Early Detection of Skin Cancer in Dogs

Pet owners should regularly check their dogs for signs of skin cancer. Dogs die from this preventable disease every year, but early detection can save a pet’s life. Learn what to look for and how to check your pet for skin cancer.

Dogs make full recoveries if the cancerous growths are removed early, so make it a habit of checking over your pet every month. Work slowly around the body, moving the fur and looking at the skin. It you make this a regular routine while brushing, you'll have a good chance of catching the types of skin cancer dogs develop in the earliest stages.

Skin Cancer Statistics

Approximately 33 percent of all tumors in dogs directly relate to some form of skin cancer. Dogs between the ages of six and fourteen are most susceptible, but skin cancer can hit at any age.

Upwards of three out of ten of these tumors are malignant. Early detection of skin cancer is incredibly important. The sooner a cancerous tumor is removed, the better a dog’s chances of making a complete recovery.

Early Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

There are eight common warning signs that skin cancer is present. Look for problematic dog skin conditions like these:

  • Areas of the body that seem to cause discomfort to your pet
  • Bald patches
  • Crusty patches or scales on the dog’s skin
  • Hair loss
  • Lumps that develop quickly
  • Sores that do not heal easily
  • Spots that grow larger
  • Swelling of the teats or nipples leaking for no obvious reason

Dog hair loss is something to watch for. Hair loss frequently occurs due to allergic reactions or yeast infections, but they also occur from excessive licking. If a dog is licking his skin to the point that hair loss is apparent, skin cancer might be present.

Generally, if you notice your dog obsessively licking himself and you cannot find a cause, it is best to ask your veterinarian for advice. It may just be allergies, but it could be skin cancer. Dogs need treatment as early as possible to prevent the cancer from spreading to organs and other areas of the body.

Eight Types of Skin Cancer Growths

Now that you know the basic early warning signs, it’s important to understand the types of skin cancers that affect dogs. Check your dog for common dog skin problems like cysts and lumps. The common forms skin cancer, with some related information, are:

  • Basal Cell - Solitary, firm and often hairless lumps
  • Hemangiosarcoma - look like bruises (easiest to treat)
  • Lipomas - Benign, fatty tumors that are soft and painless to the touch
  • Mast Cell - Raised masses that are soft and have dark granules within them
  • Melanomas - Round spots that are very dark in color
  • Papillomas - Small lumps that look like small heads of cauliflower
  • Sebaceous Gland - Small pink warts that grow in clusters
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma - Raised above the level of the skin and look like warts

Making a Monthly Examination Fun

Examining your dog for types of cancer is quick and easy, and dogs rarely put up any fuss; they love the extra attention. Always praise your dog for being tolerant and offer rewards throughout the process. This ensures your dog will be happy to have you look him over every month.