Canine Mast Cell Tumor Symptoms

A canine mast cell tumor is an abnormal growth of mast cells that occurs on your dog's body. These growths range in size, shape and appearance, and may be benign and relatively harmless or quick-spreading and fatal. Like other forms of canine cancer, a prompt diagnosis and treatment is critical in order to ensure that the tumor does not metastasize and spread to another part of your dog's body. It is important, therefore, to be aware of the dogs most at risk for mast cell tumors, as well as the symptoms of these abnormal lumps and growths.

Overview of Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cells are an important part of your pet's immune system. They occur in a variety of locations all throughout the body, and serve to regulate histamines and other enzymes in your dog's body. These chemicals serve as your pet's natural anti-inflammation response. If the mast cell becomes corrupted it may replicate itself too much. In these cases, a mast cell tumor develops. Removing mast cell tumors is a risky process, because the cells themselves still have regulatory power over the immune system chemicals listed above. Once you remove a mast cell tumor, your pet's body may be temporarily flooded with protein-digesting enzymes and histamines, and this can lead to heart problems, among other issues.

Symptoms of Mast Cell Tumors

Recognizing the symptoms of a mast cell tumor is the key to an early diagnosis and treatment procedure. Unlike many other forms of canine cancer, it can be very difficult to assess the presence of a mast cell growth on sight alone. Mast cell growths have a number of common forms and appear as single tumors, patchy sections of small, raised bumps or even as open sores and lesions. Moreover, they can appear virtually anywhere on your pet's body, although they most commonly occur close to the surface of the skin. More often than not, mast cell tumors are located on the limbs, chest and genital areas.

Symptoms Related to the Mast Cell Function

Unlike some other types of tumors, which may consist entirely of normal skin cells, mast cell tumors continue to function as a part of your pet's immune system. The abnormal number of mast cells in your dog's body may result in a chemical imbalance that can lead to a variety of different negative effects. Some of the most common symptoms related to a high number of mast cells in your pet's system include:

  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stool
  • Problems related to blood clotting
  • Lesions and open sores

These may be your primary warning signs that your pet is suffering from a mast cell tumor. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, and especially if they persist for more than a few days or continue to worsen over time, have your dog examined by a veterinarian promptly.

Mast cell tumors are most common in breeds of dogs with flat, wide heads, such as bulldogs, pugs and Boston Terriers. However, it is possible for any dog to develop a mast cell tumor at any age. Be vigilant for the signs of this potentially life-threatening condition.