Q:  My 7 year old hound has a large, swollen gland or tear duct on the inside of her eye and another large, round mass in one of her teats.  She has had three litters, but not since three years ago.  The eye has pus coming from behind the mass, but she hasn’t seemed to respond to amoxicillin or cephalexin.  I am thinking either cysts, an infection or cancer.  Any ideas?

A:  While possible, it would be unusual for a mammary gland tumor to spread to the eye or vice versa.  At the inside corner of the eye it is not uncommon in hound breeds to have a prolapsed third eyelid gland.  This is a tear gland that lives underneath the third eyelid.  It can lose its attachment and pop up.  When it does, it blocks the drainage from the eye and can lead to discharge.  It will not respond to oral antibiotics.  Fortunately, these problems can be successfully treated.

The drainage may be treated with medicated eye drops.  Topical antibiotics are usually more useful in the eyes due to poor penetration of antibiotics into the tear film.  In addition, anti-inflammatory medications can be used topically to reduce swelling of the third eyelid gland.  In a few cases, I have seen the gland retract into position.  Unfortunately, most cases require surgical correction for a permanent cure.

The mammary mass should be aspirated by a veterinarian.  Simply placing a needle into the mass and looking at the cells under a microscope will help determine if the mass is cancerous or not.  It would certainly not be uncommon for benign changes in the mammary glands to appear as a lump after three litters.  Since it has been several years since the last pregnancy, I would be a bit worried about the possibility of a cancerous tumor.  However, it is impossible to tell for sure just by feeling it – even for a veterinarian.  The good news is that many early stage breast cancers can be successfully treated if treated early.

I must say that I am surprised these problems were treated with two rounds of oral antibiotics – especially two from the same antibiotic family with similar spectrums of activity.  Either your veterinarian had reason to suspect this mammary mass was an infection or the medication was started without professional advice.

If your veterinarian thinks infection is a possibility, but it has not resolved with these drugs, you should consider having him run a culture and sensitivity.  As long as antibiotics have been stopped for at least a week, the material from the needle aspirate can be cultured to determine the most appropriate antibiotic to use.  If the mass persists after appropriate treatment, I would recommend removal and biopsy.

If you are treating with antibiotics without a veterinarian’s advice, you may be causing more harm than good.  In both people and animals, antibiotics should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor.  When they are prescribed, you should use all of the medication as directed.  You should almost never have any pills left over.

Improper use of antibiotics at too low a dose, too short a time period, or from the wrong class of medication can create resistant bacteria that may harm you or your pets.  Using too much or the wrong type can damage the liver, kidneys, eyes, intestines, and other organs.  Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication.