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Dogs and Skin Cancer

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Types of Skin Cancer in Dogs continued...

Although squamous cell cancers do not spread to surrounding lymph nodes, they are aggressive and may lead to destruction of much of the tissue around the tumor. 

Mast cell tumors. These dog skin cancers, which occur in the mast cells of the immune system, are the most common skin tumors in canines. Veterinarians don’t know what causes mast cell tumors to develop, although there have been cases where they have been linked to inflammation or irritants on the skin. Evidence suggests genetic factors are often important, and the hormones estrogen and progesterone may also affect cancer growth.

Dog Skin Cancer: Which Breeds Are at Risk?

All dogs can get skin cancer, but certain types of cancer more commonly occur in particular breeds.

Benign melanocytomas are often seen in Vizslas, Miniature Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, Airedale Terriers, and Bay Retrievers, typically in animals between 5 and 11 years old. Malignant melanomas on the toe or in the toenail bed appear more frequently in black dogs.

Squamous cell carcinomas tend to appear in dogs that are between six and 10 years old. Breeds that are more likely to get this type of skin cancer include Keeshonds, Standard Schnauzers, Basset Hounds, collies, Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, and Beagles. In general, dogs with short coats (especially those with light skin) are more prone to squamous cell carcinomas.

Mast cell tumors are most commonly seen in Boxers, and are also found with some frequency in Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, and Schnauzers.

Signs and Symptoms: How to Spot Skin Cancer in Dogs

Dog skin cancer symptoms depend on the type of cancer it is and where the tumor is located on your dog’s body.

Melanomas. Benign melanocytomas may range in size from very small to more than 2.5 inches in diameter. They appear on areas of the skin covered with hair and may be black, brown, gray, or red in color. Malignant dog melanomas tend to occur in the mouth, on the lips, and in the toenail beds, and pads of the feet. When dog melanomas occur in the feet, they often become infected, leading to misdiagnosis as a simple infection.

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