Skin Cancer in Dogs
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What are the signs of cancer in a dog?
Even though dogs are often covered in fur, they can still develop skin cancer. While it may be a factor, sun exposure is not the only cause of skin cancer in dogs.
Unfortunately, a few different forms of skin cancer can affect dogs, and it is important for dog owners to recognize the possible signs of the disease in order to treat it as quickly as possible.
What is skin cancer in dogs?
Cancer develops when abnormal cells replicate in an uncontrolled way. These abnormal cells grow and sometimes form tumors on a dog's skin.
These tumors can spread to distant parts of the body (metastasize) and some forms of skin cancer can be fatal, which is why it is so important to identify and treat them as soon as they are found.
Signs of skin cancer in dogs
- A lump in or on the skin.
- A bleeding or oozing area on the skin
- A discolored area on the skin.
- Areas of the skin that are thickened or have an abnormal texture or appearance.
- The dog itches or licks excessively on an area of the skin
The most obvious sign that a dog may have skin cancer is a lump or growth on the skin. Small bumps may not be as easily seen as larger bumps, especially if they are on the hairy part of a dog.
But not all bumps are cancerous in dogs. A veterinary exam is necessary to determine if a particular lump is a problem.
Sometimes cancerous masses or skin lesions bleed or ooze and do not heal as a typical wound would. These parts of the skin may have this difficulty healing because they are full of cancer cells.
Cancerous areas can also cause a dog to be sore or itchy, which could cause it to excessively lick or itch in this area, causing further trauma and subsequent bleeding. At other times, an area of cancerous skin may become discolored, thick, or flake.
Types of skin cancer in dogs
There are many types of skin cancer in dogs. Some of the more common types include:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of cancer can be caused by exposure to the sun, but it can be the result of other causes that scientists do not fully understand. Squamous cell carcinomas can spread to surrounding tissues, but they usually do not invade the lymph nodes or internal organs.
- Malignant melanoma: This type of cancer involves the melanocytes in the skin that are responsible for creating the pigment or colored areas. These tumors generally occur in parts of a dog's body that do not have fur and can come in a variety of colors. Malignant melanoma can spread very quickly to other parts of the body, including internal organs.
- Melanocytomas: Also a type of melanoma, these tumors are benign, which means they do not spread. Melanocytomas generally occur on hairy parts of a dog's body.
- Mast Cell Tumors: The most commonly diagnosed type of malignant skin cancer in dogs, mast cell tumors (MCTs) are made up of mast cells. MCTs can come in a variety of appearances. There are different grades of mast cell tumors that carry different levels of risk for a dog. Lower grades of mast cell tumors are not as worrisome as higher grades that are aggressive and spread throughout the body.
- Grade 1 mast cell tumor: This is considered a low-grade mast cell tumor, and if the entire tumor is surgically removed, it is often curable.
- Grade 2 Mast Cell Tumor: This grade of MCT is more severe than grade 1, which can be a confusing grade of MCT because it will also be assigned something called a mitotic index that will give more information on how quickly the cells multiply. cancer cells. in the tumor. Low mitotic index grade 2 MCTs are often curable if they are completely removed with surgery as soon as they are discovered, but high mitotic index grade 2 MCTs tend to spread and may need additional chemotherapy or treatment after surgery. surgery.
- Grade 3 Mast Cell Tumor: The most concerning the level of MCT, a grade 3 spreads rapidly to other parts of the body, including internal organs. With aggressive treatment, a dog's prognosis remains fair.
Causes and risk factors of skin cancer in dogs
As in people, not all causes of skin cancer in dogs are fully understood, but there are some specific things that scientists know that contribute to a dog's likelihood of developing it.
- Sun Exposure: Areas of skin that are not protected by thick fur are more likely to develop some types of skin cancer, especially if that skin is light in color. These areas can be completely hairless or just have a short or thin coat of fur.
- Specific Dog Breeds: Vizslas, all sizes of Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, Airedale Terriers, Bay Retrievers, Scottish Terriers, Keeshonds, Labrador Retrievers, Bassett Hounds, Collies, Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, Beagles, Boxers, Pugs, and Boston Terriers can be all more likely to develop different types of skin cancers than other races.
- Black dogs: Dogs of this coat color seem to be more likely to develop malignant melanomas.
- Adult and Senior Dogs: As dogs mature, they develop cancer at higher rates than younger dogs.
Excessive licking or chewing: Because chronic inflammation can increase the risk of cancer, excessive licking or chewing of an area of skin can lead to (or be a symptom) of cancer.
Diagnosis of skin cancer in dogs
A veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog to look for abnormal growths or lesions on the skin. If one is discovered, they may recommend surgical removal, biopsy, or cell aspiration to diagnose whether or not it is skin cancer and, if so, what type of cancer it is.
The vet can look at the samples under the microscope and/or send them to a pathologist for identification. Recommendations for diagnostic tests may vary based on the location, size, sensation, and age of growth.
Treatment of skin cancer in dogs
Some skin cancers can be cured with complete surgical removal, but others require additional or other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and procedures or medications intended to improve quality of life. Treatment and prognosis will vary greatly depending on the type of skin cancer a dog is diagnosed with.
How to prevent skin cancer in dogs
Unfortunately, there is no good way to prevent all types of skin cancer. Limiting sun exposure can help decrease the chance of developing some types, but the root cause of cancer cells within the body is not always well understood.
Despite this, many people give antioxidants to their pets as they scavenge free radicals and can slow the development of cancer cells, but there is no guarantee that this will help. In the end, feeding a nutritious diet, providing plenty of exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to maximize your dog's chances of avoiding cancer.
Enjoy The Video Tutorial about Cancer on Your Dog's Paw or Skin, What You Need to Know
Source: Dr Sue Cancer Vet
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