Skin cancer is something that every pet parent should be aware of when it comes to caring for their dogs. The signs and symptoms of some of the most common skin cancers in dogs are described below by our Vancouver veterinarians.
Finding a Suspicious Lump on Your Dog
The majority of lumps and bumps you find on your dog are not cancerous. Skin cancer is relatively common in dogs, and early detection and treatment are critical for good outcomes, so if you notice a suspicious patch of skin or lump on your dog, you should consult your veterinarian.
Common Skin Cancers in Dogs
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in dogs. Older dogs, such as dalmatians, beagles, whippets, and white bull terriers, are more likely to develop this type of cancer. These tumors appear as raised wart-like patches or lumps on the dog's head, abdomen, lower legs, and back. Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by exposure to the sun, but the papillomavirus has also been linked to this type of cancer.
Although most melanomas are benign, they can be malignant and pose a serious health risk to your dog. Melanomas appear as raised bumps that are darkly pigmented or not. Malignant melanomas are cancerous tumors that grow quickly and spread to other organs in dogs. They are most commonly found around the nail bed, lips, and mouth. Male dogs are more likely to develop malignant melanoma than female dogs, and both schnauzers and Scottish terriers have a higher risk of developing cancer.
Mast Cell Tumors (MCT)
Mast cell tumors are responsible for about 20% of all skin tumors in dogs. These tumors can appear anywhere on the body and take on a variety of shapes and sizes. Some mast cell tumors resemble innocuous little lumps, while others resemble angry or ulcerated lumps or masses. This type of skin cancer is most commonly diagnosed in dogs between the ages of 8 and 10, with breeds like boxers, pugs, Rhodesian ridgebacks, and Boston terriers having a higher risk.
Diagnosing Skin Cancer in Dogs
If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has skin cancer, he or she may perform a fine needle aspiration to obtain a small sample of the tumor's cells for examination, or a biopsy to obtain a sample of the tumor's tissue for examination. The samples taken by your veterinarian will be sent to a lab for analysis to provide an accurate diagnosis of your dog's condition. Additional diagnostic testing may be required to determine the extent of cancer in your dog's body after the initial diagnosis. Additional testing can help to improve treatment recommendations and predict prognosis more accurately.
Treating Skin Cancer in Dogs
Cancer in dogs can be treated with a variety of therapies or combinations of therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, or palliative care when necessary.
The type of cancer, the location of the tumor, and the stage of cancer will all influence the prognosis and treatment options for dogs. Many dogs diagnosed with early-stage skin cancers can be successfully treated and go on to live active lives.
Monitoring Your Dog's Health
Early detection and treatment are critical for good treatment outcomes in dogs with skin cancer. During regular grooming sessions, pay attention to your dog's skin condition. Take the time to get to know all of your dog's lumps, bumps, and rashes.
Wellness examinations twice a year at your dog's primary care veterinary clinic allow your veterinarian to monitor your dog's overall health and look for unusual lumps and bumps.
Consult your veterinarian if you notice an unusual lump on your dog's body or swelling around his toes. It's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your canine companion's health.
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.