Pets can get skin cancer too
Alice “The Rabbit” Wonderland is a sun worshiper. Although we no longer live in a place with a porch, she still catches rays whenever she can. Recently, while I was researching safe sunscreens for pets (she has a very thin, light-colored coat and a pink nose), I came across a plethora of articles on how to prevent skin cancer in pets.
Ack! Had I been an irresponsible pet owner by letting Alice spend too much time in the sun?
It turns out, I may have been. Dogs can contract several kinds of skin cancer. And while exposure to the sun’s rays doesn’t cause all varieties of skin cancer, it can increase risk. Noses and the pads of the feet, where there is no hair to shield sensitive skin from the sun are usually the most susceptible spots.
Fortunately, when caught early, many cases of dog skin cancer can be successfully treated. Melanomas and mast cell tumors can be fatal so it’s important that you have your veterinarian check any suspicious growths right away.
Three of the most common dog cancers include:
- Malignant melanoma: This type of skin cancer affects pigmented cells or melanocytes. Dogs can develop tumors called melanocytomas, which are benign tumors in pigmented cells that do not metastasize and usually appear on parts of the body with hair. Most malignant melanomas occur on the mouth or mucous membranes and tend to grow extremely fast and can spread to other organs, including the lungs and liver. Trauma or compulsive licking may increase the likelihood that cells will multiply, mutate and become cancerous. Benign melanocytomas are often seen in Vislas, 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 carcinoma: This form of dog skin cancer is often caused by exposure to the sun. Some scientists believe there may also be a connection between the papilloma virus and the development of squamous cell tumors in certain dogs. 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 shorter coats (and especially those with light skin) are more prone to squamous cell carcinomas.
- Mast cell tumors: These are the most common skin tumors in canines. Genetics and the hormones estrogen and progesterone may also affect cancer growth. Mast cell tumors are most commonly seen in Boxers, Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles and Schnauzers.
According to Web M.D., dog skin cancer symptoms depend on the type of cancer 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.
- Squamous cell carcinomas: These tumors are firm and raised with a wart-like appearance. They often occur on the abdomen and around the genitals.
- Mast cell tumors: These are typically slow-growing and rubber-like. More aggressive mast cell tumors grow faster and may ulcerate, leading to the development of sore, inflamed areas on the dog’s body. Mast cell tumors most commonly occur on the trunk of the body, but can also occur on the legs about 25 percent of the time.The treatment depends on the type of tumor and its location. If you find a growth on your pet, bring her to your vet for a thorough exam and a possible biopsy. Surgery is often the first step. If the growth is found to be malignant and cannot be completely removed or if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, radiation may be used. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy.The earlier you detect skin cancer, the faster you will be able to treat it and prevent it from spreading. Here are a few prevention measures to help keep your pet healthy:
- Limit your pet’s time in the sun, especially during peak hours.
- Check your dog’s skin regularly for unusual lumps and growths. If you discover an abnormality, consult your veterinarian.
- If you take your dog to the beach, shelter her from the sun, and if she lives primarily outdoors, make sure she has an ample-sized doghouse to hang out in. Use a pet-friendly sunscreen on sensitive noses and ears during long hikes and outdoor adventures.
- Be able to recognize the symptoms of skin cancer, which can include decreased appetite, diarrhea, discolored skin, vomiting, wounds or sores that will not heal, coughing and swelling of breast tissue and lymph nodes.
Thanks for checking this out…
- WOOF !!!
- MightyDog Shasta