Even the most conscientious pet parents who carefully plan
nutritious diets for their
dog or cat and diligently visit the vet for annual checkups may not realize they
need to take steps to protect their pet’s skin.
Skin cancer is the most common
type of canine cancer and the second most common feline cancer.
Not every lump or growth on a pet is a malignant tumor, but
because certain types of skin cancer can be very aggressive and
fatal, you should check your pet regularly for new bumps or
changes in their skin. If you find anything unusual, take your
pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Here’s what you need to know about some common skin tumors.
Mast Cell Cancer
The skin tumors seen most frequently in dogs are mast cell tumors (MCTs). Among cats, MCTs
are the second leading cause of skin cancer. Treatment and
prognosis for your pet will depend on the grade of tumor, which
can range from benign to highly malignant. Unlike the most
prevalent forms of human skin cancer, sun exposure doesn’t seem
to play an important role in mast cell cancer in pets since
these tumors can develop on body parts heavily protected by fur
or that don’t receive much sun.
In dogs, some breeds seem genetically predisposed to MCTs.
Boxers, Pugs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Boston Terriers are
more likely than other breeds to develop mast cell tumors.
Cats can get the same type of MCTs as dogs but may also develop
a rare form of mast cell cancer called histiocytic sarcoma.
Siamese cats appear to be most at risk for both forms of feline
What to look for: Skin MCTs often appear as
single raised, hairless lumps. They’re usually white but may be
pink. Canine MCTs often appear on the belly, back, sides, and
limbs. Cats with MCTs usually have growths on their neck or
head, including the ears.
Basal Cell Tumor
Basal cell tumors are often benign Even if your dog or cat develops
the cancerous form, basal cell carcinoma, the tumor can often
be successfully removed without further problems. Cancerous
basal cell tumors are the most common skin cancer in cats.
Middle-aged cats are most susceptible to these tumors along
with Persians and other long-haired breeds. Many breeds of dogs
are predisposed to basal cell tumors, including Wirehaired
Pointing Griffons and Kerry Blue and Wheaten Terriers.
What to look for: Basal tumors grow from
deep within the skin’s layers. They may occur as a series of
small nodular growths side by side on the back and chest of
cats. On dogs, these tumors are more likely to appear as single
hairless lumps on the head, neck, or shoulders.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Sun exposure plays a significant part in the development of
squamous cell carcinoma, but other factors such as burn
injuries or even viruses can also increase your pet’s risk.
While other skin cancers are more common in dogs and cats,
squamous cell carcinoma can be a more aggressive and deadly
cancer if not treated early.
There are different types of squamous cell carcinomas, and
different breeds of dogs are more susceptible to each type.
Bloodhounds, Basset Hounds, and Standard Poodles are at
greatest risk for one type, while white-skinned, shorthaired
breeds such as Dalmatians, Bull Terriers, and Beagles are prone
to another type. Older dogs are at the greatest risk. Cats with
white skin and hair are more likely to develop squamous cell
carcinoma because they are more vulnerable to UV radiation.
What to look for: Squamous cell carcinoma may
appear as a white or grayish ulcer, cauliflower-shaped lump, or
a red bumpy area. These growths may include sores that don’t
heal. You may notice hair loss in the area (due to your pet
constantly licking it). It’s common for these ulcers to appear
on your pet’s belly since dogs and cats often sun themselves on
their back. Pets are also at risk for oral squamous cell
carcinomas, so you should check your pet’s mouth for ulcers as
Caring for Pets With Cancer
Several other skin tumors can affect dogs and cats in very
different ways, including fibrosarcoma melanoma, histiocytosis, and lipoma. Treatment for
all types of skin cancer usually includes removal of the
cancerous growth. Lymph nodes may also need to be removed, and
radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be needed to treat
inoperable tumors or to ensure that all the cancerous cells are
eradicated. Paying attention to the special nutritional needs of pets with cancer is
also an important part of helping your dog or cat heal.
The most important thing is to detect cancer early by regularly
checking all areas and folds of skin for possible signs of skin
How to Tell Skin Allergies From Bug Bites?
Itching is one of the most common reasons pet owners take their
dogs to the veterinarian. It goes without saying that, just
like humans, there are a number of reasons behind why canines
lick, chew and scratch themselves.
Why does your dog scratch
Inflammation is also referred to as dermatitis. This condition
causes intense itching in dogs. Parasitic and allergic
dermatitis are the to most common types of dermatitis. The
allergic variant is caused by food allergies, seasonal
allergies and non-seasonal allergies. Parasitic dermatitis is
caused due to insect bites and stings. Both these conditions
have similarities in their clinical signs.
How can you tell the
difference between the two?
If your dog is suffering from an acute case of allergic
dermatitis, then he may have allergies due to one of the three
aforementioned causes. Seasonal allergies are prevalent during
summer, spring, and fall. If you live in a region that has
predominantly warm/humid weather, then the allergy can persist
all year long. Blooming flowers, plants, weeds, grasses and
trees are the most common culprits behind seasonal allergies.
Non-seasonal allergies can be caused due to molds, dust,
environmental materials, chemicals and other factors. Some dogs
are allergic to certain protein sources (beef, chicken, dairy)
or grains (corn, wheat, rice).If your dog is suffering from
allergic dermatitis, then you will see signs of the condition
all over his body, but most commonly on the ears, feet,
armpits, legs, groin, muzzle, and around the anus. Redness,
hair loss, oozing, crusting, hyperpigmentation and skin
thickening can occur at the itchy locations.Ticks, fleas and
other stinging insects can cause inflammation and discomfort to
varying degrees. Some dogs are sensitive to insect bites and
some of them are even allergic to the saliva. Your dog will
lick, chew or scratch himself on the affected site. The itching
pattern will vary depending on where your dog has been stung or
bitten, as well as on how sensitive he is to the saliva or
venom of the insect.Fleas tend to congregate around the neck,
head, tail base, inguinal area and the perineum. The most
common sign of a flea infestation is the appearance of black
pepper like deposits on the infested site. If your dog has flea
dirt, then use a moist cloth and gently wipe the area. If you
see an orange or pink tinged reside, then it is a sure fire
sign of a flea infestation. Mites, on the other hand, are
microscopic insects that dig deep into the skin layers to feed
and survive. As they chew their way through your dog's skin,
they cause inflammation and secondary infections (yeast,
bacteria and so on). Redness, swelling, crusting, oozing, hair
loss are the most common signs of mange in dogs.
More on Cancer
Cancer in Dogs and
Liver Cancer in Dogs and
Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs
“Tumors of the Skin and Soft Tissues,” The Merck Veterinary
Manual. July 2011 (accessed online November 22, 2013)
This information is for informational
purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the
professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your
veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been
verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.