Many loving pet-parents don't think about skin cancer when it comes to their dogs. However, in spite of the fact that dogs are covered in fur, skin cancer is still a very real concern. Here are 3 skin cancers that our Huntersville oncology vet commonly sees in dogs.
Discovering A Lump on Your Dog
If you have found a lump or discolored patch of skin on your dog you're bound to be worried about cancer. That said, it's important to remember that not all lumps and bumps are cancerous, and for those that are cancerous many are treatable if spotted early. If you have found something suspicious on your dog, it's always best to err on the side of caution and take your dog to the vet for a full examination.
What types of skin cancer can dogs get?
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Skin squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer in dogs, and typically affects older animals. 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 papilloma virus. This form of cancer is frequently seen in Dalmatians, Beagles, Whippets, and white Bull Terriers.
Melanomas are raised bumps which are often dark-pigmented (but not always) and frequently found around the dog's lips, mouth and nail bed. While most melanomas are benign they can be malignant. Malignant melanomas are a serious threat to your dog's health. These tumors grow quickly and have a high risk of spreading to other organs. Male dogs are more at risk of melanomas than females and certain breeds such as Schnauzers and Scottish Terriers also face an increased risk.
Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors are another type of cancer commonly found in dogs. This cancer occurs in the mast cells of the dog's immune system. Mast cell tumors can grow anywhere on your dog’s skin, including internal organs however, some of the most common sites for mast cell tumors are on the limbs, lower abdomen, and chest. This form of skin cancer is most commonly diagnosed in dogs between ages 8 -10 years old. Some of the breeds facing an increased risk of developing this disease include: Boxers, Pugs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Boston Terriers.
How is skin cancer diagnosed in dogs?
To diagnose skin cancer in dogs, your vet may perform a fine needle aspiration in order to take a small sample of the turmor'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 sent to a lab to be analyzed, in order for your vet to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your dog's condition. To determine the extent of cancer in the body after the initial diagnosis, additional diagnostic testing can help to optimize treatment recommendations and more accurately predict prognosis.
What treatment is available if my dog is diagnosed with skin cancer?
Many dogs diagnosed with skin cancers in their early stages can be treated successfully and go on to live full active lives.
Cancer 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 for cancer in dogs, options will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of tumor, the tumor's location, how advanced the cancer is.
At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, our veterinary oncologist is dedicated to providing the best care and treatment to pets with cancer. As part of your dog's comprehensive care, our oncologist will work closely with other veterinary specialists.
Monitoring Your Dog's Health
Spotting the signs of skin cancer while the disease is still in the early stages is the key to good treatment outcomes. Familiarizing yourself with all your dog’s lumps, bumps, and rashes, during your regular grooming routine, as well as visiting your vet for routine wellness exams 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 veterinarian. When it comes to your pet's health it's always better to err on the side of caution.