When it comes to caring for our dogs, skin cancer is something that every pet parent should be on the lookout for. Below, our Mooresville vets share the signs and symptoms of some of the most common skin cancers in dogs.
Finding a Suspicious Lump on Your Dog
Most lumps and bumps that you find on your dog will not be as serious as cancer. However, skin cancer is relatively common in dogs and early diagnosis and treatment are essential for good outcomes, so it's important to see your vet if you do discover a suspicious patch of skin or lump on your dog.
Common Skin Cancers in Dogs
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The most common form of skin cancer in dogs is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This form of cancer typically affects older animals, particularly dalmatians, beagles, whippets, and white bull terriers. These tumors appear as raised wart-like patches or lumps that are firm to the touch and are typically found on the dog's head, abdomen, lower legs, and rear. While exposure to the sun may be a cause of squamous cell carcinoma, papillomavirus has also been linked to this form of cancer.
Most melanomas are benign, however, they can be malignant and pose a serious threat to your dog's health. Melanomas appear as raised bumps that may or may-not be dark-pigmented. Malignant melanomas are often found around the dog's nail bed, lips, and mouth and tend to grow quickly and spread to other organs. Male dogs are more at risk of this type of cancer than females, and both schnauzers and Scottish terriers are breeds that face an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma.
Mast Cell Tumors (MCT)
Mast cell tumors account for approximately 20% of all skin tumors in dogs. These tumors can appear on the skin anywhere on the body and have a variety of appearances. Some mast cell tumors look like relatively harmless little lumps while others may appear as angry or ulcerated lumps or masses. This form of skin cancer is most commonly diagnosed in dogs between ages 8 to 10 years old, with breeds such as boxers, pugs, Rhodesian ridgebacks, and Boston terriers facing an increased risk of the disease.
Diagnosing Skin Cancer in Dogs
If your vet suspects that your dog has skin cancer, they may perform a fine needle aspiration in order to take a small sample of the tumor's cells for examination or perform a biopsy in order to take a portion of the tumor's tissue to be examined. In order to provide an accurate diagnosis of your dog's condition, the samples taken by your vet will be sent to a lab for analysis. To determine the extent of cancer in your dog's body after the initial diagnosis, additional diagnostic testing may be required. Additional testing can help to optimize treatment recommendations and more accurately predict prognosis.
Treating Skin Cancer in Dogs
Cancer in dogs can be treated with several different therapies or treatment combinations, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies or palliative care when appropriate.
When it comes to the prognosis and treatment of cancer in dogs, options will depend on the type of cancer, the tumor's location, and how advanced the cancer is. Many dogs that have been diagnosed with early-stage skin cancers can be treated successfully and go on to live active lives.
Monitoring Your Dog's Health
When it comes to skin cancer in dogs, good treatment outcomes rely on early detection and treatment. Pay attention to the condition of your dog's skin during regular grooming sessions. Take the time to familiarize yourself with all your dog’s lumps, bumps, and rashes.
Twice yearly wellness examinations at your dog's primary care veterinary clinic give your vet the opportunity to monitor your dog's overall health and watch for usual or specious lumps and bumps.
If you notice an unusual lump on your dog or swelling around your dog's toes, consult your veterinarian. When it comes to your canine companion's health it's always better to err on the side of caution.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.