Multiple canine mast cell tumours

48 Multiple canine mast cell tumours


The history in cases of mast cell tumour (MCT) is variable. Tumours may have developed recently, or can have been present for months or even years and then suddenly start to behave in a malignant manner. Mast cell tumours are variably pruritic. There may be a history of sudden increases and decreases in tumour size over a period of hours to days. Alternatively, some dogs with MCT have a history of repeated episodes of erythema and urticaria or angioedema (‘Dariers sign’). Both these scenarios are the result of a massive release of vasoactive mediators from the mast cells. Systemic signs, including vomiting, delayed wound healing and coagulopathies, may be evident.

This dog presented with the following history:


The first step with any nodular disease is to perform fine-needle aspiration. Except in the case of poorly differentiated tumours, the diagnosis of MCTs is usually easily made on cytological examination of fine-needle aspirates. Diff Quik® or Rapi-Diff® are appropriate stains for cytological examination. Mast cells appear as small to medium-sized round cells, the nuclei are centrally placed within the cell, giving a ‘fried egg’ appearance, and the cytoplasm usually contains abundant dark staining granules (see Chapter 2). Eosinophils are frequently encountered. NB: Mast cell granules may be difficult to visualize in poorly differentiated MCTs.

The advantages of fine-needle aspiration over excisional biopsy are that it is inexpensive, it can be performed with the animal conscious and, in the case of mast cell tumour, is usually diagnostic. Additionally, an effective first surgery is most likely to result in a cure and prior fine-needle aspirates allow for effective surgical planning. The major limitation of fine-needle aspiration is that it is not possible to predict the behaviour of the tumour; histology is much more useful in this respect.

The cytology was consistent with a diagnosis of mast cell tumour. All mast cell tumours have metastatic potential, and the next stage was to clinically stage the case and establish the likelihood of metastasis prior to deciding on a treatment strategy.

Staging the tumour: Traditionally, a range of tests have been used to try and establish the presence or absence of metastatic disease. The tests include analysis of buffy coat smears, bone marrow aspiration, splenic and hepatic ultrasound-guided biopsies, radiographs and ultrasonography. Recent evidence has shown that some of these tests are of low specificity or sensitivity. For example, buffy coat smears were only positive in 30% of dogs with poorly differentiated tumours and were positive in dogs with 85 other diseases. Lymph node aspirates are of value, but mast cells may be seen in aspirates from dogs that do not have MCTs. Note that mast cell tumours tend to metastasize diffusely to visceral organs, and thoracic radiography is usually negative for the classic ‘cannon-ball’ metastases.

Bearing in mind these limitations, the following tests were carried out:

Sep 3, 2016 | Posted by in SMALL ANIMAL | Comments Off on Multiple canine mast cell tumours
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