Canine Mast Cell Removal through Surgery

A canine mast cell is part of a dog's immune system. Mast cells are usually located in the skin of canines, as well as in their intestines or windpipe. They contain chemicals such as histamine, heparin and proteolytic enzymes that are toxic to invasive bacteria. Mast cells release these chemicals into the body when they are triggered by the immune system. Mast cells in dogs are particularly likely to develop the mutations necessary to start growing uncontrollably, and it is not uncommon for dogs to have small mast cell tumors. If a mast cell tumor becomes malignant, the dog is diagnosed with cancer, and has a significantly reduced chance of survival, so mast cell tumors are often removed using surgery before they get a chance to become malignant.

What Dogs Are Prone to Mast Cell Tumors?

While it is uncommon for humans or cats to develop mast cell tumors, all ages and breeds of dogs are at risk. There are some canines that are more likely to develop mast cell tumors than others, including Golden Retrievers and the brachiocephalic breeds (dogs with a short, flattened snout and a wide head, such as Boxers, Pugs, and Bulldogs). Risk of mast cell tumor development is hereditary, so dogs are more likely to have mast cell tumors if their parents had them. Mast cell tumors do not usually form on young canines, but are much more likely to develop on dogs that are between eight and nine years of age.

Diagnosing Canine Mast Cell Carcinoma

In order to properly identify a lump on your dog's skin as a mast cell tumor, you have to take the dog in to the veterinarian, where a biopsy of the tumor must be performed. A biopsy of a tumor consists of cutting pieces of tumor tissue off the lump, and then studying the tumor tissue to determine what kind of tumor it is. A mast cell tumor diagnosis rates the tumor according to how dangerous it is.

Grade one tumors are small, on the surface of the skin, and benign.

Grade two mast cell tumors extend below the skin, and show some signs of malignancy.

Grade three mast cell tumors are the most dangerous. They extend far below the skin and are aggressively malignant.

Surgical Removal of Mast Cell Tumors

The most common treatment for a mast cell tumor is surgery.

Since grade one and grade two mast cell tumors are close to the surface of the skin, cutting them off of the dog's body is an easy cure. A small chunk of healthy tissue surrounding the tumor is removed along with the tumor itself. This ensures that all cancerous tissue has been removed.

Grade three mast cell tumors extend too far inside the body to be removed with surgery, and are usually treated with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

All mammals have mast cells, but canine mast cells are the most likely out of all mammals to become cancerous tumors. If the lump is detected early, the mast cell tumor will have less time to develop into a serious problem before it is surgically removed. Surgical treatment is designed to eliminate small tumors such as grade one and two mast cell tumors, and, as long as the tumor has not yet reached malignancy, it is the most effective treatment.