Although our canine companions are covered in fur skin cancer is still a very real health concern for dogs. If you have found an unusual bump on your dog's skin you're bound to be worried. Here our Long Island veterinary oncologist explains three types of skin cancer commonly seen in dogs.
Lumps & Bumps on Your Dog's Skin
If you've discovered a lump or discolored patch of skin on your four-legged friend you're bound to be worried about cancer, but it's important to remember that not all lumps and bumps are cancerous. For those that are cancerous many are treatable if detected early.
If you have found something suspicious on your dog's skin, contact your vet right away to book an examination for your dog. Successful treatment outcomes depend in large part upon the very earliest detection!
Types of Skin Cancer in Dogs
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Skin squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer in dogs. This dog skin cancer typically affects older animals and is often seen in 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 most often found on the dog's head, lower legs, rear, and abdomen. Exposure to the sun may be a cause of squamous cell carcinoma, however, there could also be a link to papillomavirus.
- Melanomas are raised bumps that can be dark-pigmented (but not always) and are frequently found around the dog's lips, mouth and nail bed. Most melanomas are benign however they can be malignant. Malignant melanomas are a very serious health threat. These tumors grow quickly and have a high risk of spreading to other organs. Schnauzers and Scottish Terriers appear to face an increased risk of developing melanoma, and male dogs are more at risk than females.
Mast Cell Tumors
- Mast cell tumors occur in the mast cells of the immune system and are very common in dogs. These tumors can grow anywhere on the skin, and even on the dog's internal organs. That said, some of the most common sites for mast cell tumors to appear are on the limbs, lower abdomen, and chest. This form of skin cancer can occur in any breed but is most often seen in Boxers, Pugs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Boston Terriers between ages 8 -10 years old.
Diagnosing Dog Skin Cancers
To diagnose skin cancer in dogs, your vet may perform a fine needle aspiration in order to take a small sample of the tumor's cells to examine, or perform a biopsy in order to take a portion of the tumor's tissue for examination. These samples will be analyzed at a lab in order for your veterinarian to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your pup's condition.
In order to determine the extent of your dog's cancer additional diagnostic testing may be recommended. This can help to optimize treatment and give a more accurate prognosis for your pet.
Treatment for Skin Cancer in Dogs
Many early stage dog skin cancers can be treated successfully, allowing pets to continue living comfortable, happy lives for months or years to come.
Your dog's skin cancer treatment could include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies or palliative care when appropriate. When it comes to the prognosis and treatment for skin cancer in dogs, options will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of tumor, the tumor's location, how advanced your dog's cancer is.
Monitoring Your Pet's Health
Spotting the signs of skin cancer while the disease is still in the early stages is the key to good treatment outcomes. During your regular grooming routine familiarizing yourself with all your dog’s normal lumps, bumps, and rashes so that you can spot changes in your pup's skin right away.
Visiting your vet for routine wellness exams, even when your dog appears perfectly healthy, can help to catch skin cancers in the early stages.
Whenever you notice an unexplained or unusual lump or bump on your dog, or if you notice swelling around your dog's toes consult your vet right away. When it comes to your pet'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.