What Causes Skin Cancer In Dogs
The causes of any cancer are usually tough to determine. Mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinomas, and other tumors are caused by cell damage, which accumulates over the years and increases your pets risk gradually.
Unsurprisingly, skin cancers are often associated with damage to the skin, though not usually the damage that comes with normal bumps and bruises. Malignant melanoma is usually associated with exposure to the sun, for example. There may be no one event that can be pointed to as the reason a dog may get skin cancer.
Statistically, dogs between 6 and 10 years of age are the most likely to develop one of several kinds of skin cancers. Cancer is generally rarer in a younger pet. On the other end of the scale, a malignant tumor would already have grown on an older dogs skin if it was going to.
Risk factors can include a variety of things, for example:
- Exposure to chemicals.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs And Symptoms
This type of cancer is usually found on sun-exposed areas of the skin like the scalp, forehead, face, nose, neck and back.
Basal cell carcinomas may bleed after a minor injury but then scab and heal. This can happen over and over for months or years with no visible growth, making it easy to mistake them for wounds or sores. They rarely cause pain in their earliest stages.
In addition to the bleeding and healing, these are other possible signs of a basal cell cancer:
- A persistent open sore that does not heal and bleeds, crusts or oozes.
- A reddish patch or irritated area that may crust or itch.
- A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or translucent and often pink, red or white. It can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and easy to confuse with a mole.
- A pink growth with a slightly elevated, rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. Tiny blood vessels may appear on the surface as the growth enlarges.
- A scar-like lesion in an area that you have not injured. It may be white, yellow or waxy, often with poorly defined borders. The skin seems shiny and tight sometimes this can be a sign of an aggressive tumor.
Clinical Trials For Dogs With Skin Cancer
Since many of the same treatments that work on humans also work on dogs, advances in medical science have benefited our furry friends. While still being researched, there are a few treatments that have been effective.
Cancer cells started out as regular dog cells, and as a result, the dogs body has a hard time telling them apart. A tumor can also suppress your dogs immune system.
Immunotherapy focuses on supporting the dogs immune system and helping it target the cancer cells . At the moment, immunotherapies are still being evaluated for dogs. Its pretty cutting edge and may not be available everywhere and limited to only a few types of cancer, including melanomas.
It may seem a little mad scientist, but adding electric shocks actually does help. In some cases, chemotherapy treatments can be combined with electric shocks . As a result, the barrier that divides cancer cells from the rest of the body and can block the chemotherapy drugs becomes more permeable.
This treatment has found some success with mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
What Are Skin Metastases
Skin metastases are secondary breast cancers that form on or just below the skin.
Secondary breast cancer happens when cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Sometimes breast cancer cells can spread to the skin. This can happen through the blood or lymphatic system.
The most common sites affected are the areas near where the original breast cancer was for example the skin of the chest wall or around the surgical scar. Less commonly, skin metastases can occur on other areas of skin, such as on the scalp, neck, abdomen, back and upper limbs.
About a fifth of people with secondary breast cancer will develop skin metastases.
This is not the same as having cancer that starts in the skin. The cells that have spread to the skin are breast cancer cells.
Its also different to local recurrence, which is when primary breast cancer has come back in the chest or breast area, or in the skin near the original site or scar.
Diagnosing Skin Cancer In Dogs
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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Tracking Changes To Your Skin With An App
Some people find it helpful to photograph areas of their skin such as the back or individual lesions to be able to better spot any future changes.
Over the past years, smartphone apps that can help consumers track moles and skin lesions for changes over time have become very popular and can be a very helpful tool for at-home skin checks.
This page does not replace a medical opinion and is for informational purposes only.
Please note, that some skin cancers may look different from these examples. See your doctor if you have any concerns about your skin.
It might also be a good idea to visit your doctor and have an open talk about your risk of skin cancer and seek for an advice on the early identification of skin changes.
* Prof. Bunker donates his fee for this review to the British Skin Foundation , a charity dedicated to fund research to help people with skin disease and skin cancer.
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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.
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Types Of Skin Malignancies:
- Melanoma the least common form of skin cancer, but responsible for more deaths per year than squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers combined. Melanoma is also more likely to spread and may be harder to control.
- Nonmelanoma malignancies:
These skin malignancies are typically caused by ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun and tanning beds.
Where Does Skin Cancer Develop
Skin cancer is most commonly seen in sun-exposed areas of your skin your face , ears, neck, arms, chest, upper back, hands and legs. However, it can also develop in less sun-exposed and more hidden areas of skin, including between your toes, under your fingernails, on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet and in your genital area.
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Who Gets Skin Cancer And Why
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. Exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment, and even heredity may play a role. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
Spotting Other Types Of Skin Cancer
While “the big three” are the most common types of skin cancer, they’re not the only ones you should be aware of.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
“After ‘the big three,’ the next skin cancer you think about is Merkel cell carcinoma,”Doris Day, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and a spokesperson for the Skin Cancer Foundation, tells Allure. While it’s pretty uncommon about 40 times rarer than melanoma Day says it’s deadlier. Merkel cell carcinoma kills one in three patients , according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
This type of cancer is incredibly hard to spot, which explains why it’s so deadly. “Merkel cell can be tricky to diagnose because it doesn’t always present the same way it can look like a cyst or just a little red bump, and it can occur anywhere on the body,” says Day. “This is one of the reasons why it’s super important to see a board-certified dermatologist for skin checks.”
Merkel cell carcinomas typically don’t occur in people under 50, but recent data suggests that could change. As wepreviously reported, rates of Merkel cell are estimated to be rising six times faster than other types of skin cancer something seriously concerning to dermatologists, given how aggressive this type of cancer can be. “If a Merkel cell is not treated, it’s certainly deadlier than a melanoma,” says McNeill.
For these types of skin issues, a dermatologist would refer you to a specialist in treating that specific cancer.
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Burn Like Rash On Skin
The rash may look like a patch on your chest, back, or abdomen. The rash may spread to become small, red, cone-shaped bumps that usually grow in groups. How is an acute rash diagnosed? Your healthcare provider may know what kind of rash you have by looking at it. Tell him or her when and where the rash first appeared.
How Often Should You Check For Skin Cancer
Yearly skin exams are typically recommended as a preventative measure, says Dr. Crutchfield. In addition to a head-to-toe exam, they can also take photos of any suspicious moles.
A monthly skin-check at home is recommended to check for new lesions or to monitor any changes in atypical moles. Do the skin-check by standing naked in front of a full-length mirror, in a room with good lighting, holding a hand mirror, says Dr. King. . Get a friend or partner to do a check of hard to see places like your back.
Bottom line: There are many types of skin cancer, each of which can look different person to personso go see your doc if you notice any marks on your skin that are new or changing or worrisome.
When it comes to reviewing skin cancer pictures and identifying the big C, Dr. Crutchfields best advice is see spot, see spot change, see a dermatologist.
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Medical Treatment For Skin Cancer
Surgical removal is the mainstay of therapy for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. For more information, see Surgery.
People who cannot undergo surgery may be treated by external radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is the use of a small beam of radiation targeted at the skin lesion. The radiation kills the abnormal cells and destroys the lesion. Radiation therapy can cause irritation or burning of the surrounding normal skin. It can also cause fatigue. These side effects are temporary. In addition, a topical cream has recently been approved for the treatment of certain low-risk nonmelanoma skin cancers.
In advanced cases, immune therapies, vaccines, or chemotherapy may be used. These treatments are typically offered as clinical trials. Clinical trials are studies of new therapies to see if they can be tolerated and work better than existing therapies.
What Kind Of Treatment Will I Need
There are many ways to treat melanoma. The main types of treatment are:
Most early stage melanomas can be treated with surgery alone. More advanced cancers need other treatments.
The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The stage of the cancer
- The results of lab tests on the cancer cells
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the melanoma or help in some way
- Your age
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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.
Skin Cancer That Looks Like A Pimple
While there are multiple forms of this disease, the skin cancer that most looks like a pimple is basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type. Especially in its earliest stages, basal cell carcinoma may appear as a tiny red bump that could bleed or puss, but instead of healing post eruption, it will hold on and continue to grow.
There is a chance that early melanoma could resemble a pimple, though this is less likely. Melanoma is most commonly brown or black and looks like a mole. Some melanomas, though, can start off as a dark red color, but are likely to have an irregular border that differs from the circular form of pimples.
If you are concerned about whether a bump on your skin is a pimple or skin cancer, the best action method is to schedule a checkup with your dermatologist. A trained physician will be able to determine the source of your ailment and come up with a treatment plan.
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When To See A Doctor About Skin Cancer
Many people, especially those who have fair coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, should periodically check their entire body for suggestive moles and lesions.
Have your primary healthcare professional or a skin specialist check any moles or spots that concern you.
See your healthcare professional to check your skin if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or texture of pigmented areas .
If you have skin cancer, your skin specialist or cancer specialist will talk to you about symptoms of metastatic disease that might require care in a hospital.
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What Does Melanoma Look Like
Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in melanocytes . Below are photos of melanoma that formed on the skin. Melanoma can also start in the eye, the intestines, or other areas of the body with pigmented tissues.
Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, size, or feel of an existing mole. However, melanoma may also appear as a new mole. People should tell their doctor if they notice any changes on the skin. The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells.
Thinking of “ABCDE” can help you remember what to look for:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half does not match the other half.
- Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
- Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
- Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea .
- Evolving: The mole has changed over the past few weeks or months.
Melanomas can vary greatly in how they look. Many show all of the ABCDE features. However, some may show changes or abnormal areas in only one or two of the ABCDE features.
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What To Look For
Signs that you have AKs are often subtle. AKs usually begin as a patch of rough-feeling skin. When rubbed, the rough patch may feel painful. The following images show you what AKs typically look like.
Actinic keratosis often form on the face
AKs tend to be dry, scaly, and pink or red patches on the skin.
Actinic keratosis are common on the backs of the hands
AKs form on skin thats received lots of sun over the years. This patients many age spots and AKs indicate lots of sun exposure. Arrows point to the AKs, which are the reddish pink spots.
Actinic keratosis may be covered with scale
AKs can appear as white, scaly, wart-like growths on the skin, as seen here on this patients hand.
Actinic keratosis usually develop on the face, hands, or bald scalp
While many AKs are red or pink, some appear as brown spots. This man has a brownish AK. Its the spot you see on his nose.
Some actinic keratosis look like age spots
These brown patches, which could be mistaken for age spots, are AKs. Unlike age spots, AKs tend to feel rough.
Actinic keratosis can form on the lip
A white, rough-feeling patch on your lip could be an AK. When an AK forms on the lip, the lips often feel extremely dry and may crack easily. Its especially important to see a dermatologist if you notice any of these changes to your lip.
An actinic keratosis can look like a horn