Dogs have fur so they can’t get skin cancer. If this is the thought running through your mind, you aren’t alone. Until you have known a dog with skin cancer, you may not believe that it’s a possibility. The very real truth is that dogs are just as susceptible to skin cancers as humans. Skin cancer in dogs can easily be confused with a dog skin infection. Lumps and bumps are common in many breeds, causing owners to frequently ignore the spots. Skin cancer dogs can be successfully treated, but early detection is imperative.
Types of Skin Cancer Dogs
There are three common types of skin cancer in dogs. Malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumors are seen in all breeds of dog.
Malignant melanoma causes tumors that begin in pigmented cells. The tumors are only found in areas of the dog’s body that are covered with hair. These tumors grow quickly, easily spreading to internal organs. Skin cancer dogs that develop malignant melanoma may be genetically predisposed to the illness. Cells can also rapidly mutate due to excessive licking or trauma to a particular spot.
Squamous cell carcinoma is another type of skin cancer in dogs. This type of cancer is most often caused by sun exposure. These tumors do not typically spread to the internal organs, but the tumors do tend to destroy surrounding tissue.
Mast cell tumors are the most common seen in dogs. To date, veterinarians are not sure what causes these tumors to develop. It is thought that genetics are a factor, as are inflammation and irritants.
Signs of Skin Cancer in Dogs
Skin cancer dogs display symptoms that owners often confuse with dog skin infection. Tumors begin as spots that are similar to typical infections or irritations. Melanomas begin as red, black, brown or gray discolorations, often in the mouth, on the pads or in the toenail beds.
Squamous cell carcinomas are often confused with warts. They tend to appear on the abdomen or near the genitals. These tumors also occur on the feet, often causing dogs to limp with discomfort.
Mast cell tumors typically occur on the trunk of dogs’ bodies but can be found on the legs as well. These cancers are readily noticed after they have caused raised, sore areas on the body of a dog. These tumors tend to grow slowly, but aggressive tumors can grow quickly and ulcerate.
Treatment of Skin Cancer in Dogs
Your veterinarian can advise you when it comes to the best treatment for your dog. Most tumors can be excised surgically and, provided all of the margins are removed, no further action is necessary. Chemotherapy, radiation or steroids may accompany surgery. When your dog is diagnosed with skin cancer, it is important to follow the suggestions of your veterinarian.
Skin cancer is not a death sentence for dogs. Never be too embarrassed to take your dog to the vet if you think a spot or lump is suspicious. The sooner your dog is diagnosed, whether with a dog skin infection or cancer, the better the possible outcome. Find out more about Cancer in Dogs.