Skin cancer in dogs - Symptoms and treatment

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That your dog suffers from skin cancer or you think he may suffer from it is a very difficult situation, so we encourage you to take it in the most positive way possible, offering your best friend a lot of rest and affection.

In this AnimalWised article we will show you which are the most common skin tumors in dogs, their symptoms and main treatments. Cancer is a pathology that is associated with elderly dogs (although this is not always the case) and with certain breeds. It is not really known what causes it, so it is not possible to do a specific preventive treatment. It is only possible to recommend being attentive to any mass or inflammation that appears on the skin. Keep reading about skin cancer in dogs along with the symptoms and treatments that you should know.

You may also be interested in: Cancer in Dogs Index
  1. What is cancer?
  2. Is skin cancer common in dogs?
  3. Types of skin cancer in dogs
  4. Symptoms of skin cancer in dogs
  5. Diagnosis of skin cancer in dogs
  6. How to cure skin cancer in dogs? - Treatment

What is cancer?

Cancer, tumor or neoplasm is a pathology at the cellular level. Although they are words that are used synonymously, they do not mean exactly the same thing. The cells of any living being have a life span, they are damaged and when they die they are replaced by new cells. In cancer this process is broken down and the cells are damaged and aged divide uncontrollably.

It can be defined as a uncontrolled process of cell division, which may have the ability to invade other tissues. If cancer cells clump together, they can form a mass of tissue known as tumors or neoplasms. Any cell of any tissue can undergo this process.

Cancers are divided into 2 large groups: the benign and the evil. The first are those that can have a rapid and localized growth, not having the ability to invade and develop at a distance (metastasis). The latter are those that have the ability to infiltrate other tissues and metastasize.

Is skin cancer common in dogs?

Because dogs are living longer and longer, cancer cases are more frequent. In the dog (in both sexes) the most frequent it's the skin, followed by breast cancer in bitches, which begins with mastitis.

Among the skin tumors in dogs, the most common among the malignant ones by far is the mastocytoma. It affects cells known as mast cells. In the case of benign tumors, there are lipomas, which are fatty tissue tumors.

Mastocytoma can appear in dogs of any age, although it is more common in those of middle age to advanced age. Lipomas are more common in older dogs. We will explain both types in more detail in the next section.

Regarding the breeds, the most susceptible are the boxer, the labrador, the pug, the bulldog and the weimaraner, although it can appear in any breed or in mixed-breed dogs..

Types of skin cancer in dogs

Skin cancer in dogs can be classified according to various criteria. Depending on their severity, tumors are classified as grade I, II, and III. A tumor of grade I it is well defined and tumor cells have not spread throughout the body. However, in grades II and III the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Only then do we say that there is metastasis and therefore cancer.

The most common classification of tumors is based on the tissue that causes them, that is, the type of cells that are dividing abnormally. Following this criterion, we find the following types of skin tumors in dogs:

  • Carcinoma: is the formation of a tumor by the multiplication of epithelial cells, that is, the cells that line and protect the skin. It can affect the squamous cells, more superficial, or the basal cells.
  • Melanoma: Melanocytes are the cells that make melanin, the pigment that colors the skin. Its proliferation can also form a tumor.
  • Mastocytoma: it is produced by uncontrolled division of mast cells, immune cells related to inflammation and allergy.

In addition to the above, there may be tumors in structures present in or associated with the skin. For this reason, the following types are often considered skin tumors:

  • Adenoma: it is an abnormal multiplication of glandular cells. Normally, it is produced in the sebaceous glands, which make the fat that lubricates the skin. In females, in addition, tumors of the mammary glands or breasts are common..
  • Sarcoma: it is the uncontrolled proliferation of connective or support tissues, among which are the fat and blood vessels present in the skin.
  • Lymphoma: it is a tumor made up of lymphocytes, very important immune cells. Normally, this type of tumor appears in the lymph nodes.

Symptoms of skin cancer in dogs

Skin cancer in dogs can appear anywhere on the body, although it is more common in areas that suffer the most exposure to the sun, such as the nose or ears. Breast tumors are also one of the main skin diseases in female dogs. But, ¿how skin cancer manifests itself in dogs? Although it depends on the type of tumor, the most notable manifestation is a lump that is due to cell proliferation.

In the more superficial tumors, such as carcinoma or melanoma, we will observe a hardened and reddened wound. Over time, it can develop into a lump that sticks out of the skin. Sometimes it can look like a mole or wart.

On the other hand, glandular tumors cannot be seen with the naked eye, although we can notice it when we caress the animal. In this case, we will feel a kind of rounded lump found under the superficial layers of the skin.

Diagnosis of skin cancer in dogs

When detecting possible symptoms of skin cancer in dogs, it is very important to go to a veterinary clinic. In it, a professional will analyze the texture, shape and location of the lump or wound. Then, to make a more reliable diagnosis, it is necessary remove the tumor and analyze it in a laboratory. For this reason, it is common for preventive surgery to be performed before knowing for sure that it is a tumor..

There is also a presumptive diagnosis, which can be made in the same clinic from cytology and with which we can obtain an approximation of the type of tumor.

How to cure skin cancer in dogs? - Treatment

Treatment for skin cancer in dogs consists of removing the tumor using a surgical intervention. It involves an incision in the skin, followed by the removal of the tumor and part of the tissue that surrounds it. In this way, tumor cells are avoided and the necessary samples for diagnosis are obtained..

After removal of the tumor, a biopsy is performed, in which the grade or malignancy of the tumor is determined. If it is a malignant tumor or cancer (grade II or III) some type of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, according to the specialist's consideration.

Caring for a dog with skin cancer

After surgery, caring for a dog with skin cancer is essential. The animal must stay at rest and leave home alone to perform their needs. In addition, we must put an Elizabethan collar that prevents the dog from licking the wound. Both cares are intended to avoid possible infections. With the same objective, they must be several cures a day, as indicated by the veterinarian.

When the wound closes, the vet removes the stitches and the animal can lead a normal life. However, it is very important that we keep an eye on your skin. The tumor can reappear, so we must frequently palpate the skin Of the dog. Thus, we can detect in time the appearance of another lump.

If you are interested in knowing more about the care of animals, we recommend you to train with the ATV VETFORMATION course. It is a professional training created and directed by professionals in the sector. In it, you will be able to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to reinforce the work of a veterinarian and work in a veterinary clinic or hospital.

This article is merely informative, at we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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