photo 2008 Robert Nunnally | more info (via: Wylio)
My 4 yr old shih tzu, Holly, has developed 3 pea-sized, very hard lumps in various spots in her body. Is this something I should be worried about and needs to been seen asap?
Also, she has what I believe is “reversed sneezing”….she goes into these snorting, breathing episodes that stop her in her tracks. It will happen if she gets very excited or just laying around doing nothing….She does it quite often – compared to my other shih tzu, Odus, never does it. What causes this and how can I help her?
When a dog has a lump on or under her skin, the question every owner asks is whether the lump is dangerous. A biopsy is only way to know, with certainty, whether a mass is dangerous. However, dangerous and non-dangerous masses often have different gross (macroscopic) characteristics. Often one can use these characteristics to make a guess at whether the mass is anything to be worried about.
Harmless skin masses generally are well circumscribed. This means it’s easy to tell where they begin and end. They often are symmetrical — which means simple and spherical (like a pea) or oblong. They often move freely with the skin and usually aren’t affixed to deeper structures. They may grow out of the skin, rather than into or under it. They may be attached to the skin by small stalks.
Dangerous masses usually are poorly circumscribed, which means that it’s hard to tell where they start and end. They may be irregular, or have tendrils branching or spreading out of them (the name cancer derives from the crab-like appearance of some malignant subcutaneous masses — a central mass can be ringed by spreading tendrils that together look like a crab’s body and legs). Dangerous masses often affix themselves into the tissues beneath the skin, so they feel firm and attached. Dangerous masses generally grow inwards, and they may cause the skin above them to be discolored or malodorous.
Again, without sampling the masses there is no way to know whether they’re dangerous. But if they have mostly harmless external characteristics then you probably don’t have much to worry about.
On to reverse sneezing: I’m guessing that both of your dogs are exhibiting normal (for them) breathing. Shih Tzus are classified as brachycephalic dogs. This means that their noses and sinuses are compressed and sometimes congested. Reverse sneezing is common but not universal in brachycephalics. I never am surprised to hear that a Shih Tzu is exhibiting reverse sneezing. Then again, I’m never surprised to hear that one isn’t.