Skin Cancer & Your Dog
Our Winston-Salem vets understand that finding a lump or patch of discolored skin on your dog can be worrying, and immediately spark concerns that your dog may have cancer. But it’s important for pet parents to keep in mind that not all lumps are cancerous, and those that are cancerous many are treatable if detected early.
What Skin Cancer Looks Like on a Dog
Early stage dog skin cancer can be particularly challenging for pet parents to detect since tumors can appear as small lumps or bumps, but they also be hairless, discolored patches, rashes, or ulcers that stubbonely refuse to heal. The diverse nature of skin tumors means that identifying skin cancers should be left to a veterinarian.
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If you come across something suspicious on your dog’s skin, call your vet right away to book an examination for your pup. When it comes to your pet’s health, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. The early detection and treatment of serious diseases can often be the key to good treatment outcomes for our pets.
Common Dog Skin Cancers
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Three of the skin cancers that our vets commonly see in dogs are squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, and mast cell tumors. Each of these dog skin cancers has somewhat different symptoms, and tend to strike some breeds more than others.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer in our canine companions, particularly in senior dogs. Usually found on the dog’s abdomen, lower legs, rear, or head, these tumors appear as raised wart-like patches that are firm to the touch. Although sun exposure may be a contributing factor in the development of these tumors, the papilloma virus has also been linked to squamous cell carcinoma. Breeds at higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma include whippets, Dalmatians, white bull terriers, and beagles.
- Melanomas can frequently be found around the dog’s nail bed, and mouth and appear as raised bumps which can be the same color as the rest of your pup’s skin or dark-pigmented. Melanomas on dogs are often benign however they can be malignant. Malignant melanomas are a serious health concern and require urgent treatment! Malignant melanomas grow very fast and can quickly spread to your dog’s other organs. These tumors are more often seen in male dogs than female dogs, and breeds such as schnauzers and Scottish terriers face an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma.
Mast Cell Tumors
- Mast cell tumors affect the mast cells of the dog’s immune system and can appear anywhere in your dog’s body including the skin. These tumors are often found on the chest, limbs, and lower abdomen of dogs. This form of skin cancer is typically diagnosed in older dogs between 8 -10 years of age. Some breeds that may face an increased risk of developing mast cell tumors include: Boston terriers, pugs, Rhodesian ridgebacks, and boxers.
Diagnosing Dog Skin Cancer
To diagnose dog skin cancer, your vet will need a sample from the suspicious area. Samples may be taken using fine needle aspiration which takes a small sample of the turmor’s cells to examine, or a biopsy which will allow your vet to take a portion of the tumor’s tissue for examination. Your pup’s tissue samples will then be sent to a lab to be analyzed in order to provide an accurate diagnosis of your dog’s condition.
If skin cancer is confirmed, your vet may recommend additional diagnostic testing to help determine the extent of your dog’s cancer as well as to optimize treatment and provide you with a more accurate prognosis.
Treating Dog Skin Cancer
Early stage dog skin cancer can often be treated successfully and many pets go on to live full active lives.
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Dog skin cancer can treated with a number of different therapies or treatment combinations, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies.
The treatment that your vet recommends for your dog’s skin cancer will depend upon a number of factors, including the type, stage, and location of the tumor. The age and overall health of your pup will also play a role in treatment planning.
Our Winston-Salem veterinary oncology services are designed to provide the best possible care and treatment to pets with cancer. As part of your pet’s cancer care, our vets will work closely with you and other veterinary specialists to achieve the best treatment results possible for your pet.
Compassionate palliative care for pets, and grief counseling for pet parents are is also available when treatment sadly isn’t possible.
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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.