In detail

Skin cancer in dogs: symptoms and treatment

Skin cancer in dogs is one of the diagnoses that are particularly shocking to owners. It is all the more important that you regularly check your dog for changes and have them checked by the veterinarian. Read here what signs you should take seriously and what treatment options are available for skin cancer. The following applies to skin cancer: the sooner you discover changes in your dog and go to the vet, the better the chances of a cure - Shutterstock / sarocha wangdee

If you have discovered a skin tumor in your dog, there is a high probability that the veterinarian will not find skin cancer: 70 to 80 percent of the skin tumors are benign and therefore mostly harmless. But it is also true that skin cancer in dogs is often fatal. Every second four-legged friend who is over ten years old dies of cancer.

What types of skin cancer are there?

It is primarily older dogs that are at increased risk of developing malignant skin tumors. The types of the disease are different, there are these skin cancer variants:
● Spiked cell cancer (squamous cell carcinoma)
● Black skin cancer (malignant melanoma)
● mast cell sarcoma (malignant mastocytoma)
● Basal cell carcinoma (basalioma)
● fibrosarcoma

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How can I recognize symptoms of skin cancer?

Your four-legged friend can be affected by individual tumors or tumor groups - in most cases the growths can be palpated. Often it is the extremities like legs and paws that are affected by skin cancer. But it can also occur on the stomach, back, neck or head. You should take these symptoms particularly seriously, because they could indicate skin cancer:
● hardening
● swelling
● redness
● itching

But symptoms that affect the general condition of your four-legged friend can also indicate skin cancer. These include:

● Loss of appetite
● weight loss
● Apathy and listlessness
● irregularities in heartbeat and blood pressure
● cough (normal or with expectorations)
● Difficult breathing
● vomiting (normal or bloody)
● diarrhea
● abdominal pain
● Blood in the stool (also discolouration of the excrement too dark to deep black)
● swelling of the lymph nodes
● Bleeding and impaired wound healing

Skin cancer or not: this is how the vet makes the diagnosis

First, the vet carefully examines the skin change. In many cases it is possible to distinguish benign skin changes, such as warts, from malignant tumors at first glance. You as the owner are also in demand: Your information about when the skin change has taken place, how quickly a tumor has grown or what other symptoms your dog is suffering from are important details for a good diagnosis.

In cases of doubt, the veterinarian takes a tissue sample, also called a biopsy, at the site of the skin change. He examines this sample under a microscope to distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. Complete removal and a subsequent check are also common for conspicuous skin tumors.

What therapies are there?

If the cancer is skin, the veterinarian removes the tumor. Adjacent healthy tissue is also affected to ensure that all malignant cells are eliminated.

Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Since chemotherapy in dogs requires much less dosage than in humans, your four-legged friend also suffers from fewer side effects. The goal of this type of therapy is to avoid pain: your dog should live as pain-free as possible.

In many cases, radiation therapy is a measure to reduce the size of the tumor before an operation. After the operation, the radiation is continued so that the chance of finally destroying all foreign cells is as great as possible.

What is the prognosis if my dog ​​has skin cancer?

If your dog has been diagnosed with skin cancer, the stage of the cancer and the type of tumor determine the prognosis. With regard to the chances of a cure for skin cancer, early detection of the disease is essential, because the veterinarian can start treatment earlier. You should be correspondingly attentive to conspicuous and rapidly progressing skin changes. Have your vet check these and other symptoms as soon as possible.