Canine Skin Cancer Overview

By Lambeth Hochwald

Canine Skin Cancer Overview

Just because your dog has fur doesn't mean it is immune to the diseases of the skin, such as cancer. To get the latest information on this pervasive disease, we contacted three top veterinarians who specialize in canine cancer. Here are their answers to your most pressing questions.

The Dog Daily: How common is skin cancer in dogs?
Expert Insight: Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer found in dogs, says Kevin A. Hahn, DVM, PhD, director of oncology services at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas. In fact, nearly one-third of all dogs diagnosed with cancer have a tumor that originated on the skin or from the tissues of the skin.

The Dog Daily: What are the most common forms of skin cancer?
Expert Insight: Dogs tend to be diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma or mast cell tumors, says Dr. Hahn. Squamous cells are the cells that make up most of the skin, so squamous cell carcinoma refers to an abnormal growth of these cells. Basal cells line the deepest layer of the skin, so that's what is affected with basal cell carcinoma. Mast cells are a bit different because they can be found in other parts of the body. They are specialized cells involved with your dog's immune system.

The Dog Daily: If a dog spends a lot of time in the sun, is it more vulnerable to skin cancer?
Expert Insight: Of all the skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma are often due to sun exposure. Mast cell tumors usually tend to occur in specific breeds, says Dr. Hahn.

The Dog Daily: So it's true that certain breeds get skin cancer more than others?
Expert Insight: Yes. Skin cancer is one of the most common tumors in dogs with shorter hair, says Gregory K. Ogilvie, DVM, who specializes in internal medicine and oncology at California Veterinary Specialists Angel Care Cancer Center in San Marcos, California. In addition, dogs with thin hair and fair skin are at greater risk for squamous cell carcinomas. Boxers, Boston terriers and pugs seem to be more susceptible to mast cell tumors of the skin, while poodles, cocker spaniels and other breeds can suffer from different types of skin cancer.

The Dog Daily: What's the best thing an owner can do to protect a dog from skin cancer?
Expert Insight: Pay attention, says Michael R. Moyer, DVM, director of shelter animal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia. Routinely check your dog's skin everywhere, and not just in the areas you usually pet. This means under the dog's belly, on the bottom of its paws, in between the foot pads, and so on.

The Dog Daily: What should you do if you've found a lump that might be suspicious?
Expert Insight: Take your dog to a veterinarian right away for an evaluation, suggests Dr. Moyer. Not all lumps are cancerous, but your doctor might suggest medical procedures such as a fine needle aspirate (a type of minimally invasive biopsy), a biopsy sample or a complete removal to be safe. Additionally, learning whether the tumor might have spread is vital in cases where a malignancy is suspected. This means that X-rays, blood tests and ultrasound procedures might be recommended.

The Dog Daily: Are there any tips for figuring out which lumps are benign and which are more serious?
Expert Insight: Any lump or bump should be considered suspect, says Dr. Hahn. Sometimes cancer goes undetected because it can resemble other less-serious skin ailments. It may look round, smooth and be slow-growing, like a wart. Or it could occur rapidly, compromising the health of the skin and looking like a nasty bug bite or wound. That's why many veterinarians will say "when in doubt, check it out." The best approach is the active approach. If the cyst or mass is changing in size or character (such as soft to hard), begins to bleed or is painful to the pet, then your doctor will probably suggest surgery as a course of action for treatment.

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based writer and editor whose work can be seen in national magazines. Her adopted dog Ginger is always at her side, especially when she's writing.

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Posted on October 29, 2010

Jill says: Our 6 year old dalmation has a warty looking lump on his neck the vet thinks is suspect, so got a needle biopsy done & awaiting results .Get any lumps checked out, our dog seems healthy, but will probably need surgery to remove the lump.

Posted on October 28, 2010

sara says: I have a four and a half month old Chinese Crested. I have notice a bump on her back leg that is the size of a wart . It is dry on the outside. At first i thought it was an ingrown hair. She is a hairless so i assumed it was just one of those things with a crestie. well over the past two weeks it got bigger. I was wondering if anybody has any suggestions of what it could be?

Posted on October 9, 2010

sandy martinez says: Just found out that my dog has skin cancer the vet gave us the option to get the tumor remove but he said it will eventually come back or to put her to sleep my dog is only 5yrs old please help

Posted on October 27, 2010

Pat says: My 14 yr. old collie/retriever mix will be euthanized on Sunday due to a very fast growing skin cancer. She had what we thought were large hot spots, she had them before. Her entire back was shaved and looked like she had been burned. We kept finding more every day and yesterday we saw her regular vet and he said it was cancer, her lymph nodes are swollen, It probably started internally. This all happened over a three week period. We are just giving her what she wants and keeping her out of pain so people who know her can say good bye. There were a lot of wart like things and cysts we had taken off and analyzed they were all benign. Have ALL lumps, bumps and places where there is hair loss checked, get skin abnormalities seen right away. With a younger dog you have a better chance.

Posted on September 23, 2010

Elizabeth says: My 9yo terrier (mix) just had five breast tumors removed. We're still waiting to hear back from the vet for the biopsy results. Im praying to God that it isn't cancer. I wish I had done the surgery sooner, two years ago to be exact but I didn't have the money for it. Now I would give anything to take back what she went through with the surgery and my family's anxiety about not knowing what these tumors are. Please get your dog checked for any suspicious lumps and trust your instincts. No matter what the cost, nothing is worth more than your dogs life. **I knew I couldn't afford the surgery so I googled low cost vet care in my area (NY) and found a program. They referred me to a great vet and my dog was able to have the surgery at a very reasonable price. ***

Posted on September 11, 2010

Lucy Yeo says: I jus observed a red/ pinkish patch ard my maltese nipple. SHe is 13 years old so we are worried if she's got skin cancer. Verbal consultation with the vet over the phone yielded the advice to observe if the dog has any skin irritation as its unlikely to be skin cancer as the latter will hav abnormal growth..

Posted on July 13, 2010

ELSE Henry says:

Posted on July 13, 2010

kerry says: I just found out my 8 yr old pitbull has skin cancer it started out as what I thought was an allergy to grass rash like. Then she started getting sores on her body I thought it was her doing it from iritation the open wounds spread. I have been taking her to the vet and they said that it might be a bacteria or an imune dificiancy. Her entire body is an open sore now in a matter of weeksit has spread so fast I had no idea to suspect canser or to check for small lumps. Please seek help as soon as you see something troubling it doesn't matter how expensive vets are. If I hadn't been worried about the cost or been better informed I might have known sooner and not have to say goodbye so soon.

Posted on June 5, 2010

Hailey says: My 12 year old Beagle had anesthetic for teeth cleaning and wart removal on forehead yesterday. Whining just started. What does that mean?

Posted on June 5, 2010

io says: my dog has a growth on her leg and i have been looking everywhere to see if i can find so me financial help. i was wondering if anybody could refer me somewhere?..i think it's cancerous and ive had this dog since she was 1month.. she's a part of our family and she is like a little girl. any info. will really be appreciated.

Posted on March 10, 2010

Terese says: can you guys post pictures of some of these? my dog has a little bump on his snout...i just noticed it...he is 6...i have no clue what it could be!?

Posted on May 31, 2010

Shelly says: my friend just found out today, her 6yr old poodle was just diagnosed the above cancer which is in her jaw line and roof of mouth. They have removed 4 teeth and tried to remove most of the tumour, they will be going back in to 'burn' the remaining tumor in an attempt to remove it all. But we are advised this particular type of tumor when in the jawline is reoccurring and agressive. I have been trying to find more information online in hopes of prolonging my friends dog's life while ensuring the rest of her remaining life is still comfortable. very sad.

Posted on March 4, 2010

Lone Nunnally says: I put my little poodle to sleep yesterday. She was 10 years old and have always had worts on her body. The doctor (Petsmarts Banefield) told me not to worry. Just before Christmas she developed a huge lump on her hindquarters, we were told it was a hot spot and the vet treated as such. The lump opened and was bleeding and we used a powder to try to close it. It got worse and worse so I finally took her to a REAL vet and he did a biopsy right away. Turned out she had skin cancer and by now many more tumors had appeared. The vet gave us pain pills and steroids to buy her a little more time. By now it was too late to do anything but keep her comfy. She was in good spirits and her happy joyful little self up until last weekend, then we knew it was time. We are all grieving, please get a second opinion if your dog develops tumors, especially if you use the Banefield vet at Petsmart. The second vet told me that Banfield SUCKS. He has had several animals come to him from Banfield and then it is usually too late to do anything.

Posted on February 27, 2010

sonia pope says: my 6.5 has a dicolor nose, some times gets redish and peals the skin. I protect him with sun block lotions. He is light tan in color and I am concerned about his ever changing color on his nose and some times skin cracking.

Posted on October 2, 2009

mike says: my dog got a lump on her side. it got bigger over a few weeks so i had it cut off. they took some of the surrounding skin as a matter of course and it came back as cancer. so she is going back for another op. fingers crossed!

Posted on January 5, 2010

Frank says: My cocker spaniel, he's around nine but may be older, (rescue dog) developed another bad ear infection that would not go away. The vet tried different antibiotics but nothing helped. After a few months he ended up with a large lump on the side of his face and ear. Our vet sent us to a specialist who tried a different drug and put a drain in the lump. We ended up having the lump removed surgically and a total ear ablation performed. They could not get all of the tumor as it was very agressive and invasive. The vet gives him six months to live unless we go with radiation or Chemo which may give him another six months. There is a third option called Metronomic Chemotherapy where you give the dog pills every day, but no data on how long this way will give him.

Posted on August 29, 2009

kathy marshall says: we have two italian greyhounds and they both have skin cancer. the 10 year old girl has had 3 surgeries...I found a great vet in Beverly Hills who was very reasonably priced and only gives them a local anesthetic...but it is worrying because she now has more and more lumps..and now my 5 year old boy has them too. So back to the vet we go..but if you want a good vet to go to that doesn't cost a fortune and knows what they are's the Beverly Hills Small Animal Hospital on Foothill in Beverly Hills Hope this helps someone.

Posted on August 11, 2009

anne says: help!! I have the lumpiest dog I've ever known....none of them seem to cause her pain and the Vet checks them and says they're fatty tumors but she's 10 years old now and we started finding these lumps when she was around 6 years old. Now she's coming up lame on her front legs and I can't pinpoint any one area that causes her pain when touched. Also no bulges or lumps on her legs. I am ready to tell the Vet I don't care if they're fatty tumors or not I want them all out of there!!! But I'm concerned about putting her under general anesthesia unnecesarily. Any thoughts? The possibility that her lameness could be bone cancer from what I've been reading is really freaking me out. Thank you all in advance for your feedback.

Posted on July 2, 2009

mrsgg says: i looked at my dog's forehead @ notice some redish puffy spot he won;t let me touch it. someone please tell me what should i do?

Posted on June 16, 2009

karen says: my 15 year old cocker (she's deaf and blind) has a glandular cyst on the inside of her ear. the vet has given us some topical meds to keep infection away, but the cyst is bleeding more frequently and i don't know how to stop it. it doesn't seem to bother her more when it is bleeding, but the smell and mess is terrible.

Posted on June 3, 2009

Della says: my toy poodle has a bunch of "skin eruptions" that I would classify as a type of skin cancef", but dont know the type I need to know the type in order to notify the owner and to let them know the best course of treatment

Posted on June 3, 2009

Della says: my toy poodle has several bumps on her body. These bumps look sorta like piles of tapioca beads stacked up upon each other. If anyone knows what tapioca looks like, they know what I'm talking about.

Posted on May 22, 2009

irene says: the black color of my Sheltie's snout is spreading upward his nose. Should I be concerned?

Posted on May 21, 2009

jane says: My 14 yr old cocker developed skin cancer on his cheek- it quickly started bleeding and turned black- by that time - he had already had end stage nasal cancer and was dying of diabetes and heart failure. If you see any masses-big -small-or insignificant- take them and get them removed immediately- don't ever wait and see !!!! Cnacer spreads soooo quickly- don't wait ! Go with your instinct- if this was yoru child -would you wait?

Posted on May 2, 2009

Donna says: I found a small grape sized mass on my dogs right shoulder.The vet gave him a steroid shot to shrink it. It seems to be working,but will that prevent it from returning?

Posted on May 18, 2009

ritika says: my female cocker spanial is 13 year old and she has developed 4-5 huge lumps on her breast area which are turning 2 show tissues and started bleeding,please tell us wat r the chances of her recovery and survival ?

Posted on March 31, 2009

Drew says: I found a similar problem on my dog too.. Yorkie/Chihuahua mix. They did the same for him and he'll be going back soon after taking a week of antibiotics. I'm gonna make sure they check it thoroughly because we can't be too safe.

Posted on March 16, 2009

steph says: Today I was petting my dog and i came across a lump(sort of like pimple/wort)on my dogs back.It was a greyish color.It sort of seemed to bother him when i touched it so i took him to the vet right away.The wet shaved his fur and then tried to sqeeze it.No puss came out just some blood.He gave him a shot of antibiotics and some antibiotics to take home and he said if its not gone in a week to come back.I dont really feel like he did a thorough check.Should i listen to him or should I go to a different vet?

Posted on November 22, 2008

Kathy says: We just lost our 12 year old dog to skin cancer that spread to the liver. I too was told that a spot on his back was a" harmless skin tag." We had no idea and I would do anything to have him back. Do all of the treatments that you can so you will not go through the loss that we are suffering right now. The pain is unbearable and now we have guilt to go along with it because we had no idea until it was too late! Love and kiss those pets and spoil them rotten!

Posted on November 10, 2008

Jason says: Lucy is going through chemo and is given a daily dose of prednisone. She is tolerating it ok, but at night she will have some panting and she drinks a lot of water (she always has). Every two weeks she has a chemo IV and has her blood checked between chemos. They are alternating between vinblastine and another drug. She seems to tolerate them well, with no side effects. Dogs seem to take chemo much better than humans, of course they can't tell us what hurts either. I don't think Lucy minds it.

Posted on November 22, 2008

Gabriel acevedo says: A month ago I was giving my dog a bath when I notice a lump in his left rear leg like the size of a cherry, he is a14 year american pitbull mix with american bulldog,so I took him to the vet ,because he was having some kind of stroke or sizures while playing and running, so He check his heart and it was ok but he could not check his lungs because my dog was aggresive,so then I show him the lump and He toldme that looks like a tumor and that it should be removed soon but he did not tell me that I should do it right away. I am not working so I could not do it right away,but now it got bigger and I took him back to the vet , and He told me that nothing can be done, and if he amputes his leg he will have to go theraphy and maybe two or three months I will have put to sleep I would like some info about it . if he can be save at a reasonable price thank you

Posted on November 9, 2008

Meredith LeBleu says: One day I noticed that my pug, Brody had a wart-looking bump on his behind. We also found one on his back leg. We asked the vet about them and he said that they were just skin tags..harmless. We took him back later because it seemed that the "skin tag" grew. I insisted the vet look into this further. Turns out they were mast cell tumors. Brody has had a total of 3 surgeries to remove about 7 of these. The vet has suggested chemo, which is probably the route we will take. One strange thing happened though. We were about to take Brody in for another surgery to get the tumors removed when we noticed that both the tumors shrunk. The doctor decided not to perform the surgery because of this, however he still wants Brody to have the chemo treatment. Does anyone know what affects chemo will have on Brody?

Posted on November 1, 2008

Jason says: We have a 6 year old female pug and just had some mast cells removed. While in surgery, they found several small ones elsewhere (one under arm, another on her thigh, in addition to the one on her leg). They all came back as Type I, with exception to one Type II. We followed up with chemo at the specialist, where he discovered 3 more! So we got those removed and will continue chemo. I thought we go them all, but looks like some teeny-tiny others have shown. I don't think i am going to put her through another surgery and will now see what the oncologist says. I just wanted to give Lucy the best shot at getting rid of these, but I think that maybe additional surgeries will not be the best for any of us.

Posted on September 4, 2008

claire pickering says: ive just found a lump on my pugs tummy what could this be

Posted on October 29, 2008

Patrice H says: My pug had a wart on her hind leg, it turned out to be cancer and went deeper into the tissue that just a surface wart. She is going in again for more wart removal, our vet did a needle biopsy and 2 more are cancerous. We waited the first time, not any more. Get them removed as soon as you can.

Posted on April 1, 2008

Rhonda says: I took my dog in for a routine teeth cleaning and had them go ahead and biopsy an area that was crusty on my dog's skin. Turns out just to be a skin gland that went wonky--no cancer there. But, I had them go ahead and remove a wart while they were at it. Turns out, that it was cancer. Take your dog in immediately. It could spread to the lymph nodes and other areas. Don't just assume it's a wart (which is what my vet thought). He had it for a over a year and we were "watching it." It kept growing slowly. When I had them remove it during the teeth cleaning, I felt somewhat guilty since it was more cosmetic in nature according to the vet. I am so glad we were able to catch it in time. My dog is going back in to remove a larger area of the skin to make sure that we got it all.

Posted on March 15, 2008

malcolm's mom says: Malcolm is a three year old fawn pug with a completely black face. A few months after I got him I noticed wart-like growths on his belly and arm pits. The vet said not to worry they would go away. Some did disappear but others have grown significantly. Also the warts are now appearing on his back. Help! Has anyone had this experience with their pug????

Posted on February 11, 2008

Judith Robinette says: I bought an Ultralight Sonic Bark Control collar for my two-year-old male Maltese and tried it for a few days. It did not work. A couple months later a lump appeared on his throat where the sonic collar had rested. I took him to the vet and it was a basal tumor that required surgery. The vet said, "Just in time; it was attempting to attach to his jugular vein!" My Maltese is an indoor dog with no over-exposure to sunlight. This sonic collar is the only collar he has ever had around his neck. I use a harness and lead when I take him out. The harness has no contact with the collar area. I'm on-line searching to see if there are any hints of problems of this kind from the use of these collars. I am concerned for all the pets out there whose owners may decide to try this product.

Posted on February 24, 2011

Nancy says: My beautiful 13-year old Italian greyhound has a mass cell tumor on her left hind leg. She has been taking Prednisone this week to shrink the mass, along with Pepcid and Children's Benyadrel and while I don't think the mass has shrunk her leg is not as bruised. Should I use her regular vet to remove the mass, at a cost of 1/3 to half the cost of the cancer vet, or assume the cancer vet has more experience and pay the $3,000. She will also need radiation treatlments (another $3,000 approx). OR do you think putting her through the surgery and treatment is too much for her. She is a beautiful animal and I love her dearly, but I don't want her to suffer. Please help me in making my decision.

Posted on March 11, 2012

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