Top Five Panic Appointments (That Don’t Have to Be…)
VirtuaVet’s Top Five Panic Appointments
Do not laugh. Many people wonder about these things, but often do not have the courage to ask.
Number One: Bump in the Mouth
“Doc, my dog has this bump on the roof of his mouth that I never noticed before. Is it cancer?”
Doc Truli: “Is it in the middle, just behind the two middle teeth?”
“Yes! How did you know?”
“That’s the ‘incisive papilla,'” sad Doc Truli.
So, here’s the deal: just behind the two middle incisors, there’s a bump in cat and dog mouths called the incisive (from the word incisor) papilla (bump). Near the center of it, there’s a hole leading to a duct (sometimes not patent, or open in some pets). That duct leads to Jacobson’s organ, otherwise known as the vomeronasal organ (pronounced: vo- mare- oh). That organ lives in the septum of the nose and connects directly to the amygdala (pronounced ah-migg-da-luh). The amygdala is the seat of emotions in the brain. This means the incisive papilla gives your pet direct access to the emotions through a chemical analysis of the molecules that make their way up the incisive duct. Molecules like pheromones are thought to be analyzed this way.
Some scientists argue that humans have a Jacobson’s organ, too. The evidence is not agreed upon, but yours Truli believes we must, after all, we respond to pheromones, too!
Number Two: Orange Burnt Spot on a Foot
Samantha’s mom plopped the elegant tortoiseshell domestic short-haired cat down on Doc Truli’s silver stainless-steel table.
“Doc, she’s got this pad that looks like it was burnt. I feel so guilty. I never managed to teach her not to walk on the kitchen counters and all I can think is she must have burnt her pad on the stove,” Samantha’s mom gushed in a panic.
Samantha just slow-blinked at Doc Truli. (You know, that sensual slow, relaxed, long blink a confident, happy cat gives you, if you are lucky.) There’s no way this cat’s in pain…
Doc Truli already knew what was “wrong” with the pad. But a good physical exam – on the off-chance something weird was going on – was in order. The paw with the offending pad waited until last. Doc turned over the pad. Sure enough, just as she suspected!
“What is it? Is it bad? Is it cancer,” said Samantha’s mom.
“It’s normal,” said Doc Truli. “She’s a calico, not a tortoiseshell.”
“What?” Samantha’s mom was confused. (Doc Truli confuses people a little bit on purpose sometimes. It helps scramble their preconceptions and leaves them open to new information that they need in order to understand and help their pets.)
“A cat with orange and black like her is a tortoiseshell, right?” said Doc.
“Of course,” said Sam’s mom.
“However, if there is even one spot of white, or one spot of pink pad, then the kitty goes from being called a perfect tortoiseshell to being called a very bad calico,” said Doc Truli. (Cat breeders out there know what Doc is saying.) “Samantha has one pink pad; she’s a calico.”
And then Doc knew Samantha’s mom was gathering herself and realizing she just never noticed that particular pad before because she said, “Are you sure?”
Number Three: Black and Pink Bumps on Gums of Cats or Dogs
Tigger’s dad said, “There are these black spots on the edges of Tigger’s lips. Plus, I think there’s on starting on his eyelid, too.”
Doc Truli took a look. After all, pets can develop melanoma just like people can. However, oftentimes, a black, smooth irregular mark on the lips or the eyelid on a white, red-head, or calico/tortoiseshell cat is a normal aging change.
“Lucky for Tigger, that’s a normal aging change. He’ll get more when he’s older,” said Doc. “And in case you were wondering and you were afraid to say the word out loud because you didn’t want to bring it into existence, I’ll say it: It’s not cancer.”
Tigger’s dad let out a huge breath, like he’d been holding his breathe ever since he first noticed the spots.
There’s one other, related lump that is not a lump in cats and dogs, but mostly it looks stunning to people in cats. Just behind the canine teeth on the bottom, there’s extra skin called a frenulum (pronounced fren-you-lum). Especially in cats, it usually has an oval to round flat raised smooth area near the middle of it. Lots of people do not notice that spot until just suddenly, one day, it comes onto their radar. Then they panic and come in for a cancer check.
It’s amazing how much is in the world that we blank out every day!
Number Four: Horn Growing Out of ______ (the Head is a Shocking Place)
Max’s mom looked worried. She was piled into her wheelchair, with three supportive family members crowded in Doc Truli’s examination room. A confused white short-haired cat sat on her lap in the middle of the chaos.
Doc Truli could see the questionable problem right away. Max, the white cat, had a cutaneous horn growing straight up out of the top of his head. In all fairness, there’s really no way his mom could know it was not a problem.
Doc felt the 2 inch long horn. It felt like soft toenail material. A nail trimmer trimmed it short with no bleeding. It was not red and sore at the base. Doc said, “It will grow back, and you can keep cutting it down so it’s not in the way. Or, I can perform a minor surgery and remove the root of it.”
“Do we have to have surgery? We don’t have money for that,” said Max’s worried mom.
“You know what? NO, you can just keep trimming it. It doesn’t hurt him,” said Doc Truli.
Max’s mom still looked worried. She hadn’t let out that breath of relief. So Doc decided to let her off the hook with three little words.
“It’s not cancer,” said the Doc.
“Oh thank God,” cried Max’s mom. She and her three support characters balled their eyes out in relief. They loved Max so much, they were too afraid to ask. Doc Truli just had to know what was in their hearts and relieve their suffering with those magic words everybody likes to hear, “It’s not cancer.”
Finally, Number Five: My Cat’s Not Acting Right
“Doc, Merlin just hasn’t been the same since he got out,” said Jack, Merlin’s dad. The calm black cat with big yellow eyes stared up at Doc Truli. He seemed unfazed.
I know what you, dear reader, are thinking. You are thinking, a change in behavior is a classic sign of illness in a cat. And there are so many diseases cats can pick up outside. Plus accidents. Heck, a cat bite wound is the most common reason for a cat acting strangely after being outside.
You are right, dear reader. However, a good veterinarian never misses the point.
“Uh, Jack. Isn’t Merlin a year old?” asked Doc Truli.
“Yep.” said Jack.
“And didn’t I neuter him about, oh, say, 6 months ago?”
“Jack, this cat is a mature, unneutered male cat,” said Doc Truli.
Jack blinked. “Well, heck, I’ve been feeding this cat for 4 days. Sleeping in the bed with him and everything. You mean to tell me, that’s not Merlin?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. This here is a totally different cat!” said Doc Truli.
Merlin returned home the next night and a neighbor adopted Merlin-too.