Nellie’s routine dental visit revealed a diagnosis that no pet owner wants to hear. She was quickly diagnosed with oral melanoma – a type of cancer – and referred to the surgical team at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Naples for a personalized treatment plan.

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Nellie is a 10-year-old rescued dog living in sunny Naples, Florida, with her caring owner Jonathan. When Nellie went in for a routine dental visit, her primary veterinarian made an unfortunate discovery. Nellie had a growth on the side of her mouth and testing revealed it was melanoma – which is a common oral cancer in dogs.

Nellie was referred to the specialty team at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Naples, where she became a patient of Dr. Kristin Wendelburg, a board-certified veterinary surgeon.

“Most melanomas in dogs are benign – except for in the oral cavity,” said Kristin Wendelburg. “Typically, that means a mandibulectomy, which means taking a segment of the mandible completely out.”

When the mandible can be preserved, the pets have a better recovery and quality of life. That’s why Dr. Wendelburg’s first step was to order a CT scan to assess Nellie’s specific condition.

A small dog "smiles" while rolling around on her back in bright green grass.

Fortunately, the scan revealed minimal change to the bone, so her team decided to only remove the top part of the mandible and leave the bottom portion completely intact.

The next step was surgery.

Nellie was an excellent patient every step of the way and her surgery was successful. Dr. Wendelburg was able to remove a lot less of Nellie’s jaw than anticipated, and her team kept Jonathan updated throughout the procedure.

Vivian Roman, a veterinary assistant, cared for Nellie from pre-surgical preparation to post-operative care.

A small beagle happily walks alongside her owner in a park with lots of trees and green grass.

“Nellie came in with oral melanoma and the owners didn’t know what was in store for their dog,” It was very satisfying to be able to see her recover and see how happy she was when she came in for her recheck,” said Vivian. “Now she’s home like nothing happened. I love knowing that.”

The day after her surgery, Nellie was already back to her smiling, playful self. She wanted to chew on sticks and pinecones, and her owner Jonathan lovingly encouraged her to rest.

“They treated us with compassion,” said Jonathan. “They treated Nellie with compassion. They made sure they were constantly aware of what was happening.”

Nellie’s cancer was treated almost as quickly as it was discovered, and she is now free to continue living a normal, happy life.