Dog Skin Cancer Treatment

Dog skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that afflicts them. The prognosis and treatment depend on which type of skin cancer your dog contracts, and the stage at which it is diagnosed.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three types of skin tumors your dog can contract:

  • Epithelial
  • Mesenchymal
  • Melanomas

Epithelial tumors involve the skin itself, which include patches of warts, lesions or small tumors on the skin, often because of sun exposure or other infections.

Mesenchymal tumors involve cells around the skin such as fat, connective tissue and nerves. Many of these are benign lipomas, but they should always be checked out because they could also be fibrosarcoma, which is an aggressive form of cancer.

Melanomas develop in the cells that provide skin pigment, so they are often heavily pigmented bumps. If you find such a lump on your dog, have it evaluated immediately.

Diagnosis of Skin Cancer

Diagnosis of skin cancer depends on your ability to identify lumps at home, since there are no regular cancer screenings for dogs. Give your dog regular wellness checks to determine if they have any new lumps or skin abnormalities. If you find a lump, your veterinarian will probably have to do a biopsy, first with a thin aspirator needle and then possibly by removing the entire lump.

If the cancer has been in your dog's system for a while, it can spread to other areas, which would then cause other symptoms such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting (possibly with blood)
  • Diarrhea (possibly dark or even black)
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing.

Because these symptoms can be caused by a number of disorders, your veterinarian will give a full exam, including a blood panel and possibly X-rays.

With skin cancer, you might also notice your dog excessively licking just one spot. If there is a skin abnormality in that spot, consult your veterinarian.

Treatment of Skin Cancer

Depending on the type of tumor your dog has, the treatment will vary. However, most cancer is treated in a similar manner.

Epithelial tumors can often be treated just by removing the lump. Radiation might be used as a followup if the entire tumor couldn't be removed, or as a safety precaution to ensure it doesn't spread. Cryosurgery, which consists of freezing the tumor to kill it, is often used for epithelial tumors.

Mesenchymal tumors and melanomas are treated depending on how aggressively they are spreading. Some can be treated with simple surgery, but radiation is necessary if the entire tumor can't be safely removed.

Chemotherapy is necessary if the tumor has already begun to spread to other tissues, such as the lungs.

Depending on the success of one or a combination of these treatments, prognosis can range from very good to very poor. Skin cancer is often easily treated because the tumors are easily seen and removed from the skin. However, if they have begun to spread, prognosis is lower.

Cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, and therefore it's important to be aware of your dog's normal skin appearance, so a change can be detected. Checking your dog regularly for growths will help catch a tumor before it spreads.