The big “C word” is possibly the scariest thing a pet parent can hear. Unfortunately, most of our pups will pass from some form of cancer, whether it be in their old age or suddenly. If only there were a way we could predict and prevent it.
Well, we have good news for you! Researchers have discovered which breeds of dogs are most likely to suffer from skin cancer, as well as measures you can take to prevent your dog from falling ill.
What Types Of Skin Cancer Affect Dogs?
There are three common skin cancers found in dogs.
Malignant Melanoma: Commonly Affects Ages 5 – 11
Malignant melanoma affects dogs in the same way it affects people. This form of cancer affects pigmented cells called melanocytes. Dogs will often develop benign, non cancerous, tumors in pigmented cells. These masses are commonly found on areas of the dog’s body that have hair.
Though these growths are not yet cancerous, they can develop further and become life threatening.
“Trauma or compulsive licking of a particular spot on the skin may increase the likelihood that cells will multiply, thereby raising the chances that cells will mutate during the division process and become cancerous.”
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Commonly Affects Ages 6 – 10
This is the most well known form of skin cancer in dogs, as it is related directly to sun exposure. This cancer is caused by exposure to the sun. Squamous cell cancers are not known for spreading to nearby lymph nodes, but they can become quite dangerous, attacking the tissue around the tumor.
“Scientists believe there may also be a connection between the papilloma virus and the development of squamous cell tumors in certain dogs.”
Mast Cell Tumors: Commonly Affects Ages – Unknown
These forms of skin cancer occur in the mast cells of the immune system, and are the most commonly found in canines. Unfortunately, veterinarians aren’t sure why these forms of cancer are caused, but believe that they may be caused by inflammation or irritation in the skin.
“Evidence [also] suggests genetic factors are often important, and the hormones estrogen and progesterone may also affect cancer growth.”
What Breeds Are Most Susceptible To Skin Cancer?
All dogs are susceptible to skin cancer, but these dogs are at the most risk.
Malignant Melanoma: Malignant melanoma, and benign growths, are often seen in Vizslas, miniature schnauzers, doberman pinschers, airedale terriers, and bay retrievers. Dogs with black skin and fur are more susceptible to malignant growths on the toenail. Schnauzers and Scottish terriers are the most at risk.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This form of cancer tends to affect keeshonds, standard schnauzers, basset hounds, collies, dalmatians, bull terriers, and beagles, due to their short coats. Any short haired dog is more susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma, as they have less protection from the sun’s harmful rays, as well as dogs with light skin and fur.
Mast Cell Tumors: Mast cell tumors are found in a multitude of dogs. However, boxers and pugs are more commonly affected, as well as Boston terriers, Labrador retrievers, beagles, and schnauzers. Mast cell tumors are more difficult to predict, as their cause is still unknown.
How Can You Prevent Canine Skin Cancer?
Preventing skin cancer in canines is just as simple as preventing it in humans.
Squamous cell carcinoma and melanomas are caused by sun exposure. Therefore, they can be prevented by providing shade, sunscreen, and covering the skin. Dogs, much like people, must spend as much time in the shade as possible while outside, and some dogs may require sunscreen to protect their more sensitive areas of skin. Light haired and furred dogs are more at risk of sunburning, which can lead to forms of skin cancer. For these dogs, some parents may want to consider clothing to cover their dog’s skin. Thin material can protect your dog from harmful rays without risking overheating.
Other forms of canine skin cancer are commonly found in the toenails. Dogs, who have suffered from a broken toenail, may be more susceptible to growths. If your dog has recently broken a toenail, and it doesn’t appear to be growing back correctly, you may want to consult your veterinarian. These forms of cancers are easily treatable when detected early.
Skin cancers are often found in dogs’ mouths. This means that it is very important to check your dog’s mouth regularly for any abnormal looking growths or discoloring. Helping your dog grow accustomed to these checks will come in handy if he ever needs to visit the veterinarian. Foul oder and bad breath are also symptoms of skin cancer within the mouth.
Other Ways To Prevent Canine Cancer
A healthy diet of protein and vegetables is the best way to prevent canine cancers. There are many fruits and vegetables with cancer fighting properties, that will benefit your dog in more ways than one.
Check out this article on ingredients that can help prevent cancer in your dog!
If you believe your dog may be suffering from canine skin cancer, consult your veterinarian.