Removal of skin lumps is one of the more common surgical procedures done here at Gordon Vet, though as they say “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses and not zebras”. So, when Rex the 5 year old Jack Russell X staffy came in with a lump on his skin, Dr Catherine took a fine needle aspirate biopsy to find out what type of mass it was. Under the microscope she saw round cells plus a scattering of an inflammatory cell called an eosinophil, which is commonly associated with a skin tumour called a mast cell tumour. When we take a blood sample, we can also see an increase in the eosinophil count when the patient has a parasite infection such as intestinal worms.
Mast cell tumours are a common skin tumour, and are particularly common in Staffies and Jack Russells. They can range from low to very high malignancy, and are certainly a skin tumour that we take very seriously and do a wide surgical excision for. Accordingly, Rex returned to have the lump surgically removed, and the tissue was then sent to the pathologist for assessment.
I’m not sure who was more surprised, the pathologist, vet or Rex’s family, when the pathology results came back. It was a case of a zebra and not a horse! There was no mast cell tumour, but instead, surrounded by inflammatory cells including eosinophils was a segment of a worm! Nobody knows for sure how it got there, however the most likely explanation is that this worm had a little misadventure, travelling out of Rex’s gastrointestinal tract, getting lost and ending up under the skin, where Rex’s body recognised the worm as foreign material and walled it off with inflammatory cells. The good news is that Rex has fully recovered and he now has a fancy story behind the scar on his side.
Written by Helen Burns
Helen graduated from Sydney Uni in 1997 with First Class Honours and worked in a practice on the Northern Beaches for 16 years. Helen joined the Gordon Vet team early in 2014 and our clients have really enjoyed getting to know her. She loves being a vet and takes a keen interest in all of her patients. Her gentle, friendly nature helps pets to feel relaxed when they visit the vet.
Helen lives locally and has 3 children. At least one of her children seems destined to be a vet! When not ferrying her children around, Helen cares for her menagerie of pets. These include Chloe the dog, Obi and Leia the cats, Little Cocky the galah and Rosie the very tame eclectus parrot who all happily coexist at her house.
In her spare time, Helen likes to be active outdoors, running, kayaking, camping or playing any manner of sport with her children.
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