Dog breeds that are at high risk of hair follicle tumor include German Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Standard Poodles, English Springer Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters.
Squamous cell carcinoma: is a malignant dog skin cancer that affects the epidermal cells (outermost layer of the skin); they are quite invasive fast growing and can be very aggressive.
The known cause of this tumor is extensive exposure to the sun which results in genetic damage to the epidermal cells; they afflict the areas of the skin with less hair. Short haired dogs that are overly exposed to the sun are naturally at high risk of squamous cell carcinoma including certain dog breeds such as Poodle, Keeshond, beagles, Standard Schnauzer, whippet, Dalmatians, Basset Hound, white English bull terriers and Collie.
One of the most prominent symptoms of this tumor is persistent bleeding sore(s) that does not seem to heal even with the use of antibiotics. If this tumor is identified before it becomes malignant it increases the chance of being effectively treated with the use of topical medication otherwise surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be needed depending on the size and number.
Hemangiosarcoma of the skin: this is a malignant dog skin cancer that starts from the cells of the blood vessels. Although they can afflict any part of the dog’s body they are usually found on the skin (on the surface and beneath), heart and spleen.
Skin hemangiosarcoma develops slowly but metastasizes (spread) quickly, obscuring clinical signs until the tumor has reached an advanced stage thereby reducing the chances of survival. Dermal hemangiosarcoma appears like a black or red lump on the dog’s body or as a lump underneath the skin with a normal overlying skin; undue exposure to the sun is a known cause of this tumor therefore it is more likely to afflict those part of the dog’s skin with little hair such as the abdomen.
If hemangiosarcoma of skin is detected very early and it has not metastasized to other organs of the dog’s body then the prognosis is good and treatment will almost always involve surgical removal of the tumor along with the non cancerous tissues around it.
Fibrosarcoma of the skin: is another malignant slow growing dog skin cancer of the connective tissues of the skin and they usually occur on and beneath the skin particularly at the extremities, the trunk and jaws. This tumor is locally invasive and will only rarely ever metastasize to other tissues.
Even though the cause of this tumor is largely unknown but the fact that certain dog breeds appear to be predisposed to it, a genetic linkage has been inferred. Breeds that are at risk of fibrosarcoma include Golden retrievers, Irish wolfhounds, Doberman Pinschers, Gordon setters and Brittany Spaniels.
These tumors often appears as a firm lump on or underneath the skin and treatment usually involve surgical removal of the tumor along with the unaffected surrounding tissues followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy in other to prevent a possible recurrence which is the usual occurrence in fibrosarcoma. Without the wide surgical removal of the tumor that will include the unaffected surrounding tissues fibrosarcomas are more likely to recur.
Picture of skin cancer in dogs
Warning signs/symptoms skin cancer in dogs
The warning signs of dog skin cancer are not much different from those seen in humans. These include:
- Lump(s)/bump(s) on or underneath the dog’s skin.
- Lesions on the skin.
- A wound that takes a long time to heal or would not heal at all.
- Abnormal bleeding.
- Loss of appetite and/or difficulty in breathing.
- Bad odor.
- Weight loss.
- Unusual defecation and urination.
These are the well known warning signs of dog skin cancer but sometimes there are no visible early warning signs which is the most compelling reason dog owners should also visit the vet whenever their dog is showing any sign of abnormality or simply unwell. However early detection dramatically increases the chances of getting cured while a delay can spell doom and a damning prognosis for the dog.
Diagnosis of skin cancer in dogs
In order for the vet to accurately diagnose a dog skin cancer or rule out any possibility of it, a fine needle aspiration of the affected tissue will be submitted for biopsy. A blood test may also be carried out on the dog.
The diagnosis will also determine the grade of the tumor with grade 1 presenting the most favorable prognosis while grade 3 tumor which are very aggressive and with a high tendency to metastasize have the worse prognosis; grade 2 tumors are neither here nor there and the prognosis can be difficult to establish.
Diagnosis will also establish how advanced the tumor is and if it has metastasized to other tissues of the body; dog skin cancer that has not metastasized present the most favorable prognosis.
Treatment of skin cancer in dogs
There are a few standard treatments for dog skin cancer and each of the different types of cancer treatment available is more suitable in certain situation which is usually a function of how advanced the tumor is i.e. whether it is localized or metastasized:
- Surgery: ideal in situation when the tumor has not metastasized.
- Radiation: ideal in situations where surgery cannot completely remove the tumor. It can be use to shrink the tumor before other treatment are applied.
- Chemotherapy: ideal in situations where the tumor has metastasized.
- Cryosurgery: it involves using intense cold to destroy the tumor and it is ideal for small sized tumors.
Alternative treatment by feeding anti cancer diet
Cancerous cells feed on sugar as a source of energy and in the process denies the dog’s body of carbohydrates and protein thereby weakening the dog and empowering the tumor. The proper diet to feed a dog suffering from skin cancer should be rich in anti oxidants, omega-3 essential fatty acids, good quantity of unsaturated fat, small amount of simple sugar and modest quantity of complex carbohydrate and digestible protein.
Commercial dog food should be avoided because they contain low quality ingredients and the nutritional benefits have been significantly destroyed through processing. In order for the dog to get the most nutritional benefit it should be fed on raw unprocessed dog food.