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Signs and Symptoms

Page history last edited by CADDIA 10 years ago




According to the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, dogs are 35 times more predisposed to skin cancer as compared to humans and and  6 times more predisposed than cats.




      Typical signs of canine skin cancer include:

  • lump or bump that may or may not be ulcerated. 


  • The skin may be red or has a flaky appearance


The cancer can result in: itching, causing the dog to chew and scratch the affected area                 



Systemic symptoms depend on the location of the tumor, the seriousness of the cancer and whether it has metastasized.


Some systemic signs may include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Vomiting (maybe bloody)
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Wounds that cannot heal
  • Enlarged lymph nodes


A typical dog tumor shown breaking through the skin:



Common malignant dog skin tumors are as follows:


1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)




The tumors can appear many places but are seen most commonly on and around the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and areas with little hair.

At first, SCC tumors look much like other common skin irritations such as a raw ulcer or non-healing sore, making them difficult to identify.


Typical Cause:

  • Sun damage

Signs of SCC: 

  • Scabs
  • Hair loss
  • Irritated skin
  • Loss of teeth with limited healing
  • Raised red bumps on the skin


Breeds commonly affected by this type of canine skin cancer include:

  • Shih tzus
  • Standard poodles
  • Mastiffs
  • Basset hounds
  • Blood hounds


2. Mast cell tumors



Typical Cause:


Hereditary & environmental factors


Most common fatal skin cancer in dogs.


 Mast cell tumors that appear in:

  • the armpit area
  • mammary tissue
  • groin, anus or genital areas
  • in the lips, eyelids, or body openings

are likely to be malignant.


The appearance of canine mast cell tumors are unsual and can mimic other benign skin lesions such as lipomas (fatty tumors).

Because of their ability to mimic benign skin tumors, these dangerous mast cell tumors often are not diagnosed until later in the disease, resulting in a worse prognosis for the dog patient.


Usually found in the skin, but they can also be commonly found on the:

  • Trunk
  • Limbs
  • Genital Area


The tumor can be single or multiple, and it can be smooth, bumpy, or ulcerated.


Signs of Mast Cell Tumors:

  • Itching and inflammation of the skin
  • Occasional local bleeding while tumor is scratched
  • Ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract causing mild to severe bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the stool

3. Hemangiosarcoma


 Typical cause:


Important genetic factors


There are 2 types of skin associated hemangiosarcoma in dogs:

       I.            Dermal (skin)

    • Signs include:
      • Dark appearance of skin
      • Raised skin lesion (usually on hairless areas eg. Abdomen)


    II.            Hypodermal (under the skin)

    • Signs include:
      • Soft mass of tumor


      • Firm mass of tumor with ulceration


Breeds most commonly affected by this type of canine skin cancer include:

  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Boxers
  • Schnauzers
  • Pointers
  • Doberman Pinchers


4. Perianal Tumors


  • Tend to occur on hairless skin around the anus 
  • Appear raised 
  • Can occur as multiple masses that may become ulcerated and secondarily infected


5.  Limpoma


  • Tend to appear as fatty tumors
  • They are benign
  • Can be confused with mass cell tumor


 6.  Sebaceous Hyperplasia


  • Can be solitary or multiple
    • Typically:
      • Raised
      • Firm
      • Wart-like/Cauliflower-like
      • Range from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter
      • Usually pink but can be yellow or darkly pigmented
      • Oily, ulcerated or alopecic (hair loss on and around the lesion)
      • Common on the belly (ventral abdomen) but can occur anywhere





  • Most common sites:
    • Head 
    • Pinna 
    • Neck  


  • Common Signs
    • Nodules are typically:
      • Solitary 
      • Red 
      • Dome-shaped 
      • Sparsely haired  
      • Appear rapidly 
      • Ulcerated but not painful


8. Melanoma


  • Signs and Symptoms:
    • Bad breath.
    • Drooling.
    • Bleeding from mouth
    • Facial swelling   
    • Decreased appetite
    • Chewing on one side of mouth


  •   Typically occur as : 
    • Single growths
    • May or may not be pigmented or dark in colour
    • Generally, benign melanomas are deeply pigmented, smaller and well defined


9. Fibrosarcoma


  • Typical Signs and Symptoms:
    • Swelling of the bones
    • Difficulty eating
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Signs of pain
    • Signs of lameness
    • Poor mouth odor
    • Bleeding from the mouth


10. Basal Cell Tumor


  • Typical Signs and Symptoms:
    • Solitary, firm, well circumscribed, hairless growth 


  • Areas usually affected:
    • Head 
    • Neck 
    • Shoulders




Cancer in Cats

  • White cats are more prone to skin cancers than others (especially around the ears and eyes)      




  • Skin cancers appear mostly as lumps under the skin or lesions that do not heal




Generally cats share the same symptoms of skin cancer as dogs        


Signs of skin cancer in cats:


  • Tumors or lumps under the skin
  • Sores that do not seem to heal
  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Trouble urinating or defecating
  • Unexplained bleeding or a strange discharge from any body opening         
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Lameness or stiffness that persists over a period of time
  • Bad odor
  • Having trouble eating or swallowing food
  • Blemishes, scaly areas of colour
  • Colour changes and irregular areas in the cat’s eyelids, lips and the mouth’s interior


10 Common signs of cancer in Small Animals
(American Veterinary Medical Association)


  1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  2. Sores that do not heal
  3. Weight loss
  4. Loss of appetitie
  5. Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  6. Offensive odor
  7. Difficulty eating or swallowing
  8. Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  9. Persistent lameness or stiffness
  10. Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating



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Comments (2)

gorimr@sgu.edu said

at 5:38 pm on Apr 18, 2011

interesting stuff

Shivanan Ramlakhan said

at 6:46 pm on Apr 18, 2011

pictures need referencing

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