Dogs Get Skin Cancer Too
Last updated: April 2021
While you're protecting yourself from skin cancer, it is important to know that your pets can get skin cancer too. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs get skin cancer just like us.1 While you're practicing safe measures against the sun, there are also ways to protect your pet. Here's more about skin cancer and how dogs get it too.
Can dogs get skin cancer?
There are a few factors that dictate if your pet is more susceptible - just like with people. Genetics play the most important role. Some dogs are genetically predisposed, just like with humans. This means they're more likely to develop skin cancer than some of their canine brethren.
Other risk factors
Another risk factor that's just like us humans is sun exposure. Your dog may have a lot of fur covering their skin, but that's not enough to protect them. Exposed areas are more susceptible. These include ear tips, noses, bellies if your dog loves lying on their back, and eyelids. If your furry friend has clipped hair in areas, these areas are more exposed to harmful UV rays. Other risk factors include certain types of viruses, hormonal abnormalities, and environmental chemicals.
What to look for
If you find a spot on your pet's skin that doesn't seem to heal, see your vet. These may look like an open sore or even a red spot. Early detection gives your pet the best possible chance for care and healing.
Types of skin cancer
Just like with us humans, there are various types of skin cancer in dogs. Some of the more common ones include:
While this type of skin cancer rarely spreads, it does tend to come back, even after surgical removal.
Even though this is called malignant melanoma, it can be either benign or malignant. This is concerning since the potential for metastasis is prevalent. They look like raised lumps and are commonly found on nail beds, lips, and the mouth.
Histiocytic cell tumors
This is a common type of skin cancer and typically found in dogs under three years of age.
Squamous cell carcinoma
This sounds familiar, doesn't it? Squamous cell carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed type of skin cancer in dogs and commonly found in older pets. They're usually found on your dog's tummy area.
Mast cell tumors
These are common and can be found anywhere on the dog's skin.
Treatment for skin cancer in dogs
The treatment varies depending on how serious it is, how long it's been present, and other factors like location and stage of cancer. Many are removed surgically, like with people. More serious skin cancers are helped by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Prevention is key
Like in humans, skin cancer is mostly preventable. Yes, it sometimes happens even if you or your pet is not in the sun. But the sun is the main cause. While you're practicing sun safety, help your dog be sun-safe, too. At the very least, you can help lower the risk. The most helpful way to do this is to keep your pet out of direct sunlight during peak hours. We know your dog probably loves basking in the sun and frolicking in the warm weather. Make sure they're not exposed during the hours when the sun is doing its worst.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?