to Pet Health Network or

Answers from vets about your dog:

Lung Cancer and Lung Surgery in Dogs

Reviewed by Peter Kintzer DVM, DACVIM on Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Posted March 27, 2014 in Dog Surgery A-Z

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

Moose, a 14 year old Shih Tzu, had been coughing more and more over the past few months. Not too concerned initially, his owners eventually took him to their family vet. Shockingly, chest X-rays showed a large mass in his left lung.

The vet referred Moose to our surgery service. After reviewing the X-rays and the blood work, I had a long heart-to-heart with Moose’s owners about the only definitive treatment: open chest surgery, which is considered a specialized surgery.

[Editor’s Note: Pet insurance is a great way to offset the cost of surgeries.]

Lung surgery
There are two ways to approach this type of surgery: either by cutting through the chest bone (a.k.a. sternum), or by cutting between two ribs, where only muscles are cut. Because Moose had a tumor in the left lung, the best approach was to go between two ribs on the left side. After surgery, Moose would need to be closely monitored at the hospital for a few days.

We discussed the possibility of taking a needle biopsy of the mass before surgery to learn more about the tumor, but agreed that it would not be very helpful.

Reasons included:

  • The procedure would delay surgery by about a week, until the biopsy results were in.
  • The surgery would be the same whether the mass was benign (abscess, pneumonia, benign tumor) or a malignant (a.k.a. cancerous) tumor.
  • The mass was most likely cancerous.
  • The client wanted the mass removed regardless of diagnosis. Moose’s guardians were determined to give him every chance.

Removing the mass from the lung
Each lung (left and right) is not a single sac, but made of several parts or lobes. After opening Moose's chest, we found an orange sized mass (in a 16 pound Shih Tzu!) in the left lower lung lobe. Removing it was not exactly easy, but it came out safely.

The next task was to place a device called a “chest tube,” which is a fairly large silicone tube, in the chest. It protrudes from the body to allow the nurses to remove air or fluid which may build up after this type of

Share This Article

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at