Skin cancer isn't something that most pet parents worry about when it comes to their dog, but skin cancer is still a very real health concern for our canine companions. Our Matthews oncology vets explain some skin cancers commonly sees in dogs.
Is it skin cancer?
Finding a lump, bump or discolored patch of skin on your pooch can be alarming, but it's important to remember that not all lumps and bumps will turn out to be cancerous, many are relatively harmless. Nonetheless, of those that are cancerous, many early-stage dog cancers can be successfully treated.
If you find 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 as soon as possible.
What types of skin cancer can dogs get?
Dogs are able to develop many of the same types of cancer as people, and treatment is similar also. Below are 3 of the most common skin cancers found in dogs.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Skin squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer in dogs. This form of dog skin cancer typically affects older animals and is often seen in Dalmatians, Beagles, Whippets, and white Bull Terriers. Squamous cell carcinoma appears as raised wart-like patches or lumps that are firm to the touch. These tumor are most often found on the dog's head, lower legs, rear, and abdomen. While sun exposure may be linked to squamous cell carcinoma, there could also be a link to papillomavirus.
- Melanomas appear as raised bumps which can be dark-pigmented (but not always) and are often found around the dog's lips, mouth and nail bed. Many melanomas are benign, however, they can be malignant. Malignant melanomas grow quickly, have a high risk of spreading to other organs, and are a serious threat to your dog's health. The risk of developing melanomas is higher in male dogs than females and certain breeds such as Schnauzers and Scottish Terriers also face an increased risk.
Mast Cell Tumors
- Mast cell tumors are a common cancer found in dogs and occurs in the mast cells of the dog's immune system. These tumors can grow anywhere on your dog’s skin or body, including the internal organs however, some of the most common sites for mast cell tumors are on the chest, limbs, and lower abdomen. This form of skin cancer is most commonly seen in dogs between ages 8 -10 years old and certain breeds, including Boxers, Pugs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Boston Terriers appear to be at an increased risk of developing this form of cancer.
How is skin cancer diagnosed in dogs?
If your vet suspects that your pup could have skin cancer they may perform a fine needle aspiration to take a small sample of the tumor's cells or perform a biopsy in order to take a portion of the tumor's tissue for examination. These samples are then sent to a lab to be analyzed, in order for your vet to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your dog's health condition. Following the initial diagnosis of skin cancer, additional diagnostic testing to determine the extent of cancer in the body, can help your veterinary oncologist to optimize treatment and more accurately predict prognosis.
Can dog skin cancers be treated?
Many dogs diagnosed with early-stage skin cancer can be treated successfully and go on to live full active lives.
Several different therapies or treatment combinations can be used to treat skin cancers in dogs, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies or palliative care when appropriate. Your dog's prognosis following a diagnosis of skin cancer depends on a number of factors, such as the type of tumor, the tumor's location, and how advanced the cancer is.
Our veterinary oncologist at Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Matthews, 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 and your primary care vet.
Monitoring Your Dog's Health
Detecting 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 twice yearly can help to catch skin cancers in the early stages.
If you notice an unexplained or unusual lump or bump on your dog, or if you notice swelling around your dog's toes contact your vet.