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Thread: I think she might have cancer.

  1. #1

    I think she might have cancer.

    This is going to be very long, but please read what you can...Thank you...

    On Tuesday, I was playing with my hedgehog Maisey. I noticed she had a slightly swollen lip, so I waited until she opened her mouth...and I saw a big tumor inside. I couldn't tell if it was attached to the inside of her cheek or to her gums, but it was very loose and in between her teeth and cheek. It was pink, the same color as her mouth. She has been eating, drinking, and exercising like normal, and there has been no bleeding in her bowl or anywhere else.

    I took her to the vet that day, and he couldn't tell me if it was cancerous or not. He said he would be uncomfortable performing surgery on her because he has never operated inside a hedgehog's mouth before. He was concerned with keeping the anesthesia mask on her mouth while operating inside her mouth at the same time...he said he would talk to some specialists for me, but I don't know how long that will take. Also, he gave me an antibiotic to give her twice a day in case it's a tooth abcess--but he is pretty sure it isn't that. He told me that if I wanted to get her surgery from a different vet, that I should look for someone who uses a laser rather than a scalpel because it would be easier on her body.

    Yesterday I took her to a different vet, and he was pretty much a jerk. He was telling me to get her surgery, but he said he would use a scalpel. I asked him about how he would keep her under anesthesia while operating, and he said he would give her gas, then operate until she started waking up, then give her more gas and operate until she started waking up again, until the operation was done. To me, that is cruel and inhumane, and I don't even know if she would live through the surgery with all of that trauma. He also tried telling me she would live up to 15 years, and I know that's not true...So I don't want to go back to him.

    I am at a loss. I can't afford to keep taking her to all these vets without any solutions, but at the same time there are no good solutions. Right now I am just going to keep giving her the antibiotic and monitoring the size of the lump. If it gets bigger, she starts bleeding, or she stops eating, I think I will have to put her down. I would like for her to get surgery, but if it's cancer then who knows if it will just come back after all that trauma. Also, she is barely three years old and only .95 lbs. I don't know if she can even handle anesthesia with her size...I just don't want her to suffer.

    I am wondering, how long does it take for oral cancer to grow in a hedgehog? It has been two days at the same size. My friend said with her hamsters, 1 day was all it took for a healthy hamster to be covered in cancer. I haven't seen that with Maisey, but she isn't a hamster either.

    Also, if anyone has any general insight, please share what you can...I have been crying for days. I just want the best for her and it seems like I have no options.

  2. #2
    Oral cancers can be lived with for a long time, or, they can be very aggressive and spread quickly. I agree with you, if she's eating and drinking, playing and acting normally - I would not do any surgery - especially at her age (average for a hedgie is 3-5 years). Most times, we look at hedgehog weights in grams - in grams she's a pretty big girl - but I still wouldn't do it if the vet you like is uncomfortable with it. The antibiotics are a great idea, and I hope it turns out to be an infection, and clears up.
    Terrapin Hedgehogs in MD Serving all of the mid-Atlantic and beyond!|
    Hedgehog World

  3. #3
    Thank you for replying so quickly. The antibiotics haven't seemed to help so far, but truthfully I don't know how much she actually swallows. I give her .25mL twice a day, and it seems like she lets it all fall out of her mouth instead of swallowing it, or she tries as hard as she can to vomit it up.

    Also, do you know how long cancers can stay without doing much damage? One of the worst parts about the timing is that I am about to go back to college on Sunday, and I can't take her with me (legally at least). My mom and sister will look after her like they did last semester, but I'm worried they won't know what to look for since they aren't very experienced with her. If I did take her to my dorm illegally, I wouldn't know how to get her cage in without being noticed. I also don't know if transporting her across state borders is legal (going from Virginia to Florida).

  4. #4
    If your mom and sister are comfortable taking care of her and giving her medicine, I don't think I would want to put her through a move right now. You might want to see if the vet wants her to take metacam too-it is an anti-inflammatory and may make her more comfortable.
    Ann
    Connecticut Hedgehogs
    A USDA licensed African pygmy hedgehog breeder located in CT. We serve the tri-state area of CT, New York State and NJ as well as Western MA (and anywhere else you happen to be) Visit our website for more information

  5. #5
    Do you know how much metacam usually runs? I've never heard of that, but if you think it will help I'll try my best to get her some.

    Edit: I've been reading about metacam since you posted, and it seems like a bit of a gamble--it works well for dogs but is very dangerous for cats. I only found a couple websites mentioning its use for hedgehogs, but I don't know what to make of it. Do you have any experience with it? Ultimately I just want to minimize Maisey's suffering. I don't know if it is better to let her live longer with cancer that's growing slowly, or let her live less but with less side effects from medications and disruptions from the tumor. I guess it is a personal choice, but it is definitely a hard one.

    Also, I am driving to Florida, not flying. I think that if I *had* to take her, that the move wouldn't be incredibly stressful since she would just be in her cage in my back seat. Of course it would be easiest on her to not be moved at all though.

    I definitely appreciate all of your help. This is the first time I have had to make these types of decisions for myself, and it is very hard. I lost my dog to nasal cancer this May, and it was hard, but not nearly as hard as this because my parents made all of the decisions.
    Last edited by Katie; 01-05-2012 at 09:07 PM.

  6. #6
    Today I noticed that her tumor was bigger and redder than before--it's not pink like it has been for the last few days. She can still close her mouth and eat and drink, but she has been chewing much more slowly and only eating a few pieces every few hours. I know she has to be in pain...I have decided to put her down tomorrow after I let her play outside (she has always loved it, and tomorrow is going to be unseasonably warm) and spoiled her with bananas and mealworms. I feel terrible doing this, but I want to ease her suffering before it gets worse. I love her so much and I would have done anything to prevent this from happening.

  7. #7
    Here are some photos of her...the first one was taken just a few minutes before I saw the tumor. I'm sure I have more of her when she was younger too.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8
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    Sorry to hear that your girl's tumor is growing. Sounds like you have been a good mommy to her, and are helping her avoid excessive pain. HUG!@
    B

  9. #9
    Thanks for the info on the metacam-I know it has been used a lot in hedgehogs, but didn't know it causes problems for cats

    I'm sorry Maisey's tumor is growing It is really hard to make a decision in a situation like this but if you can keep her happy and then not prolong any suffering, that is the right thing to do. She is lucky to have you. Take care -I know it's not easy
    Ann
    Connecticut Hedgehogs
    A USDA licensed African pygmy hedgehog breeder located in CT. We serve the tri-state area of CT, New York State and NJ as well as Western MA (and anywhere else you happen to be) Visit our website for more information

  10. #10
    Sorry to hear it's growing, I know it's a very hard decision, but I think you're helping her leave with as much grace and dignity - it's a gift, though a very hard one to give.
    Terrapin Hedgehogs in MD Serving all of the mid-Atlantic and beyond!|
    Hedgehog World

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