Canine Skin Cancer Prognosis

Canine skin cancer is a form of cancer that affects the skin of the pet. It is one of the 5 most common types of cancer that afflicts dogs including bone cancer, lymphoma, mammary cancer and oral cancer. In order to treat canine skin cancer successfully, it’s essential to diagnose and treat the disease in its early stages.

Canine Skin Cancer

Skin cancer occurs when the cells of the skin are unable to divide as they normally would and grow in an uncontrolled manner. Skin cancer generally occurs in middle aged and older dogs. It’s characterized by lumps on the pet’s skin that grow in size over a period of weeks and months. Overexposure to sun rays and genetic factors are some of the causes of canine skin cancer.

Certain breeds of dogs such as boxers, bassett hounds, cocker spaniels, bull mastiffs, Scottish terriers and Boston terriers are more susceptible to skin cancer. White, short-haired dogs with light colored skins are also more prone to skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer in Dogs

The skin cancer types dogs can get include:

  • Melanomas
  • Spindle cell sarcomas
  • Lymphomas
  • Squamous cell carcinomas
  • Mastocytomas

Melanomas in Dogs

Melanomas can either be benign and completely curable or malignant cancers that metastasize to other parts of the body. Hence, the prognosis for benign melanomas is very good. If the malignant melanomas can be surgically removed before metastasis, the prognosis is good. However, prognosis is poor if the melanoma has had a chance to spread to other parts of the body.

Dogs and Spindle Cell Sarcomas

Spindle cell sarcomas are limited to a particular part of the body and are generally large in size. This type of cancer can metastasize to surrounding parts of the body and may recur after surgical removal. The prognosis is up to 5 years if the cancer is diagnosed and treated in the early stages.

Lymphomas in Dogs

A lymphoma that involves the skin is called a cutaneous lymphoma and is characterized by a number of tumors over the body. It is a slowly progressive form of skin cancer. Prognosis is poor. Supportive care should include the provision of relief from irritation and the treatment of infections caused by ulceration of the lumps.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Squamous cell carcinomas are common in light skinned dogs that are overexposed to sunrays. It’s a malignant form of cancer that’s characterized by the appearance of masses in affected areas of the body. Prognosis depends on the location of the tumor, its virulence, whether the tumor has metastasized and whether it can be completely removed by surgery. The prognosis is good when the cancer is detected and treated in the early stages (when the masses are small and can be completely removed).

Mastocytomas in Dogs

Mastocytomas or mast cell tumors account for 20 percent of all skin cancers in dogs. They are generally malignant and treatment involves surgical removal of well-differentiated tumors and radiation of less well-differentiated tumors. Prognosis depends on the breed of dog, the location of the tumor and the stage of the cancer.

Since tumors on the skin are easy to locate, it’s important to treat them as soon as they appear to improve the prognosis of affected dogs.