How to Recognize Skin Cancer in Dogs
By Hannah Miller
With summer approaching, dogs will be spending more time outdoors. But while pet parents may be under the impression that dogs are protected from the sun by their fur, this is not the case.
Just like humans, dogs can suffer from skin cancer. Pet parents should know the symptoms, treatments and prevention tactics for this scary health condition.
Skin tumors are the most common type of tumor found in dogs, according to WebMD Pet. While not all canine skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, damage caused by sunburns can still put them at a greater risk for this disease.
Areas on a dog’s body that are not covered with fur, such as the nose and ears, are more likely to experience sun damage. Dogs with less fur and coats that are thin and lighter in color are also less shielded from the sun.
Certain breeds are more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that often develops from sun damage. These breeds include Keeshonds, Standard Schnauzers, Basset Hounds, Collies, Dalmatians, Bull Terriers and Beagles. The age group most likely to develop this cancer is 6-10 years old.
Different types of skin cancer have different appearances. Malignant dog melanomas are often dark in color and occur in the mouth, on the lips, in toenail beds and on foot pads—they are sometimes misdiagnosed as foot infections. Squamous cell carcinomas can look like warts—they are raised and firm. They often appear on the abdomen and around the genitals. If they are on the feet, they can cause a painful limp. Mast cell tumors can develop into inflamed, open sores. They are usually found on a dog’s trunk.
There are skin cancer treatment options for canines that mirror those for humans. Tumors can be removed surgically. Chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment is often used in conjunction with surgery. There’s even a vaccine that can be administered to cause a dog’s immune system to attack tumor cells—this method has been helpful for dogs with oral melanoma.
Pet parents should have their veterinarians check out any new growths on a dog’s skin. They can also take precautions to prevent skin cancer in the first place. They can apply sunscreen specially formulated for dogs such as Warren London Dog. They should test any sunblock on a small area of the pet’s skin first to make sure there’s no bad reaction and focus on sun-sensitive areas such as the nose, around the lips, the tips of the ears, the groin and the stomach without getting any in the eyes.
Pet parents can also limit their dog’s time outside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is the time for peak sun exposure. If dogs are spending the day outside, they can wear sun protection garments like Ezy Dog Rashies, which are made from fast-drying, stretchable fabric that provides 50+ UV protection and prevents heat rash. With these methods in mind, pet parents can keep their pooches safe during summer fun.