What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer in Dogs

January 27, 2020
Did you know that dogs can develop skin cancer? Today we'll tell you everything you need to know about skin cancer in dogs.

Skin cancer in dogs is more common in animals that have a lot of exposure to the sun as well as those that live at high altitudes. Another important factor to consider is a dog’s breed, as some are more prone to suffering from this disease than others. In the following article, we’ll tell you what you need to know about skin cancer in dogs.

This type of cancer is the result of the formation of carcinoma in the outermost layer of a dog’s skin. Although some tumors are more invasive than others, all carcinomas are considered malignant and invasive.

In general, the signs of skin cancer appear in the form of a mass of white skin. It may also show up as a protuberance whose center darkens and ulcerates, causing eventual bleeding.

Skin cancer tends to occur more frequently in small dogs and those with light-colored fur. At the same time, in larger dogs with black fur, carcinomas are more prone to forming on an animal’s extremities. These tumors are more common in male dogs and in adults, while females have a greater propensity towards breast cancer.

The causes of skin cancer in dogs

The principal cause of skin cancer in dogs is excessive exposure to UV rays. Therefore, and quite unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see stray dogs with carcinomas on their bodies.

A boxer with skin cancer.

As we’ve seen, a dog’s breed has a lot to do with its chances of developing skin cancer. Canines like terriers, Pekinese, and Dalmatians seem to possess a greater tendency to suffer from this disease. The same is true when it comes to hounds, Bull terriers, Poodles, and other breeds as well.

How to know if a dog has skin cancer

One thing that dog owners need to know about skin cancer is how to identify itThe initial symptoms of this illness appear on the skin. Lumps and protuberances appear on the nose, legs, and scrotum, as well as the thickening of some areas of the skin. One way in which skin cancer can appear is in the form of injuries that refuse to heal or that look unusual.

In general, the protuberances caused by skin cancer ulcerate and bleed, and are easy to confuse with an injury or laceration. In more advanced cases of cancer, dogs may appear weak and without appetite. They may also lose weight, experience pain, and develop a limp. Canines may even have a hard time breathing as well as controlling their anal sphincter.

What to do if you suspect your dog may have skin cancer

Before you can do anything about skin cancer in dogs, you first have to have a clear diagnosis. It’s key that owners observe their pets closely and seek professional attention in the case of an anomaly.

In order for the medical examination to be successful, owners must provide their veterinarian with all the information necessary. For example, when did you begin to notice changes? What are the symptoms that you’ve observed? Have you noticed any alterations in your dog’s routine or behavior? You should describe your dog’s current emotional state.

Normally, the veterinarian will carry out a full physical exam. He or she will focus especially on any lesions and anomalies in the dog’s nodes, as any swelling is a sign of infection. If the vet suspects that cancer is a possibility, then the animal may have to undergo further testing, such as blood tests and X rays.

The treatment of skin cancer in dogs

Only a precise diagnosis can determine the best course of treatment when it comes to skin cancer in dogs. That’s why it’s so important to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

  • The most common treatment, as long as the skin cancer isn’t too advanced, is surgical intervention. If the tumor is small, then removal will be localized and not overly invasive.
  • In the case of larger tumors, the intervention is greater, which can put other tissue at risk. What’s more, the dog may require more invasive treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, according to the recommendations of a specialist.
  • Another possible treatment option is homeopathic medicine. This type of procedure also contributes to a better quality of life for canine patients.
A small Pekinese.

How to prevent skin cancer in dogs

Another thing that dog owners need to know about skin cancer in dogs is how to prevent it. The easiest way to avoid skin tumors is by limiting your canine friend’s exposure to the sun. This means walking your dog before 10 in the morning and after 2 in the afternoon.

In situations where an animal will be spending a lot of time in the sun, then it’s important to apply sunscreen. Make sure to apply it to your dog’s nose, ears, and legs, as these are the areas that are most prone to developing carcinomas.

Lastly, when petting your dog or giving him or her a bath, take advantage of the opportunity to check for irregularities. If you notice anything strange, take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.