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Could the bumps on my dog's skin be cancer?

While our pups are covered in fur, skin cancer is still a very real health concern for dogs. If you've found an unusual bump on your dog's skin, it's always best to have a vet look at it. Our board-certified veterinarians in Lexington describe three types of skin cancer commonly seen in dogs. 

Lumps & Bumps on Your Dog's Skin

If you notice a discolored patch of skin or lump on your canine companion, you're bound to worry about cancer. However, remember that just like in humans, not all lumps and bumps are cancerous for dogs. For those that are found to be cancerous, many are treatable if detected early. 

If you've found a suspicious lump or bump on your dog's skin, get in touch with your primary care vet right away to schedule an examination for your dog. Successful outcomes from treatment depend on large part on the earliest detection possible. 

Types of Skin Cancer in Dogs 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The most commonly diagnosed type of skin cancer in dogs, skin squamous cell carcinoma typically impacts older animals and is often diagnosed in beagles, white bull terriers, whippets and dalmations. These tumors appear as raised firm-to-the-touch, wart-like lumps or patches. They are most often found on a dog's head, lower legs, abdomen and rear. Sun exposure may be one cause of squamous cell carcinoma, but there could also be a link to papillomavirus. 

Malignant Melanoma

These raised bumps may be dark-pigmented (but not always) and are often found around a dog's lips, mouth and nail bed. While most melanomas are benign, malignant melanomas are a very serious threat to health, as these tumors grow quickly and have a high risk of spreading to other organs in the body. Scottish terriers and Schnauzers appear to have an increased risk of developing melanoma, and male dogs are at higher risk than females. 

Mast Cell Tumors 

These are very common in dogs and occur within the mast cells of the immune system. These tumors can develop anywhere on the skin, and even on a dog's internal organs. Some of the most common locations for mast cell tumors to develop are on the chest, limbs and lower abdomen. This type of skin cancer can occur in any breed, but is most often seen in Rhodesian ridgebacks, Boston terriers, pugs and boxers between 8 and 10 years old. 

Diagnosing Dog Skin Cancers

To diagnose skin cancer in dogs, your vet may perform a biopsy to take a small sample of the tumor's cells for examination. This sample will be analyzed at a lab in order for your veterinarian to provide you with an accurate diagnosis of your pup's condition. 

In order to determine the extent of your dog's cancer, additional diagnostic testing may be recommended. This can help to optimize treatment and give a more accurate prognosis for your pet.

Treatment for Skin Cancer in Dogs

Many early-stage dog skin cancers can be treated successfully, allowing pets to continue living comfortable, happy lives for years to come.

Your dog's skin cancer treatment could include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, or palliative care when appropriate. When it comes to the prognosis and treatment for skin cancer in dogs, options will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of cancer, the location of cancer, and how advanced your dog's cancer is.

Monitoring Your Pet's Health

Many dog parents ask us, 'How can I spot bumps on my dog's skin that may be a problem?'

Identifying the signs of skin cancer while the disease is still in the early stages is the key to good treatment outcomes. During your regular grooming routine, familiarize yourself with all your dog’s normal lumps, bumps, and spots so that you can spot changes in your pup's skin right away.

Visiting your primary care vet for routine wellness exams, even when your pooch appears perfectly healthy, can help to catch skin cancers and bumps on dogs in the early stages.

Whenever you notice an unexplained or unusual lump or bump on your dog, or if you notice swelling around your dog's toes consult your vet right away. When it comes to your pet's health it's always better to err on the side of caution. 


Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog have a suspicious lump or bump on his skin? We provide cutting-edge oncological treatment for pets with cancer. Ask your vet for a referral to see one of our board-certified veterinarians at Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency in Lexington. Contact us today for more information.

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Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency is open 24/7 for emergencies and is accepting patients for specialty appointments. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lexington companion animals. 

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