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Skin Cancer Awareness and Dogs

Dogs can suffer from malignant melanomas just as humans can.


The first Monday of every May is National Melanoma Monday. Not everyone is aware that dogs can suffer from skin cancer just as humans can, often because their fur makes people think their skin is safe from the harmful effects of the sun.


Three of the most common forms of skin cancer in canines are malignant melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas and mast cell tumors. Most cases can be treated with medical care and are not fatal if detected early, so it's important to be able to recognize the signs. Dogs most typically display skin cancer on the nose, ears, feet, legs, nail beds, abdomen, genitals and mouth, but it is not limited to just those areas. Dogs that have short or light hair coverings and pale-colored coats have a higher likelihood of experiencing damage on other parts of their bodies and may show tumors anywhere. 

Some of the symptoms to look out for, according to the Morris Foundation for Animals, are:
  • moles that the dog is itching; may also show bleeding
  • dark, irregularly-shaped skin lesions
  • skin lesions on the toes or inside the dog's mouth
  • bad breath, drooling, coughing and/or sneezing
  • lack of appetite and weight loss
  • fatigue and/or nausea
  • behavior changes that may include depression, lethargy, etc.
Dogs may also limp if they experience mast cell tumors or squamous cell carcinomas on their legs and/or feet.

Skin cancer is not limited to certain breeds, although some breeds have shown a higher incidence such as Airedale Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Miniature Schnauzers and Viszlas.

For more detailed information on skin cancer and dogs, visit the Melanoma - Melanocytic Tumors page at the National Canine Cancer Foundation website.

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