Tumor in 15 YO Golden Retriever

Just as the title says. My 15 YO Golden has a fatty tumor on her back. It didn’t affect her for years so the vet never felt it was necessary to remove, but about a month ago it got bigger and started oozing pus. We took her to the vet, and they gave her antibiotics to try to help with the infection.

Well, the antibiotics did nothing at all really, and it’s oozing again. She went back to the vet and was given two options:

  1. just let it be. It’s not causing any sort of systemic infection and she’s not in any pain from it. Eventually the tumor may grow into her spine and she will need to be PTS. That could be never, it could be 6 months.

  2. Surgically remove it. She will need to be fully under for it, and because of her age there’s a good possibility she won’t survive the surgery.

My vet is pushing for surgery but I’m just not sure it’s worth it since she’s 15, and that’s like 100 in golden retriever years. She’s otherwise happy and healthy. The tumor doesn’t hurt her; she smacked it on the garage door the other day and kept playing like nothing was happening as it squirted pus everywhere :nauseated_face:

What do you think COTH? Let her be? Risk the surgery? I’m conflicted as I see both sides.

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It depends on how much a oozing sore bothers you! I might run blood work to see how her kidneys and liver are. If they are the least little bit off, I wouldn’t do it. It would also depend on how invasive the surgery and if the recovery would be excessively painful. Cost is also a factor. $500 v/s $5000? I’m not sure I could justify a huge amount of $ for a dog that’s not likely to live another year. Sorry if that is hard hearted, but budgets are getting tighter and it may be a factor in your decision.


I’d go get a second opinion. Has the tumor ever been biopsied to confirm what exactly it is?


I am sorry that you are in this position.

I can only tell you how I am handling a situation similar to yours. My 12 yr old boxer cross as a lump on his spine about the size of a big gumball and it has been there for YEARS.

It has been biopsied and it is a non issue.

Well just last week it popped and started to ooze and he had a bunch of edema around the site.

He had a 104 fever, won’t eat and I took him to the vet where they gave sub q fluids to drop the fever, an antibiotic injection as well as a round of pills at home and something else which is slipping my mind right now.

Well, I started to work that lump like Dr Pimple Popper and was able to push puss out for 3 days and it is nearly flat.

The vet wanted to do SX. I am not interested in SX he is too old and has a heart murmer.

We went in for a recheck this past wednesday and the lump is smaller than it was 2 weeks ago, so a different vet suggested an additional round of antibiotics and no SX

Get a second opinion.


@StormyDay, I’d do the surgery. From your description, it sounds like your dog has a benign lipoma. Another possibility is that it is an infected cyst. Either way, oral antibiotics won’t help because the cyst or tumor is encapsulated and the drug can’t get to it. Squeezing the pus out may help in the short term, but that won’t eradicate the infection. Surgery to take it out will cure it. It should be a very minor procedure, and even an old dog should tolerate the anesthesia unless she has some underlying condition. Also, if the cyst or tumor is removed it can be sent to the lab to be identified, and then you’ll know for sure.


The vet actually said this? Or this is just you speculating?

I would not elect surgery if the vet doesn’t think she will survive. That’s crazy. If the vet is saying “the odds of not surviving are higher because of her age” that’s different. I would do blood work and make sure it looks relatively normal first.

I feel like there has to be a 3rd option - like, try a different antibiotic?


I don’t know how big the tumor is which would be a factor, but I might look around to see if any vets near you perform laser surgery (not laser therapy). I don’t know how common it is everywhere, where I live we are the only practice that offer this, but I thought I’d throw it out there.
The beauty of a laser is that it seals blood vessels and nerve endings as it goes, so there’s essentially no blood involved and it also kills any bacteria that it touches. The reason I mention it is we do most of out laser surgeries without any sedation. We use local anesthetic around the tumor to numb it and the dog just sits on the table wondering what’s going on during surgery.
The catch is the size of the tumor and how deep it is. But it also depends on the surgeon and their experience. So a second opinion with a vet that could do a laser might be worth it.

Just an option to consider if it’s in your area.

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@jherold It doesn’t really bother me, I am just concerned about her. I’m assuming it will be about a grand, but she may need a cardiac clearance which would be about 2k. I haven’t run any blood work, that is a good idea.

@Simkie It’s not been biopsied. My vet didn’t offer.

@MunchingonHay Interesting, I was tempted to ‘pop’ it but I wasn’t sure that was safe.

@S1969 His word were ‘Well, she is old but i’ve operated on older. And if she goes when under Anesthesia, well, she had a long life’. Which, you know, didn’t give me a lot of confidence.
I will say though, he is an excellent surgeon. He did a very high risk surgery on my other dog.

@masConfetti I’ll look into it. I have a feeling they would have to put her under too, just because of how close to her spine it is though.


Yikes :frowning:

So you really don’t know what it is. First step is a fine needle aspirate. No sedation needed, the vet sticks a needle in it and retrieves some cells to examine. It shouldn’t be expensive.

Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can decide if surgery is something that should even be considered.

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Another consideration is where it’s located and whether healing might be complicated. A spot where they re-open it just by moving around it tough. Size of incision is a related factor.

I guess I would do a blood workup. If all looks good and it’s in a site likely to be simple to heal, give her a chance.

An open weeping sore is nasty. And only going to get more so esp if you have hot summers. A flyblown older dog is horrible.

To me it is a quality of life issue. I dont think I would put this dog through surgery and recovery if she is having a good life as is.
I might ask this vet (or another) if the tumor can be “debulked” under local to reduce the oozing and opportunity to hit it on things. Or otherwise cleaned up for her comfort.


:open_mouth: This vet would not fill me with any confidence at all. I’d be looking for another practitioner full stop, get a second opinion on the lump, diagnostics and potential treatments and unless you are absolutely in the back of beyond change who your go to vet is!


I’m in this camp, too. Not doing a FNA on a mystery lump is pretty egregious. Recommending surgery without knowing what it is is just wild.

I had a cat with kind of a similar story. She’d gone to live with a friend for awhile, and when I took her back, she came with a history of lipomas, which had been removed a couple times. It wasn’t long before it became very clear that she had massive, end stage, metastatic mast cell cancer. Those “lipomas” weren’t lipomas at, and not once had anyone bothered to run any pathology on them at all. My vet said he’d never seen mast cell at that grade…it’s so treatable if you get clean margins. They hadn’t, because they didn’t know what it was.

It’s so easy to do a needle biopsy. It doesn’t always tell you everything, but it’s such a good place to start.

So go get some of that tumor, see what it is, and then game plan. If you do think surgery is the path forward, a pre-op screening chest film is probably a good thing, too, given the age here. A 15 year old dog is at pretty high risk of cancer somewhere…make sure those lungs are free of mets before making big decisions.


Definitely get a fine needle aspirate or cytology first. I’ve had a lot of dogs come in with “it’s a fatty lump, it’s been there forever” masses that all of sudden ooze and rupture. Several have been soft tissue sarcomas and one was a large mast cell tumor. The soft tissue one I removed and it was super invasive. Mass came back with a vengeance and was super uncomfortable for her. But it was a quality of life issue for her to deal with the bleeding mass beforehand.

So id get a cytology and go from there. Cytology for my practice costs about $300 to send it out to a pathologist. Agree with a chest rad beforehand too.


I’m so impressed that you have a 15 year old Golden. What a lovely age achievement for a good dog! Go with your gut on this. You’ve gotten her this far. Hugs and prayers for you both.


My dad’s dog (/family dog I grew up with) was diagnosed with a likely nasal tumour in Feb 2021. It was never confirmed, as to do so would have been 5k, putting her under etc, and they had ruled out all other possibilities. She was just over 11 years old at the time. Vets gave us the options, which was either radiation (would have been 20k), or palliative care. Surgery was not possible due to the location.

We opted for palliative care. We spoke to a family member and family friend who were also both vets, and they agreed with our decision. At her age, the radiation was unlikely to drastically extend her life expectancy, and we didn’t want to put her through that. We chose to just let her live out the rest of her life happily, and she did. Otherwise totally healthy, still running around like a puppy, still loved to play and would harass the living daylights out of my dog to wrestle, tug of war etc.

When she went, it was quick. In a matter of about 2 days she went from being her happy self, to struggling to eat, breathe or sleep. It was heart wrenching but also a clear decision, and we let her go in Nov 2021, a couple months after her 12th birthday, and nearly exactly 12 years to the day since we got her. We got 11 months with her post diagnosis, which we were told was exceptionally good for that sort of tumour, and radiation would have changed nothing.

Let her be.

My first dog after I got married was a Golden. Oh how I loved her. At 13 she had a tumor appear on her toe. My vet advised to just let it be. She lasted a year longer and cancer did finally take her but she had a real good year.