Biopsy Procedures for Pets

Lumps found under a pet’s skin are extremely common, especially as they advance in age. If your vet has noticed a growth somewhere on your pet, they may recommend a biopsy. 

Though this is a common and minimally invasive surgery, you may still have many questions about the procedure. 

What Is a Biopsy?

A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from the body and analyzed under a microscope. To retrieve the sample, the pet is given either general or local anesthesia, depending on the size and location of the growth. 

For small growths that are just under the skin, a local anesthesia with mild sedation may be used and the pet will remain awake. For larger growths, samples taken from multiple growths, or growths in tender places such as the abdomen, anesthesia may be necessary.

There are two main types of biopsies. An excisional biopsy occurs when the entire growth is removed and submitted for analyzing. But not all growths can safely be removed in this way, which may call for an incisional biopsy. This is when a small sample is taken from a larger mass. Your vet will let you know which type of procedure is recommended.

Before the procedure, the selected area is shaven and cleaned. Typically, the skin is punctured by a small cylindrical tool which burrows into the growth and removes the tissue sample with it. Afterward, the incision needs stitches. 

Why Are Biopsies Needed?

Unfortunately, lumps cannot be identified by touch alone. 

It is important to know exactly what caused the growth in order to be sure the treatment is effective. This is especially true for lumps that are in difficult-to-remove locations, such as the head or legs.

After the tissue sample is collected, it is sent to a veterinary pathologist. This is an expert in examining microscopic cells and tissue structures. He or she will then be able to diagnose the growth, allowing the vet to determine the best treatment method.

The biopsy can answer many questions regarding the nature of the growth, for example:

  • If the lump is caused by an infection 
  • If it is caused by an allergy
  • If it is caused by a disease of an organ
  • If the tumor is cancerous
  • If the cancer is benign or malignant
  • How aggressive the cancer will behave

Depending on the results, the vet determines the best treatment moving forward. Oftentimes, the lump can then be removed surgically, though non-surgical options may also be available.

Potential Risks of a Biopsy

As with any surgery, there are a few potential risks involved in this procedure, though they are uncommon. Your vet will complete blood work beforehand to ensure your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia. 

Some risks associated with biopsies include infection and excessive bleeding. It is important to keep a close eye on the site of the incision and call your vet immediately if you notice swelling or discharge. 

Post-Operative Care

Your vet will let you know any special care instructions your pet will need after the procedure. 

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to provide a quiet and isolated space for your pet to heal, away from other pets or potential stressors. A cone may be provided to prevent the pet from licking or biting the stitches. 

Along with the swelling and discharge mentioned above, keep an eye out for behavioral changes in your pet. Lethargy or aggression could be signs of discomfort. A reopening of the incision site is also cause to call the vet.

Biopsy Services in Frederick, Maryland

An early diagnosis is the best tool for defeating possibly fatal conditions in your pet. That’s why Old Farm Veterinary Hospital provides fast and effective biopsy services. Our team of experienced and caring vets can help diagnose and treat any mysterious lumps or growths. Call today for more information!