Skin Biopsy for Dogs

A skin biopsy is a test that may be performed in dogs. The test involves removing a small tissue sample and analyzing it under the microscope to determine the types of tissues forming a certain tumor, skin growth or suspicious masses. The skin biopsy may be performed by a vet or a cytologist.

When Is a Skin Biopsy Performed?

A skin biopsy will be recommended if the vet detects a suspicious growth or tumor. The skin biopsy will be analyzed by a pathologist or a cytologist to see if the cells are malignant or benign. Biopsies may also be performed on internal organs, if the vet suspects an abnormality.

How to Prepare for a Skin Biopsy

Before a skin biopsy, the dog may have to go through a few blood tests and a general examination of the skin. The vet needs to establish the severity of the dog's condition. For instance, if the vet suspects cancer, a few blood tests will be helpful, as the results will show that there is a problem in the dog's organs. The vet may also perform radiographs or an EKG to see if the tumor is extended. The hair in the area that will be biopsied should be clipped and the skin will be thoroughly disinfected.


The skin biopsy should be performed under general or local anesthesia, depending on the size and location of the tumor. Typically, skin biopsies will only involve a local anesthetic, which will numb the dog so he will feel no pain. Injectible anesthetics, numbing creams or inhalation anesthesia are available for canines.

The Skin Biopsy Procedure

During the skin biopsy, the vet will use a small scalpel and remove a section of the tumor. The vet may also use a biopsy punch or a needle. The dog will not feel any discomfort, as he will be under anesthesia the entire time. The skin biopsy will take no more than 15 to 20 minutes, including the anesthesia. The skin may bleed, so the vet will apply pressure on the skin and possibly use gauze to cover the biopsied portion.

Skin Biopsy Complications and Risks

A skin biopsy is typically a minor intervention and is not associated with major risks or complications. Common risks may include:

  • Extensive bleeding
  • Infection of the skin
  • Negative reactions to the anesthesia

The vet will asses the dog's condition before and after the skin biopsy to determine if there are any complications or potential risks.

Post Skin Biopsy Care

After a skin biopsy and after the anesthetic wears off, the dog may be in pain. Pain medication will be prescribed or you should get some over the counter pain medication. Allow the dog to rest and make sure he doesn't move until the bleeding stops. If need be, change the gauze and get an antibiotic ointment to prevent local infections. The dog's skin may be swollen and red, but these side effects should subside within three to five days.