Could My Dog Have Melanoma in Cincinnati, OH?

You may be familiar with melanoma in humans, but did you know dogs can get melanoma, too? Unfortunately, canine melanoma is pretty common. All that fur and hair dogs have does not protect them from skin cancer. Nearly 18% of all external tumors found on dogs can be attributed to melanoma. No specific breed of dog is more prone to melanoma which means your pet could be at risk.

Read through blog post from our animal hospital in Cincinnati, OH, to learn more about the signs, diagnosis, and treatment of dog melanoma.

What is Dog Melanoma?

Melanoma occurs when melanocytes, the cells that create skin pigment, become malignant. Malignant tumors are cancerous and have a tendency to spread quickly. Melanoma is considered skin cancer but it is not always caused by the sun.

However, areas of your dog that are more susceptible to damage from the sun are at risk. Dogs with lighter hair, which doesn’t provide much protection from the sun, are also susceptible. 80% of malignant tumors are found in or around a dog’s mouth but tumors can also form on in the intestines, on the skin, nail beds and eyes.

What are the Signs of Dog Melanoma?

Melanoma can impact your dog differently depending on where it is located in or on your dog’s body. There are several different kinds of melanoma and each has its own symptoms and signs to look out for.

Oral Melanoma

Despite being the most common type of melanoma, it may be harder to identify tumors in your dog’s mouth. If your dog is suffering from bad breath, excessive drooling, bleeding, or aversion to dry food, you should investigate their mouth for any signs of melanoma. Most oral melanoma appears as a round black mass and can sometimes appear pink or multicolored. It can also present as a small cut or irritation inside the mouth that oozes puss or blood.

Nail Bed Dog Melanoma

As the second most common type of melanoma to impact dogs, nail bed melanoma can be recognized by a mass that grows under your dog’s toenail. Your dog might have trouble walking on the affected paw and avoid putting pressure on it all together. The affected paw might also be swollen, bleeding, and producing pus or discharge.

Ocular Dog Melanoma

Tumors in or around your dog’s eye or eyelid are rare, over 80% of tumors found in the eye are benign and will cause nothing but discomfort for your dog. However, whether benign or malignant, a tumor on your dog’s eye will change the shape and possibly the color. If you notice any black circles, protruding bumps, or a drastic change in the shape of your dog’s eye, consult with your vet to determine the cause.

Dermal Dog Melanoma

Tumors growing on your dog’s skin will be more noticeable than the other kinds of melanoma. Luckily, nearly 90% of all tumors found on your dog’s skin will be benign and easily removed. Tumors will typically appear as dark masses that vary in size. Occasionally, they can lack pigment and be the same color as your dog’s skin. Although they are usually not bothersome to your dog, work with your vet to ensure your dog’s tumors are not malignant.

Squamous Cell Dog Melanoma

This will appear as hard warts and can mostly be found on the abdomen.

Mast Cell Dog Melanoma  

This is slow growing and appears as a rash or infected area on your dog’s body.

Since melanoma can also grow on your dog’s internal organs, it is best to consult with your vet if you notice any changes in behavior or health your dog may experience.

Is Dog Melanoma Dangerous?

Like most cancers, malignant melanoma can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Depending on the type of melanoma, the cancer may be able to spread throughout your dog’s body. Tumors around the mouth are more dangerous because malignant melanocytes can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

How is Dog Melanoma Diagnosed in Cincinnati, OH?

A biopsy must be done on the infected cells to determine if they are cancerous. A fine point needle is injected into the tumor or mass to collect skin cells. These cells are then sent to a pathology lab where it is determined exactly what kind of cell they are and if they’re fast growing, malignant cells.

How is Melanoma Treated?

While a cancer diagnosis is always scary, that doesn’t mean there aren’t treatment options. Depending on where the cancer is and how far it has progressed, treatment can be as easy as a simple surgery to remove the infected area or prescribing your dog steroids.

Cancers that are more complicated may require you to work with a pet oncologist to develop a plan for radiation or chemotherapy to target and kill cancer cells.  Rarely, if cancer has progressed far enough, there may be no treatment options and your focus will be on treating your dog’s symptoms so they are comfortable.

How Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting Melanoma in Cincinnati, OH?

Like humans, some dogs have a predisposition for cancer because of genetics. However, limiting your dog’s exposure to the sun can limit skin damage that can promote melanoma. Beyond that, the best thing you can do for your dog is educate yourself about melanoma.

If you notice anything suspicious on your dog’s skin or any unusual behavior, set up an appointment with your vet. Catching cancer early is the best way to ensure your dog can beat it. 

Unfortunately, our pets are not immune from a lot of the things that we, as humans, need to look out for. Dogs can get cancer too. Depending on the kind of melanoma, your dog will have different signs and symptoms.

The best thing you can do for your dog is recognizing their behavior patterns and being vigilant when it comes to their health. Fortunately, modern medicine has advanced quite a lot for dogs as well and a cancer diagnosis now has many different treatments options.

If you suspect your dog may have melanoma, or have questions, give our Cincinnati, OH, animal hospital a call at (513) 531-7117.