Pets Get Skin Cancer, Too!

Dogs and cats are covered in fur, so it’s impossible for them to get sunburned or develop other sun-related problems like skin cancer, right?

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Both dogs and cats can develop skin cancer. Although our pets’ dense fur acts as a natural sunscreen, it isn’t uniformly dense. Body areas with thin or no fur — such as the nose, ears, around the eyes and, for many dogs, their bellies — are vulnerable to sun exposure and damage. Dogs and cats with white or light-colored coats and chronic sun exposure are also at greater risk for skin problems.

Skin-related lumps and bumps

The skin is one of the largest organ systems of dogs and cats, and it’s certainly one of the most visible. Lumps and bumps can be fairly common, especially in senior pets. The good news is that skin growths, or tumors, are not always cancerous (malignant). In fact, approximately 60 to 80 percent of canine skin tumors are benign, meaning there’s a good chance that a lump or growth on your dog won’t be anything serious to worry about. For cats, however, about 50 to 65 percent of skin tumors are likely to be malignant. Unfortunately, you — and even your veterinarian — can’t tell if a tumor is one of the dangerous types simply by looking at it. That’s why you’ll want your veterinarian to evaluate any lump, bump or suspicious growth you find on your dog or cat’s skin.

Different types of skin tumors

Just as people can develop different types of skin growths and cancers, so can dogs and cats. Three of the most common types of potentially cancerous skin tumors in dogs are melanoma, mast cell tumor and squamous cell carcinoma. For cats, the three most common forms of potentially malignant skin tumors include basal cell tumor, squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumor.

Melanoma. Melanomas, which can be either benign or malignant growths, affect pigmented skin cells called melanocytes. The benign form tends to be found on areas of a dog’s body that have hair. Most cancerous melanomas occur on the mouth or mucous membranes, although about 10 percent are found on fur-covered body parts. Malignant melanomas tend to grow rapidly and are likely to spread to other organs, including the liver and lungs.

Basal cell tumor. These tumors, which can be harmless or cancerous, account for 15 to 26 percent of all skin tumors in cats. Basal cell tumors vary in size, tend to be slow growing, and often appear as a single, well-defined, hairless, raised bump on the skin. They’re typically found on a cat’s head, neck or shoulders.

Mast cell tumor (MCT). Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system. These cells, which contain packets of histamine and heparin, are best known for their role in allergies and inflammation, although they play other important protective roles. Mast cell tumors are the most common malignant skin tumor of dogs, accounting for 7 to 21 percent of all canine skin tumors. MCTs can vary in appearance from a hair-covered lump on or under the skin to a hairless, red, open sore. They are also invasive and difficult to treat. In cats, MCTs can develop in the skin or in internal organs, most commonly the spleen, intestine and liver.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Associated with sun exposure, squamous cell carcinomas are more commonly seen in cats than in dogs. White-furred areas of the face are at risk, with the ear tips and nose being especially vulnerable. The SCC typically begins as a small scabby area that may be mistaken for a scrape or cut. However, the “abrasion” doesn’t heal and actually continues to grow. These tumors are also known for being invasive, so detecting them early is important.

Not all doom and gloom

As scary as “the big C” can be for pet owners, finding a lump or bump on your best fur friend doesn’t mean the end is near. It does mean, however, that you need to take immediate action to determine if the tumor is benign or malignant. Many skin tumors and cancers can be treated successfully if they are found early and removed completely during surgery. But you also need to know that a cure isn’t always possible: it depends on the tumor’s type, invasiveness, size and location. For cases where surgery is not an option, chemotherapy or radiation treatments may also be recommended.

What you can do to help protect your pet from skin cancer?

You can help protect your pet by taking these simple steps:

  • Do monthly nose-to-tail checks for lumps, bumps and scabs, and contact your veterinarian if you find any.
  • Limit outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest. You and your dog may also appreciate longer walks in the early morning and evening when it’s cooler than midday.
  • Install glare-reducing films with UV-filtering protection on windows where pets nap in the sun.
  • Dress your pet in sun-safe clothing.
  • Apply the right sunscreen — to your dog as well as yourself. You’ll want a pet-specific sunscreen because human versions may contain ingredients, such as octisalate or homosalate, that can be dangerous to cats.
  • Avoid close shaves if your pet is given a “summer cut.” Because fur offers some protection from the sun, maintain at least a half inch of fur on your pets.

Your veterinarian is your best resource for questions about your pet’s health, including their skin. Ask your veterinarian to check any unusual lumps, bumps, growths or sores whenever you find one anywhere on your pet’s skin.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.

Search

  • Where to Buy Diamond Pet Food Near Me
    [gravityform id="22" ajax="true"]
    <div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gravity-theme scoop-form_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_22' style='display:none'><div id='gf_22' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div> <div class='gform_heading'> <h2 class="gform_title">The Scoop Newsletter</h2> <span class='gform_description'></span> <p class='gform_required_legend'>&quot;<span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span>&quot; indicates required fields</p> </div><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_22' id='gform_22' class='scoop-form' action='/blog/health/sensitive-skin/pet-skin-cancer-prevention/#gf_22' > <div class='gform_body gform-body'><div id='gform_fields_22' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><div id="field_22_8" class="gfield gfield--width-full gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><p class="sign-up-text">Sign up to receive email communications, including our <span style="white-space:nowrap;">e-newsletter</span>, The Scoop, where you can be the first to know about social contests, new blog posts and more!</p></div><fieldset id="field_22_1" class="gfield field_sublabel_hidden_label field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><legend class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' >Name</legend><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name' id='input_22_1'> <span id='input_22_1_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_1.3' id='input_22_1_3' value='' aria-label='First name' aria-required='false' placeholder='FIRST NAME' /> <label for='input_22_1_3' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>First</label> </span> <span id='input_22_1_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_1.6' id='input_22_1_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' aria-required='false' placeholder='LAST NAME' /> <label for='input_22_1_6' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>Last</label> </span> </div></fieldset></fieldset><div id="field_22_2" class="gfield gfield--width-full gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_22_2' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk"> * <span class='sr-only'> Required</span></span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_2' id='input_22_2' type='text' value='' class='large' placeholder='EMAIL ADDRESS' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><fieldset id="field_22_3" class="gfield gfield--width-full pet-parent-radio gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_above hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><legend class='gfield_label' >PROUD PARENT OF A<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk"> * <span class='sr-only'> Required</span></span></span></legend><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_22_3'>PROUD PARENT OF A</div><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_radio'><div class='gfield_radio' id='input_22_3'> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_3_0'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_3' type='radio' value='DOG' id='choice_22_3_0' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' aria-describedby="gfield_description_22_3" /> <label for='choice_22_3_0' id='label_22_3_0'>DOG</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_3_1'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_3' type='radio' value='CAT' id='choice_22_3_1' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_3_1' id='label_22_3_1'>CAT</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_3_2'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_3' type='radio' value='BOTH' id='choice_22_3_2' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_3_2' id='label_22_3_2'>BOTH</label> </div></div></div></fieldset></fieldset><div id="field_22_7" class="gfield gfield--width-full gfield_html gfield_html_formatted field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><button class="dropdown-toggle" type="button" id="puppy-drop" data-toggle="dropdown" aria-haspopup="true" aria-expanded="false">DO YOU HAVE A PUPPY?*</button></div><fieldset id="field_22_6" class="gfield gfield--width-full scoop-puppy-radios gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_above hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><legend class='gfield_label' >Do you have a Puppy?<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk"> * <span class='sr-only'> Required</span></span></span></legend><div class='gfield_description' id='gfield_description_22_6'>*By answering "Yes" to this question, you agree to receive the <i>Puppy Love</i> email series</div><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_radio'><div class='gfield_radio' id='input_22_6'> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_0'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='NO' id='choice_22_6_0' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' aria-describedby="gfield_description_22_6" /> <label for='choice_22_6_0' id='label_22_6_0'>NO</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_1'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 1 month old (or younger)' id='choice_22_6_1' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_1' id='label_22_6_1'>Yes, they're 1 month old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_2'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 2 months old' id='choice_22_6_2' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_2' id='label_22_6_2'>Yes, they're 2 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_3'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 3 months old' id='choice_22_6_3' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_3' id='label_22_6_3'>Yes, they're 3 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_4'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 4 months old' id='choice_22_6_4' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_4' id='label_22_6_4'>Yes, they're 4 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_5'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 5 months old' id='choice_22_6_5' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_5' id='label_22_6_5'>Yes, they're 5 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_6'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 6 months old' id='choice_22_6_6' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_6' id='label_22_6_6'>Yes, they're 6 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_7'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 7 months old' id='choice_22_6_7' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_7' id='label_22_6_7'>Yes, they're 7 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_8'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 8 months old' id='choice_22_6_8' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_8' id='label_22_6_8'>Yes, they're 8 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_9'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 9 months old' id='choice_22_6_9' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_9' id='label_22_6_9'>Yes, they're 9 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_10'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 10 months old' id='choice_22_6_10' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_10' id='label_22_6_10'>Yes, they're 10 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_11'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 11 months old' id='choice_22_6_11' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_11' id='label_22_6_11'>Yes, they're 11 months old</label> </div> <div class='gchoice gchoice_22_6_12'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_6' type='radio' value='Yes - 12 months old' id='choice_22_6_12' onchange='gformToggleRadioOther( this )' /> <label for='choice_22_6_12' id='label_22_6_12'>Yes, they're 12 months old</label> </div></div></div></fieldset></fieldset><fieldset id="field_22_9" class="gfield gfield--width-full field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><legend class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' >Newsletter Subscribe</legend><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_checkbox'><div class='gfield_checkbox' id='input_22_9'><div class='gchoice gchoice_22_9_1'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_9.1' type='checkbox' value='Company Newsletters, Contests &amp; More' checked='checked' id='choice_22_9_1' /> <label for='choice_22_9_1' id='label_22_9_1'>Company Newsletters, Contests & More</label> </div><div class='gchoice gchoice_22_9_2'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_9.2' type='checkbox' value='Puppy Love for your pup&#039;s first year?' checked='checked' id='choice_22_9_2' /> <label for='choice_22_9_2' id='label_22_9_2'>Puppy Love for your pup's first year?</label> </div></div></div></fieldset></fieldset><div id="field_22_10" class="gfield gfield--width-full field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_hidden" ><div class='admin-hidden-markup'><i class='gform-icon gform-icon--hidden'></i><span>Hidden</span></div><label class='gfield_label' for='input_22_10' >No Puppy subscribe</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_10' id='input_22_10' type='text' value='Company Newsletters, Contests &amp; More' class='large' aria-invalid="false" /> </div></div><div id="field_22_11" class="gfield gfield--width-full gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_11' id='input_22_11' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='The Scoop PopUp' /></div></div></div></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type="submit" id="gform_submit_button_22" class="gform_button button om-trigger-conversion scoop-pupout-submit-btn" value="I WANT THE SCOOP!" onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_22"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_22"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_22"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_22"]=true; jQuery("#gform_22").trigger("submit",[true]); }'> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=22&amp;title=1&amp;description=1&amp;tabindex=0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_22' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='22' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_22' value='WyJbXSIsIjMxNWNiMzMzODYwMmM1N2FiZWEyMTM0ZDJlYTQ2NGMyIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_22' id='gform_target_page_number_22' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_22' id='gform_source_page_number_22' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> </form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_22' id='gform_ajax_frame_22' title='This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.'></iframe> <script type="text/javascript"> gform.initializeOnLoaded( function() {gformInitSpinner( 22, 'https://www.diamondpet.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_22').on('load',function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_22');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_22').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;var mt = parseInt(jQuery('html').css('margin-top'), 10) + parseInt(jQuery('body').css('margin-top'), 10) + 100;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_22').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_22').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_22').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_22').offset().top - mt); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_22').val();gformInitSpinner( 22, 'https://www.diamondpet.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms/images/spinner.svg' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [22, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_22'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_22').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_22').offset().top - mt);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [22]);window['gf_submitting_22'] = false;wp.a11y.speak(jQuery('#gform_confirmation_message_22').text());}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_22').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [22, current_page]);} );} ); </script>