Description & Appearance of Tumors in Dogs
Unfortunately dog cancer has been on the rise for many years and is now the #1 killer of dogs. The discovery of a lump or any sort of raised skin on your dog can be cause for alarm. This page goes through the most common forms of malignant and benign dog tumors and what you should look for. We have several articles regarding cancer, diet and supplements, so be sure to read over all of them.
The nasty C-word looms like a ghost in a bad horror movie, as you wonder if it’s possible that your dog has cancer. Understanding the science behind cancer in dogs (and cancer in general) can prove insightful and may help. Knowledge is power, so they say.
What is a tumor?
This may prove surprising, but a tumor is actually any sort of lump, growth, bump, or swelling. A tumor does not necessarily have to be cancerous, although we’ve commonly associated tumors as such. Tumors that are cancerous are known as “neoplasms.”
Cancerous tumors are either benign or malignant. A benign tumor makes its invasion slowly, but it doesn’t spread or cause damage to neighboring tissue. Most benign tumors in dogs are not removed unless they cause the dog discomfort in some fashion. These typically aren’t life-threatening.
A malignant tumor can be called a carcinoma, sarcoma or lymphoma. That depends on where the tumor originated. These tumors typically are life-threatening and will grow without the same “respect” benign tumors show. At some stage of the game, the malignant tumor splits from the primary origin point and gets into the lymphatic or circulatory system of the dog, which leads to further spread.
What types of tumors in dogs are not cancerous?
There are a number of common non-cancerous tumors you may find on your aging dog with a routine examination:
- Dog warts or cutaneous papillomas – these cauliflower-like tumors typically show up on the head, feet, ears, and genitalia, but some dogs develop them everywhere and anywhere. Typically benign, papillomas are generally caused by something called sebaceous gland hyperplasia. These tumors often turn up in middle-aged or older dogs and can come back if removed.
- Sebaceous cysts or sebaceous gland tumors – these are very common and are caused by some form of obstruction in the dog’s hair follicles. They are filled with a very attractive (yeah, I know) cottage cheese-like sebum and are prone to rupturing on their own. These appear typically on the hair, neck, ears, and legs and can be cleaned regularly with a diluted betadine solution.
- Aural hematomas or earflap hematomas – as the name might indicate, these hematomas are related to the dog’s earflap. Blood pockets near the surface of the skin, hematomas of this sort are caused by bruising of the tissue of the earflap. Dogs can do this by violently shaking their heads, sometimes because of ear infections. The earflap subsequently fills with fluid, creating swelling.
- Histiocytomas – these have the appearance of a red button and can make their ugly presences known on the head, ears and legs. These tend to disappear on their own within a timeframe of about eight to 12 weeks. These tumors are sometimes misdiagnosed as something more serious (and cancerous), so be sure to get a second opinion if you aren’t certain and find a qualified pathologist.
- Perianal gland adenomas – these are round and pink benign tumors that are typically found around the dog’s anus. As much as you may not want to spend time near your dog’s exit door, it can be vital to check the area out for trouble. These adenomas can also appear on the tail or the groin, by the way, so get comfy. Male dogs are more prone to deal with these tumors and some breeds, like German Shepherds, tend to be affected more than others.
- Lipomas or fatty tumors – finally, these are common in dogs over the age of eight. These soft tumors are generally found around the neck, chest, abdomen, and legs. They can grow into larger tumors and interfere with organs or cause the dog great annoyance, which can be reason enough to look into having them removed.
Dog tumors – what types are cancerous?
While there is no open and shut way beyond a veterinarian’s assessment to determine if tumors are cancerous enough, there are some general hallmarks to keep in mind.
- Remember that a tumor is dangerous when it grows. Often times dog cancer can be spotted with a routine physical examination which is why it’s integral to know what your dog’s body looks like (yes, even the anus). When you discover something new or something that’s larger than it was last time you checked, get a biopsy.
- Half of dog cancer growths and sores are visible just beneath the skin, so any examination should turn these up. And cancers in the mouth can be spotted with inspection or palpitation, something your vet can do in a jiffy. Bone tumors are recognizable thanks to swollen limbs and lameness.
You’ve been told that your dog has cancer – what’s next?
As always, make sure your that your senior pooch has regular visits to a holistic vet who will work with you on a healthy natural diet and much needed natural supplements that work well for treating dog cancer. Spotting non-cancerous tumors and knowing the basics of the science behind canine cancer is only half the battle. Be proactive in pet care, hold your dog close and remember to keep an eye on things.
Veterinarian Dr. Demian Dressler’ book is a great guide for treating dog cancer, plus he also gives away a free diet book for dogs with cancer.