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A Pet Parent's Guide to Dog Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is relatively common in dogs and something pet parents should be on the lookout for. In today's post, you will find information on common skin cancers in dogs and the symptoms associated with each.

Common Skin Cancers in Dogs

Most lumps and bumps you find on your dog will not be as serious as cancer. However, any suspicious lumps you find should be examined by your veterinarian. Skin cancer is relatively common in our canine companions and early diagnosis and treatment are essential for good outcomes.

But if you need to be on the lookout for signs, you are likely asking yourself, "What does skin cancer look like on a dog?" 

Below we detail three of the most common skin cancers seen in dogs, and what they may look like.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The most common form of skin cancer in dogs is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This form of cancer typically affects older pets, particularly Dalmatians, beagles, whippets, and white bull terriers. These tumors appear as raised wart-like lumps that are firm to the touch and often 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.

Malignant Melanoma

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 often develop around the dog's nail bed, lips, and mouth. These tumors 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 aged 8 - 10 years, 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 to gather a small sample of the tumor's cells for examination. In other cases, a biopsy may be done to take a portion of the tumor's tissue for examination. The samples taken by your vet will be sent to a veterinary diagnostics lab for analysis. 

To determine the extent of cancer in your dog's body after the initial diagnosis, additional diagnostic testing may be required. This additional testing helps your vet determine the stage of your pet's cancer which can help in optimizing treatment and providing a more accurate diagnosis and prognosis.

Treating Skin Cancer in Dogs

Your dog's cancer treatment may involve multiple 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. 

Dog Skin Cancer Pictures

Not all skin cancers look like the pictures below. In fact, it is far better to catch and treat skin cancer in dogs before it reaches the stages seen in these images. Have your veterinarian examine even the smallest lumps and bumps that you find on your dog. We can not overstate the fact that the earlier your pet is diagnosed the better their prognosis is likely to be.

Monitoring Your Dog's Health

When it comes to skin cancer in dogs, good outcomes rely on early detection and treatment. Monitor 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 allow your vet to track your dog's general health over time and watch for usual or specious lumps and bumps that may develop.

If you notice anything suspicious on your dog's skin or swelling around your dog's toes, consult your veterinarian right away. 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.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, our board-certified veterinary surgeon provides advanced surgery to treat dogs with cancer. To learn more about how your pet can become one of our cherished patients. Contact our Huntersville veterinary team today.

Caring for Pets in Huntersville

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral. Our 24/7 emergency service accepts all clients.

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