Dog skin cancer occurs when the skin cells divide and multiply in an uncontrolled manner. Associated structures that include hair follicles, glands, and supportive tissues may also be affected. Animal studies suggest that middle-aged dogs are six times more likely to get skin cancer than cats. Overexposure to the sun is considered to be the main cause of abnormal growth of skin cells in the dogs.
Some of the common symptoms that help diagnose cancerous growth in the dog skin are as follows:
- Presence of lumps or sores on the skin
- Skin discoloration where the skin becomes black, red, or flaky
- Loss of appetite
- Skin problems such as wounds that refuse to heal
- Continuous scratching in certain areas
- General loss of interest
Skin Cancer Types
Dog skin cancer is mainly of two types, viz. benign and malignant. Of these the former type is harmless, while the latter needs medical attention.
Benign Skin Tumors
This type of tumor is non-cancerous, grows very slowly and is painless. The tumor formed is localized and does not spread. Surgical procedures are rarely used to remove benign tumors. However, if these tumors affect the mobility of the dog, then necessary treatment must be taken immediately.
Malignant Skin Tumors
Malignant tumors, are harmful and life-threatening as they grow rapidly and affect other body parts.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Dogs spending a lot of time in the sun are more susceptible to this type of cancer. SCC is commonly observed in the form of cancerous lumps and sores. It starts in the skin, and eventually, the cancerous growth invades the internal organs. This form of cancer generally arises in non-pigmented or sparsely haired skin.
This cancer begins at the fibrous connective tissues of the spine, skull, ribs, and pelvis. Over a period of time, it extends and wraps around the tissues.
Mast Cell Tumors
This is the most fatal type of dog skin cancer as the skin tumors spread indiscriminately. Mast cells are white blood cells that grow and become fatty tumors. If left untreated, mast cell tumors can be life-threatening. These tumors severely hamper the overall mobility of the dog.
Treatment can be successful, if the cancer is detected early. Hence, it is essential to keep a check on the dog's behavior. If any suspicious lumps are found, the dog must be immediately taken to the veterinarian to rule out cancer. Conventional treatment is discussed below:
This treatment involves the usage of drugs that help stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs halt the indiscriminate spreading of cancer cells. Dogs seldom experience the side effects of chemotherapy, as the dosage of the drug is low as compared to that given to humans.
This therapy involves the use of high energy radiation to destroy the cancerous growth. The treatment is targeted to a particular area of the body, where the cancer cells are growing. It is an effective way to treat cancer cells and increase the life span of the dog.
This form of treatment surgically removes the tumor. However, if the size of the tumor is quite large then surgery along with chemotherapy or radiation may be required. This is because tumors that are too big, cannot be completely removed. While surgical procedures may not cure the disease, they will definitely help to reduce the pain considerably.
Nutrition and diet can also play an important role to restore the quality of life in dogs with skin cancer. It is very essential that your dog has a well-balanced diet, while undergoing cancer treatment. The diet must include protein, carbohydrates, and fats in appropriate amounts in order to strengthen the immune system of your dog. In order to prevent this skin problem, sunbathing your dog for prolonged periods of time should be avoided. Dog clothing can also be a good option to protect your pet from harmful UV rays.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian.