Jessica: An Oncologic Surgical Case Study

Cancer is a devastating diagnosis for any pet. Thankfully for pet owners in the greater Knoxville area, there is hope…even for extreme cases. The skill and ingenuity of the veterinary specialists at Animal Emergency & Specialty Center helped extend Pamela Williams’ dog’s life.

Ten years ago, Pamela adopted Jessica, a two-year-old West Highland White Terrier from a local rescue. Jessica was found by the rescue after an anonymous tip that someone had liberated a few dogs used as breeding stock by a puppy mill. During Jessica’s first two years, she suffered severe bladder damage from caesarean sections. In her new home with the Williams’, Jessica had a fresh start with a loving family. “You would think a dog coming from her situation wouldn’t be social, but Jessica was a happy, friendly dog right from the beginning,” Pamela says.

In February, the Williams family was dealt a devastating blow: Jessica had cancer. Jessica was diagnosed by her primary care veterinarian with squamous cell carcinoma affecting the right side of her face. Her veterinarian referred her to Animal Emergency & Specialty Center for an oncology consultation. Jessica’s cancer consultation with renowned veterinary oncologist Dr. Jeff Phillips came back with a shocking course of treatment. Jessica would need to receive radiation treatment, but only after undergoing a radical surgery that would essentially remove half of her face.

A surgical consultation was scheduled with Animal Emergency & Specialty Center’s board-certified surgeon Dr. Trent Tuttle. The surgery, called a radical hemimaxillectomy with orbitectomy and enucleation, could not have fallen into better hands. “Some veterinarians may never see a surgery like this. However, in my training there were times I would do three to four per month,” Dr. Tuttle explained. While the treatment would be aggressive, Dr. Tuttle was candid with Pamela. This surgery would risk Jessica’s life for the chance to save it. Without the surgery, Jessica would rapidly deteriorate.

Pamela described news of the surgery as, “It was scary, but I was so glad Animal Emergency & Specialty Center could do it. I was so upset that she would lose an eye, but after it was explained that radiation treatments would likely destroy it anyway, I felt good about moving forward.” Other facilities in the area simply may not have the equipment and capabilities of undertaking such a complex surgery. “Some places don’t have the diagnostics, oncologist, and a surgeon working together,” Tuttle explains.

On the day of surgery, Jessica was given the requisite antibiotics and anesthesia, then Dr. Tuttle set to work. An incision from the inside of her mouth was made then routed upward, removing cancer-ridden sections from her upper jaw, side of the nose, and right eye. “This surgery went well. Very well. The margins of the tumors extended beyond the surgical margins, so radiation will take care of cancerous cells that could not be removed,” Dr. Tuttle recapped.

The relief was almost instantaneous for Pamela. “I knew the doctors at Animal Specialty & Emergency Center were taking good care of her, but it was such a relief to receive the phone call saying Jessica had made it through,” says Pamela.

Jessica just started her first course of radiation at Animal Emergency & Specialty Center. The Williams family has more precious time with their beloved pet. “I have an animal who has been through a lot. Jessica doesn’t quite look like herself, but she is so happy to be healing at home with her family.”

Animal Emergency & Specialty Center is proud to administer advanced treatments to pets from Knoxville and the surrounding areas.

Dr. Tuttle has a message for pet owners near Knoxville: “I want people to know that when your pet has cancer, there are options.”