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Can dogs get skin cancer?

Can dogs get skin cancer?

Skin cancer likely isn't something that you think about when considering your dog's health. However, skin cancer is a very real concern in our canine companions. Here are 3 skin cancers that our vets commonly see in dogs.

I've found a discolored lump of skin on my dog, is it skin cancer?

Finding a discolored lump or patch of skin on your dog is bound to make you worry that your pet may have skin cancer. But it's important for to keep in mind that not all lumps are cancerous, and those that are cancerous are often treatable if spotted early.

If you've found something suspicious on your dog's skin, call your vet to book an examination for your pooch. Remember that when it comes to your pet's health, it's always better to err on the side of caution. Early detection and treatment are the key to good treatment outcomes. 

Which skin cancers are the most common in dogs?

When it comes to dog skin cancer there are 3 particular cancers our vets see most often; squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, and mast cell tumors.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Skin squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of skin cancer in dogs, particularly older pets. These tumors appear as raised wart-like patches that are firm to the touch, and are typically found on the dog's abdomen, lower legs, rear, or head. While sun exposure may be a contributing factor in the development of squamous cell carcinoma, the papilloma virus has also been linked to this form of cancer. Breeds which appear to face a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma include white  bull terriers, Dalmatians, beagles, and whippets.

Malignant Melanoma

Melanomas appear as raised bumps which can be dark-pigmented (but not always) and are frequently found around the dog's nail bed, and mouth. Although the majority of melanomas are benign they can be malignant. Malignant melanomas pose a serious threat to your dog's health and require urgent treatment! Malignant melanomas are fast growing and can quickly spread to other organs. These tumors are more often seen in male dogs than female dogs, and certain breeds such as schnauzers and Scottish terriers also face an increased risk of developing this form of skin cancer.

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors occur in the mast cells of the dog's immune system and can appear anywhere on your dog skin or elsewhere in the body. Some of the most common places for mast cell tumors to be found are on a dog's chest, limbs, and lower abdomen. This form of skin cancer is typically diagnosed in dogs between 8 -10 years of age. Breeds that face an increased risk of developing mast cell tumors include: boxers, pugs, Rhodesian ridgebacks, and Boston terriers.

How is skin cancer diagnosed in dogs?

To diagnose skin cancer, your vet may perform a fine needle aspiration 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. Samples of the tumor 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 medical condition.

Following your dog's diagnosis of skin cancer, your vet may recommend additional diagnostic testing to help determine the extent of your dog's cancer as well as to optimize treatment and provide you with a more accurate prognosis. 

What treatments are available for skin cancer in dogs?

Dogs's diagnosed with skin cancer in the early stages can often be treated successfully and go on to live full active lives.

Skin cancer in dogs can be treated with a number of different therapies or treatment combinations, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies. When it comes to the prognosis and treatment for skin cancer in dogs, options will depend on a number of factors, including the type of tumor, the tumor's location, and how advanced the cancer is, as well as how old your pet is, and your pup's overall health.

As part of your dog's care, the oncologist will work closely with you, your primary care vet, and other veterinary specialists to achieve the best treatment results possible for your pet. Compassionate palliative care is also available for pets when treatment isn't possible.

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.

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