Tumors in a Dog's Neck & Face


When petting your dog, if you notice lumps or growths on his neck or face, consult with your veterinarian as the tumor may be cancerous. Even noncancerous tumors in the face and neck may affect your dog's vision, inhibit airways and make it difficult for him to swallow.

Note when you first saw the growth and if it has changed in any way by the time you get to the vet's office. Your vet will want to know if your dog seems to experience any discomfort or pain from the mass or if you notice any other behavioral changes.

Cancerous Tumors

Malignant Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that in dogs usually appear in the mouth or around the lips. Melanoma spreads rapidly to other tissues including the lymph nodes and brain.

Melanoma also may affect the eyes. You may see a nodule protruding from your dog's iris or a mass within the eye that distorts the shape of his pupil.

Melanoma is a fast-growing cancer and can be fatal. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to improving your dog's chance of survival. Treatment often includes surgery and radiation therapy.

Thyroid Tumor

Thyroid tumors cause a lump in the neck. These tumors are almost always cancerous and quickly spread to lymph nodes and surrounding tissues in the neck. They are most common in older beagles, boxers and golden retrievers, but may occur in any dog.

Surgical removal of the tumor increases your dog's chance of survival. However, these tumors often attach to other tissues and organs in the neck. If this happens, your dog is ineligible for surgical removal of the tumor. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be considered.

Noncancerous Tumors and Lumps

Basal Cell Tumors

Basal cell tumors develop in the deepest layer of your dog's skin. These tumors are usually benign with only about 10 percent of cases malignant, according to PetMD. Most dogs have a complete recovery after the tumor is surgically removed.

Button Tumor

Cutaneous histiocytoma are benign tumors that occur in histiocyte cells in the skin. Histiocytes are a part of your dog's immune system and protect his skin from the sun's rays and prevent infections from viruses and bacteria. These tumors are called button tumors because of they look like buttons on your dog's skin.

In some cases, these tumors disappear on their own. However, many dogs experience ulceration, bleeding or itching from the tumor. If this occurs, surgery is recommended to remove the surgery and prevent a potentially deadly secondary bacterial infection.

Fatty Tumor

Fatty tumors are common in older dogs. Although they normally appear around your dog's rib cage, they may develop on any part of his body. Unless the fatty tumor is causing your dog pain or discomfort, no treatment is required.


An abscess is an infection that creates a bubble of pus under your dog's skin, creating a lump that you may mistake for a tumor. Your vet will drain and clean the abscess and prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. Untreated abscesses can cause serious infections deep in the tissue or blood stream.

Epidermal Inclusion Cyst

An epidermal inclusion cyst is a mass created by fluid under the skin. In the case of these cysts, the fluid is made up of secretions from the sebaceous glands. Cysts may rupture or become infected and can be very painful for your dog.

Treatment usually includes surgical removal of the cyst. Laser therapy may be applied to the glands and additional treatment may be needed for secondary infections.

Calcium Deposits

Calcium deposits, or calcinosus circumscripta, create a firm mass that may appear anywhere on your dog's body including the face and neck. They are most common in large breeds.

In some cases, these deposits reabsorb on their own. Large deposits may push through the skin. This is painful for your dog and may result in secondary infections. In many cases, your vet will surgically remove these deposits.

Diagnosing and Treating Tumors

If you notice any lumps or tumors on your dog's neck or face, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. If the tumor is cancer, early diagnosis improves your dog's chances of survival. Your veterinarian will begin with a physical examination of your dog. Other diagnostic procedures to identify the type of tumor may include a biopsy of the tumor, X-rays, an ultrasound, blood work including a chemistry profile and an urinalysis.

Once the type of tumor has been identified, your vet will discuss treatment options available for your dog. Noncancerous tumors, such as fatty tumors, may require no treatment or they may be surgically removed if it is causing your dog discomfort.

Treatment options for cancerous tumors vary based on the location of the cancer, the dog's physical condition and how much the cancer has spread to other tissues. Options to consider include surgical removal, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

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