Canine squamous cell carcinoma presents itself as a firm, raised, wart-like bump on the skin. In some cases, these growths have a cauliflower-like or ulcerated appearance. These tumors usually appear on the head, anal area, paws or abdomen, although they can appear anywhere on the body. Sometimes, they grow on the nail bed or in the mouth.
If your dog develops any bumps or lumps, take him to the vet as soon as possible for an examination and diagnosis. A dog's prognosis depends on early treatment and whether the cancer has spread.
While any dog can develop squamous cell carcinoma, certain breeds are especially at risk, with older canines most often affected. These include the basset hound, beagle, bloodhound, bull terrier, collie, Dalmatian, keeshond, standard schnauzer and whippet. Any dogs with short, light-colored coats who spend a great deal of time outside are particularly vulnerable. In some breeds, this tumor more often appears in the nail bed. These include the dachshund, Gordon setter, greyhound, Labrador retriever and standard poodle.
Your vet will need to biopsy a sample of the tumor in order to make a correct diagnosis. This may include:
- fine needle aspiration
- skin biopsy
- and complete tumor removal -- generally done in small tumors.
A veterinary pathologist examines the samples and makes the cancer diagnosis. Your vet may take X-rays of your dog's chest and other areas of the body to determine whether the cancer has spread.
Surgical and Chemo Options
If your dog is diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, surgical removal of the growth is the initial treatment.
- If a dog only has a single, small tumor, your vet might excise it via cyrosurgery, which freezes it.
- Photodynamic therapy, using a light source, is another option.
- If the tumor is in the nail bed, it's common to remove the affected toe. Nail bed tumors tend to recur. Ear tumors may require partial ear removal, and the same holds true for nose tumors.
- Depending on whether the tumor has metastasized, your vet may recommend that your dog undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. If the cancer hasn't spread, surgery alone generally offers a cure.
Dogs with oral squamous cell carcinoma require surgery, but the location of the tumor might mean bone removal as well. Dogs may need radiation therapy post-surgery. The prognosis for dogs undergoing surgery and radiation is generally quite good. If the dog doesn't undergo surgery because the tumor is too large to completely remove, radiation therapy might extend his life for a year or more.