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Huge tumor of the salivary glands in a dog is treated by Texas A&M surgeons

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    Texas A&M veterinarians recently treated a dog with the largest salivary gland tumor ever seen at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital (SATH). The dog, named “Jake from State Farm,” was brought in by a rescue organization but has since been adopted into a loving home.

    Jake pre-surgery with April Plemons, founder and executive director of Long Way Home Adoptables

    Jake pre-surgery with April Plemons, founder and executive director of Long Way Home Adoptables

    Although Jake (who is named after State Farm’s commercial spokesperson) had a happy ending, his story had a rougher beginning. The Labrador Retriever was found roaming rural areas around Waco in the summer of 2022 and was clearly in need of medical care.

    Most noticeably, he had a mass larger than his head hanging from his neck.

    The local rescue group Long Way Home Adoptables brought Jake into their care and found a foster family willing to take in the 9-year-old dog and see him through his medical treatment.

    “Our specialty is helping animals that are considered the most vulnerable and those that are most at risk in shelters. That’s typically medical cases, pregnant dogs and seniors,” said April Plemons, the founder and executive director of Long Way Home Adoptables. “We’ve seen some crazy medical cases from neglect and abuse, but we’ve never had a dog with a mass that big.”

    Jake’s fosters took him to a primary care veterinarian who strongly suspected that the mass was a tumor. Due to the mass’ large size and tricky location, Jake was referred to the experts at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (VMBS).

    Providing Relief

    At Texas A&M, a CT scan and fine needle aspirate (a type of biopsy) of the mass led to its diagnosis as an adenocarcinoma, or a tumor of the salivary gland. The cancerous tumor had spread from the gland all the way up to Jake’s ear, while the bulk of the mass was a pocket of skin filled with saliva.

    “Salivary gland disease is pretty common, but cancer of the salivary glands is not,” said Dr. Vanna Dickerson, a VMBS assistant professor. “In Jake’s case, saliva built up because he had this big tumor obstructing his salivary ducts. And it’s certainly quite uncommon to have it get as advanced as it was in him.”

    The SATH’s Soft Tissue Surgery and Oncology services collaborated on Jake’s surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible.

    “With any type of tumor, ideally you would go in and remove it with a margin of normal tissue around it to make sure you’re not leaving any cancer cells behind,” Dickerson said. “But because Jake’s tumor was so big and next to a lot of really important structures, like the trachea and esophagus, we knew going into it that the surgery was more of a palliative procedure.”

    Jake from State Farm after surgery

    Palliative procedures are those that address symptoms of a condition more than its original cause. In Jake’s case, the shape and size of his tumor made it unlikely he could ever be completely cancer free, but by removing the bulk of the heavy mass, Jake’s veterinarians helped ensure that he could have several more years and a good quality of life.

    “It was very instantly gratifying in that he came off the OR table looking so much better,” Dickerson said.

    To reduce the chance of Jake’s tumor returning soon, his veterinarians followed the surgery with a round of chemotherapy to kill more of the cancerous cells.

    “We knew that this tumor was so massive that there’s no way you could get clean borders, but that’s OK — we just wanted to give him a better quality of life for however long his life may be,” Plemons said.

    Finally Home

    Once the bulk of Jake’s medical treatment was complete — thanks in part to generous donors — Long Way Home Adoptables began searching for his forever home.

    “When we have a case that is visually shocking, it tends to make the rounds on social media, so Jake was spread far and wide,” Plemons said. “The real Jake from State Farm even got in touch with us and sent a care package with a State Farm bandana, collar and leash.”

    Jake with his new owner Josie Brown

    The rescue was soon contacted by Josie Brown, a veterinary practice manager living in Spring who had fallen in love with Jake. She turned out to be the perfect fit, having the expertise and resources necessary to provide any future medical attention he may need.

    Although the mass began to grow again over time, Jake’s new owner found that draining it of fluid once a week allowed her to easily manage its size.

    “Jake is the absolute best boy and really is living his best life,” Brown said. “He never seems to be in pain and he enjoys being with his people. It didn’t take him any time at all to adjust to life with us; it was like he was meant to be here this whole time. We are very thankful for Long Way Home Adoptables and Texas A&M for everything they did for Jake.”


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