used as teaching tools, unlike many professions. My income is about $15,000/year (SS retirement) so for Pegasus, the best care that he will receive is my and my friend's prayers. Frankly I'm very tempted to see if I can get the materials and remove the tumor myself. While it is illegal to operate on someone else's animal, I don't believe it's illegal to operate on your own animal.

I realize that vets have to live. However I must say that I manage quite well on my income which is a far cry from $91,000.

$200-300 I wouldn't quibble with. A friend in Alabama told me that she has had tumors removed from her rats for $100-$200. Perhaps since rabbits are larger they cost more? (glad I don't own a horse :) )

All my bunnies are spayed/neutered so the more common cancers are thus avoided.

At the moment Pegasus is doing well. He's hopping just fine, eating and pooping. As I said, I do have meloxicam and being my training is as a chemist I certainly can mix up the right concentrations to help him if it is cancerous. There is a site on the web that tells what proper dosages are. Noticing your concern, I have a feeling you might actually end up being a great vet, a diamond in a sea of coal, that is, you might actually possess compassion. I wish you well.

I believe I mentioned that Pegasus is an assistance animal. That obvbiously doesn't cut any ice with local vets nor does the fact thet I've volunteered at the local SPCA at least one day a week for the last 4 years. Compassion is quite obviously not a course taught in Vet School.
 

missyscove

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I guess I need to update my location. I did my undergrad at Cornell in Ithaca but I just moved back to southern CA where I'm attending vet school. We actually spent most of orientation discussing things like the importance of communication and my vet issues course addresses not only legal concerns but ethics as well. As far as compassion goes, many vets will cover the costs of euthanasia out of their own pockets in situations where owners can't afford to pay to end the animal's suffering (and yes, euthanasia does cost money; there are drug costs, supply costs, labor costs, overhead costs to maintain the building and, in many cases, costs for proper disposal of the animal afterward).
Costs will certainly vary by location just as cost of living varies by location and the standard of care can easily vary from clinic to clinic. You can discuss with your vet options to cut costs. Some vets will write prescriptions to be filled at other pharmacies, for example.
I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone to operate on their own living animal at home. Rabbits in particular can be very sensitive to anesthesia (and I don't even know how you would obtain the necessary materials for anesthesia).
 

Usagi_Chan

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To update:
I used the yellow pages, visited a number of vet websites and sent out emails requesting quotes. CareFirst, which used to be Oberlin Animal Hospital answered and said they had a special of $40 off on your first visit so I took Pagasus last Saturday. They operated that morning and removed the growth for a grand total of $387, about 1/2 what some others had quoted. Several years back they spayed Thumper, my femaile mini-rex. They mostly do cats and dogs but they are also knowledgable about rabbits.

They sent the tissue out for analysis, included in the $387. Yesterday they called and told me it was a sarcoma, ie. cancer. They said they wanted to check with the lab to see if there was any advice for following-up. They said they would call me back.
 

Imbrium

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$387 sounds a heck of a lot more reasonable than a grand! I'm so glad you found an affordable option to get his growth removed - I hope his recovery goes well!
 

Usagi_Chan

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I'm sorry, I posted that wrong It was actually $287... even more reasonable. THat even included the lab work to see if it was cancerous. I'm changing vets. Not only are their rates a lot more reasonable, they are much closer to boot, which could be very important in an emergency. Also one of my pet peeves is when a vet charges an outrageous amount for a medication. This vet charged about $8 for meloxicam where the other vet wanted $20.

Pegasus does seem more energetic. They said they thought they got all of it. I'm hopeful but I realize that everything eventually dies. But I guess one is never quite prepared for that. He's a real sweetheart.
 

Usagi_Chan

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I went to the vets today to get a copy of the lab report. The doctor called me a week or so ago but it was early in the morning and I hadn't had my coffee yet so I didn't have a clue what she said.

The report calls it a "poorly differentiated sarcoma", in layman's terms, a cancer. From what the Dr told me and a bit of web reserch it is unpredictable as to if it will come back or if it will spread. I'll keep a close eye on Pegasus and do more frequent and thorough physical exams to see if any other masses appear.

The vet is trying to get more information from the doctor who did the lab work. She said that in cats and dogs this type of cancer can be aggressive and radiation might be indicated. She isn't sure if the cancer is aggressive in rabbits and doesn't know if radiation is needed. This doctor doesn't specialize in exotics
 

Usagi_Chan

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Thanks Jennifer. The report said a lot more. It was quite wordy but included scientific language which I'm still looking up to get a better understanding.

Pegasus is bonded with Thumper. The doctor noticed that they are very close because Thumper got quite visibly nervous when Pegasus was taken to be operated on. Thumper is very smart and tends to be hyper. I've taught her quite a few tricks using clicker-training. She is very protective of Pegasus.

This, of course, worries me also because poor Thumper would be totally devistated without her Pegasus.

Nigel is separate and not bonded to either.
 

Usagi_Chan

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Just a quick update on Pegasus. He is doing well, eating and taking great pleasure in begging banana slices and pretzels.
I'll start a new post about Thumper, his mate.
 

Usagi_Chan

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:( Pegasus was doing well but yesterday morning I noticed he looked a bit lopsided when he was facing me. I had been so happy that he was doing well that I guess I wasn't watching for a return of the cancer. Yes, it's back, bigger and worse than ever. It feels like it's attached to the bone, muscle or both.

At first when I saw it was back I was certain that I would have to have him euthanized. However I've done some web research and there is one other possibility... amputation. However when it's cancer, the prognosis is not terribly rosy. Several references claim that a bunny can do quite well on just three legs, even when it's a hind leg that's removed. In Pegasus's case it would be one front leg. The cancer seems to be concentrated on the one leg but it is large enough now that it extends into his dewlap.

He is very closely bonded with Thumper so I fear for how she will do if he dies. I've pretty much decided that I'll do whatever it takes.

The web references suggest that he be x-rayed to make sure his lungs have not been affected. If they have he would be beyond any help and I will probably put him to sleep fairly quickly.

I love him dearly and will miss him terribly if I lose him...
 

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