Illustrated Articles

Dogs + Cancer & Tumors

  • Melanomas are cancerous growths of the cells responsible for pigmentation of the skin. They can develop anywhere on the body but those on the toes carry the highest chance for malignancy. They may be painful and you may notice your pet licking at the affected area. Surgery is often the treatment of choice and may be followed up with radiation or chemotherapy.

  • Many herding breeds (most commonly Collies and Australian Shepherds) have a mutation at the MDR1 gene that makes them more sensitive to the negative effects of certain medications. These drugs include several antiparasitic agents (when given at high doses), the antidiarrheal agent loperamide (Imodium®), and several anticancer drugs. The effects of the mutation vary in severity, depending on whether the dog carries one or two copies of the mutation. There is a cheek swab or a commercially-available test that assesses blood samples for the presence of the MDR1 mutation.

  • Nasal tumors are an uncommon type of cancer but when they do occur, they tend to be malignant and locally aggressive. Staging can be done to determine the type of cancer and if it has affected anywhere else in the body. Treatment can be done in some cases to help relieve clinical signs, most often with radiation therapy.

  • Neuroendocrine tumors are a group of tumors that develop from the cells of the neuroendocrine system, and include insulinomas, gastrinomas, glucagonomas, carcinoids, medullary thyroid carcinomas, small-cell lung carcinomas, pheochromocytomas, chemodectomas, and Merkel cell carcinomas. Some of these tumors are functional, while others are non-functional. The signs of disease in dogs and cats depend on the type of growth, location of the tumor, its size, the degree of infiltration in the surrounding tissues, whether it has metastasized, and whether it is functional. A definitive diagnosis requires tissue biopsy and histopathology, often with histochemical staining and electron microscopy. Staging is highly recommended for these tumors. Treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and medical and dietary management.

  • Odontogenic fibromas, sometimes previously referred to as an epulis, are benign tumors of the mouth often at the front of the upper jaw. These may be locally invasive and may cause some oral pain. Surgery is the recommended course of action to treat this condition.

  • Oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are the most common oral tumor in cats, and second most common in dogs. These tumors are locally aggressive, with a possibility to metastasize. Regardless of the location of SCC, surgery is the typically the standard treatment. Radiation therapy may be recommended following surgery or as a primary treatment for palliative care. Staging is recommended for all cases. If metastasis is present chemotherapy is often pursued.

  • Fibrosarcomas are the third most common oral tumor in dogs and arise from the fibrous and connective tissues of the oral cavity. These tumors are very invasive locally and are often difficult to manage, Diagnosis is based on biopsy. Treatment involving surgery and radiation provide the longest survival times.

  • Oral melanomas are the most common malignant oral tumor in dogs. Melanomas usually present as a mass in the mouth and may be melanotic (pigmented) or amelanotic (non-pigmented). These tumors are both locally invasive and have a high tendency to metastasize to other organs. Full staging including CT scanning is recommended to determine the extent of the disease.

  • Like humans, benign and malignant tumors occur in dogs’ mouths. Peripheral odontogenic fibromas (POF) are the most common benign tumors while oral melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and fibrosarcomas are the most prevalent malignant tumors in dogs. Diagnosis may be performed via fine needle aspiration or biopsy. Spread to mandibular lymph nodes does occur. Fine needle aspiration of the lymph nodes is recommended when malignant tumors are suspected. Tumor staging including laboratory testing as well as CT imaging helps to plan therapy.

  • This handout discusses some of the more common forms of oral tumors in pets. Highlighted are Papillomas (“Warts”) and Fibropapillomas, both of wish are caused by viral infection. Clinical signs, diagnostic methods, and treatment options are highlighted.