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Do Dogs Get Skin Cancer

How Will My Vet Diagnose Skin Cancer

Treat Your Dogs Skin Cancer At Home [DIY Remedies and Care]

Your vet may suggest blood tests, blood samples and X-rays to help them make an accurate diagnosis. If your vet suspects the lump on your dog is skin cancer, he or she will recommend taking a biopsy to establish whether the growth or tumour is cancerous or non-cancerous, and to decide on the best treatment.

They may also recommend an MRI or ultrasound scan to see how far the disease has spread, and to determine your dogs general health .

The science bit a biopsy is a small sample of tissue removed from the body for examination under a microscope. The results of the biopsy can help to determine whether a lump is cancerous.

What Breeds Of Dogs Get Skin Cancer

Perhaps due to genetic risk factors, some breeds of dogs are more prone to some forms of cancer. Weve already listed some of the breeds that are more likely to develop one type of skin cancer or another.

In general, however, purebred dogs are more likely to develop some type of cancer in their lifetimes . Due to the breeding process, undesirable attributes like being prone to cancer become more likely.

Dogs with light-colored fur or no fur can also be prone to developing malignant melanomas, for example, Bull Terriers. With less fur comes less protection against UV radiation. However, some dogs are at an increased risk even if they have dark fur, such as Schnauzers and Scottish Terriers.

Early Warning Signs Of Cancer In Dogs

What can we do? As a pet parent, providing a good diet, daily exercise, and regular check-ups are the way to maintain a healthy dog. As your dog ages, keep an eye out for the top 10 cancer warning signs and regularly check over your dog for unusual lumps, bumps, and growths between vet visits to significantly improve chances of spotting a potential problem before it gets out of hand.

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss

National Canine Cancer Foundation

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A Lot Of People Think Dogs Dont Need Shielding From The Suns Uv Rays But Sunburn And Even Skin Cancer Can Occur In Canines That Get Too Much Sunlight Find Out How To Protect Your Pooch

When Yvonnes dog developed a strange sore on his nose, she never dreamed it would be skin cancer. I didnt think dogs needed protection from the sun, but I soon learned I was wrong, Yvonne says.

Whenever you take your dog outdoors, hell be exposed to the suns harmful ultraviolet rays. While most dogs have hair that acts as a natural sunscreen, frequent or prolonged sun exposure will eventually take its toll. Dogs have sensitive skin, and even 30 minutes of sun can result in a burn in some breeds. Sunburn in a dog can appear as red skin or even hair loss.

Dogs most at risk are working canines and those subjected to lots of sun exposure during family activities such as boating and hiking. All hairless breeds and dogs that have been clipped should be kept out of the sun as much as possible. Breeds such as terriers, spaniels, Chihuahuas, Doberman pinschers and other short-haired dogs, as well as all breeds with white or pink skin, are at high risk for sunburn.

Diagnosing Skin Cancer In Dogs

Vet Board: Does my dog have skin cancer?

Dog skin cancer is diagnosed by examining the cells of the skin tumor or lesion. Your veterinarian may perform a procedure called a fine needle aspiration, which takes a small sample of cells, or a biopsy, which removes a small portion of the tumor tissue or lesion by surgical incision. These samples are usually sent away to pathology for evaluation in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

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What Causes This Type Cancer

The reason why a particular dog may develop this, or any cancer, is not straightforward. Very few cancers have a single known cause. Most seem to be caused by a complex mix of risk factors, some environmental and some genetic or hereditary.

As with SCC in humans, exposure to ultraviolet rays/sunlight has been attributed to the development of these tumors. Exposure to papilloma-like viruses appears to contribute to multicentric SCC in the mouth and other areas of the skin where squamous cells are present.

Certain breeds are known to have an increased incidence of SCC, including Scottish Terriers, Pekingese, Boxer Dogs, Poodles, and Norwegian Elkhounds. SCC of the skin is also more common in dogs that are sparsely haired and have light-colored hair and skin . In contrast, large-breed dark-coated dogs are more prone to SCC of the toes .

The 5 Most Common Cancer Types In Dogs Are:

  • Mast Cell Tumors. Mast cell tumors are a form of skin cancer. Mast cells are cells that reside in the connective tissues, especially the vessels and nerves that are close to the external surface of your dog . Mast cell tumors are graded according to their location in the skin, presence of inflammation and how well they are differentiated.
  • Melanoma. Melanoma is a common type of cancer in dogs and is the most common malignant tumor of a dogs mouth. Skin tumors are among the most common tumors found in dogs and many are benign.
  • Lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer of a type of blood cell and lymphoid tissues. Lymphoid tissue is normally present in many places in the body, including lymph nodes, spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow.
  • Bone Cancer . Osteosarcoma refers to the most common bone tumor found in dogs. Bone cancer can affect any breed of dog, but it is more commonly found in the larger breeds.
  • Hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma is a highly malignant cancer that can spread rapidly, causing tumors almost anywhere in the body. It is most often found in the dogs heart and spleen. Many times it is in the advanced stage before it is diagnosed.

If you have any questions about cancer in dogs, please give us a call. Learn more about Fetch and the veterinary oncology services offered for dogs and cats.

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Lumps & Bumps On Your Dog

If you’ve discovered a lump or discolored patch of skin on your furry friend you’re bound to be worried about cancer. That said, it’s important for pet parents to remember that not all lumps and bumps are cancerous, and for those that are cancerous many are treatable if detected early.

If you have found something suspicious on your dog, contact your vet to book an examination for your dog. Successful treatment outcomes depend in large part upon the very earliest detection!

Preventing Skin Cancer In Dogs

How To Detect Dog Skin Cancer

Some types of diseases are preventable, while others are not. As in humans, many cancers are the result of a genetic predisposition. In other cases, cancer is the result of a variety of factors coming together in an unlucky configuration, but there are a few things you can do to lower your dogs risk.

The risk factor most in your control is exposure to sunlight. If you have a light-skinned, short-haired dog breed, limiting your dogs exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the peak daylight hours, may help lower his risk of skin cancer.

The most important thing you can do to help your dog avoid skin cancer, however, is to familiarize yourself with all your dogs lumps, bumps, and rashes, perhaps during your daily grooming routine, and consult your veterinarian if you notice anything suspicious.

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How To Care For A Dog With Skin Cancer

It may go without saying, but the best way to care for a dog with skin cancer is to take it to a veterinarian. As weve discussed, the treatments can be pretty aggressive. A veterinarian has the training and experience to apply them in an effective way.

There are some alternative treatments that people recommend. Discussing options with a vet is, again, probably the best way to go. You can also do some things to make your furry friend more comfortable, both before and after treatment.

What Are The Signs Of Scc

Typically, these lesions are found in light-skinned areas and can be highly variable in their appearance. It may look like a small area of irritated, red, or ulcerated skin. Alternatively, there could be plaques or crusts that develop over the region. SCC lesions of the toe or nail bed tend to be red, irritated, bothersome, and ulcerated. Dogs may even lose nails on the affected toes.

Lesions of the skin or nose may become dry, irritated, and bothersome for your pet. The lesion may get larger, spread, and ulcerate which can be very painful as well. Your pet should not be allowed to scratch, lick, or bite the area.

SCC of the toe can be very painful. Your pet may be reluctant to go for walks, and you may notice blood on the floor or on your dogs toes. Your dog may attempt to lick or chew the affected toe aggressively and you may notice missing toe nails. These lesions are typically painful, and your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications. Secondary infection is also possible for which antibiotics may be required.

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The Skin Cancer That’s Common In Pets But Not People

Mast cells play a role in allergic responses they are responsible for the itching, swelling and redness in your skin when you come in contact with an allergen. In dogs, the most common malignant skin tumor is the mast cell tumor. Although dogs and cats who suffer from allergies are not more prone to developing mast cell skin tumors, certain breeds of dogs including LabradorRetrievers, Boxers, Pugs and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to developing this type of tumor.

All pet owners need to be vigilant about unusual skin masses, but any dog owner should be especially concerned about raised, hairless, pinkish-yellow masses, which could be mast cell tumors. Pugs are especially prone to simultaneously developing multiple mast cell tumors sometimes as many four or five pinhead-sized masses in various locations on their bodies. Lucky for these popular dogs, the tumors can be removed successfully via surgery.

Mast cell tumors in cats look very similar to those in dogs. Because mast cells induce itching, swelling and redness, mast cell tumors may be red, itchy and periodically swell up and then disappear only to return again a few days later. This often confuses pet owners, who think because the mass disappears it cant possibly be cancer.

What Treatment Is Available If My Dog Is Diagnosed With Skin Cancer

Does my dog have skin cancer?

Many dogs diagnosed with skin cancers in their early stages can be treated successfully and go on to live full active lives.

Cancer can be treated with several different therapies or treatment combinations, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies or palliative care when appropriate. When it comes to the prognosis and treatment for cancer in dogs, options will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of tumor, the tumor’s location, how advanced the cancer is.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Huntersville, our team of veterinary specialists is dedicated to providing the best care and treatment to sick pets. As part of your dog’s comprehensive care, our team will work closely with other veterinary specialists.

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Protect Your Pets From Skin Cancer

While fur protects skin from the sun to an extent, dogs and cats can get sunburned, and they can develop skin cancer, too.

My sisters white cat, Prince, persuaded me to learn more about this topic. I was visiting my sis this summer to see her new house in Colleyville, Texas, which features a screened porch that gets direct sun in the afternoon.

I noticed that Prince , who was frail and having some health problems, loved to lounge in the hot sun on the porch, which maybe soothed his aches and pains. One afternoon I observed that his ears looks bright red and was concerned he might be getting sunburned. We brought him inside and within a few hours, his ears seemed to be OK. But it raised some questions.

Factors Causing Skin Cancer


Sunlight is a major factor in the cause of skin cancer in many dogs. Short-haired or light-haired dogs dont have much protection when theyre outside playing under the sunny sky. Even dogs with a good coat of fur have places on their body that are less protected, such as their nose or belly.


There is a large genetic factor that plays a role to determine if your dog will develop skin cancer, so do your research to see if your dogs breed is more susceptible.

Compulsive Licking

Its believed that compulsive licking can cause cells to reproduce faster increasing the likelihood of cancer-causing mutations. If your dog is suffering from hotspots that are causing itchiness and irritation, consider using an oatmeal bath or cooling sprays to help reduce his need to lick.


Some viruses, such as the papillomavirus can cause squamous cell carcinomas. Papillomavirus causes warts around the mouth of your dog and is transmitted through contact of the infected saliva.

Secondhand Smoke

Its well documented that smoking is bad for the human body, but secondhand smoke can also be dangerous for your dog! Secondhand smoke has been associated with oral squamous cell carcinoma in dogs.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer In Dogs

Only your vet can confirm whether a lump, bump, sore or lesion on your dogs skin is skin cancer, so get your dog to your local vet clinic for a thorough check up if you spot any of the following:

wart-like growths on the skin, between 2mm and 1cm acrossyellow, brown or black in colour particularly on the face, eyelids or head

  • Loss of hair around the growth
  • Itchiness and irritation
  • Sores that wont heal
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Bleeding or ulceration

The Stages Of Dog Cancer

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Staging of cancer helps your veterinarian identify if the cancer has spread to other locations in the body, which can change both the prognosis and appropriate treatment plan.

A variety of staging systems exist depending on the type of cancer, so you cant really define each stage in general. However, many cancers are staged using the TNM system.

The TNM system was adapted for dogs from the World Health Organization cancer-staging system used for people.

Each subcategory of the TNM system helps identify the aggressiveness of the cancer:

  • T: Tumor size. How big is the tumor, and is it invading other vital structures in the immediate vicinity of the tumor?

  • N: Lymph Nodes. Identifies whether the cancer is also in the bodys lymphatic system. Is it in just the local lymph nodes or has it spread to lymph nodes further away? The further the spread, the worse the prognosis.

  • M: Metastasis. Identifies if the cancer has spread to other organs in the body. Any spread to new organs worsens the prognosis.

In general, once cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it can be more difficult to treat effectively with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Therefore, cancers that have spread from the original tumor to lymph nodes or other parts of the body are ranked higher in staging system, which means a worse prognosis.

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Wounds That Wont Heal

A particularly aggressive form of cancer known as the mast cell tumor, may present as a skin lesion that just wont resolve.

This cancer affects mast cells, which are immune cells involved in allergic and inflammatory reactions. These cells are located throughout the body, but tumors tend to concentrate in the vessels and nerves near the skin, mouth and nose.

Less commonly, the gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary systems may be targeted.

Abnormal growth of these cells causes an uncontrolled release of histamine, irritating the area surrounding the tumor.

Mast cell tumors are most common in older, purebred dogs, including the Boxer, Boston Terrier, Bulldog and Schnauzer.

What Exactly Is Dog Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a serious health concern resulting from a disruption in the normal process of skin cell growth. It’s important to note that not only do the quickly developing skin cells need to be abnormal, but they also have to be the cells multiplying at a rapid rate. When skin cells start to multiply at a rate so rapid the body cannot control the behavior of the cells, the cancerous cells slowly but surely begin outnumbering the healthy ones. Since the harmful activity takes place in layers of your dog’s skin, it is considered skin cancer, just as cancer of other organs would be cancer of that respective part of the body.

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Prevention Is The Best Treatment

The best form of protection is early detection, says Dr. Moore. Perform weekly exams at home familiarizing yourself with all of your dogs lumps and bumps. If you find something new, or a lump that has grown, make an appointment to have it checked with your veterinarian.

Limiting sun exposure helps reduce solar induced skin cancers in dogs or cats that are lightly pigmented, Dr. Moore advises. Using sun protectants can also help reduce solar induced cancers. Unfortunately, genetic predispositions are unavoidable.

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Provide your dog with plenty of shade year-round in any place your dog likes to lay out in the sun. Invest in window treatments for your home and car. If your dog is hairless or has very short, light hair, consider dressing your dog in a sun protective shirt.

Since ocular melanoma is often malignant, have your dog try out a pair of Doggles ILS with 100-percent UV protection, for a day at the beach, on a boat or even lounging on the deck on a sunny day.If your dog is hairless or has a white or thin coat, or a light-pigmented nose and eyelids, applying sunscreen made especially for dogs will help prevent sunburn and skin cancer. Test out the sunscreen on a small area first and watch for any allergic reactions. Then apply carefully to skin thats most exposed to the sun, such as the nose, ears, inner thighs, etc. Dog sunscreen is available in different formulations, including spray, wipes, stick, and balm.


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