Dogs Get Skin Cancer Too

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, but it isn’t just humans that can get skin cancer.  Dogs can get skin cancer too.  You might ask yourself, how can my dog get skin cancer when he is covered with hair and protected from the sun?  Even though most dogs are covered with hair, they can still get skin cancer.  Malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumors are three of the most common types of dog skin cancers.

Malignant melanoma is a type of dog skin cancer that may develop anywhere but is commonly found in the mouth, toes, behind the eyes or on the skin of dogs.  This type of dog cancer can be benign or malignant.  Melanoma affects pigmented cells known as melanocytes.  Skin melanomas are usually benign.

Tumors found in the mouth, toes, or eyes are usually malignant.  The tumors are usually solitary and are brown to black in appearance and can be very small up to 2.5 inches in diameter.

Increased salivation and saliva streaked with blood, bad mouth odor, and difficulty eating with weight loss are symptoms of oral melanomas in dogs.  Oral melanomas can affect surrounding tissue and commonly spread to lymph nodes and lungs.

Oral malignant melanomas occur most frequently in older, smaller male dogs.  Breeds that are at risk are Scottish Terriers, Airdales, Boston Terriers, Cocker and Springer Spaniels, Boxers, Irish Setters and Irish Terriers, Chow Chows, Chihuahuas and Doberman Pinschers.

Black dogs are more likely to have malignant melanomas on the toe or in the toenail bed.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
Another type of dog skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.  This type of dog skin cancer occurs in the epidermis and is often caused by sun exposure.  Squamous cell cancers are aggressive but they don’t spread to surrounding lymph nodes.  They may lead to destruction of much of the tissue around the tumor.

These tumors are firm and are raised and look like a wart.  They are usually found on the abdomen and around the genitals.  They can occur on the feet, and if so they may be painful causing your dog to limp.

Keeshonds, Standard Schnauzers, Basset Hounds, Collies, Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, and Beagles are more likely to get squamous cell carcinomas.  They usually appear in dogs that are between six and ten years old.  Dogs with short coats and light skin are more likely to have squamous cell carcinomas.  If your dog is going to be outside in the sun you should put pet sun screen on the parts of his body that are exposed to the sun to help prevent him from getting a sunburn.

Mast Cell Tumors:
Mast cell tumors are the third type of skin cancers common in dogs.  They occur in the mast cells of the immune system and are the most common canine skin tumors.  It is not known what causes mast cell tumors to develop, but they have been linked to inflammation or irritants on the skin in some cases.  It is believed that genetic factors are important, and the hormones and estrogen and progesterone may also affect cancer growth.

These are rubber-like tumors and they grow slowly.  If they are more aggressive mast cell tumors they will grow fast and may ulcerate.  This will lead to the development of sore, inflamed areas on the dog’s body.  Mast cell tumors are usually found on the trunk of the body, but 25% of the time they are found on the legs.

Mast cell tumors are most commonly found in Boxers, but are also found in Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, and Schnauzers.




CBS News




Filed under: Cancer in Dogs

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