Lumps and Bumps on the Skin are the #1 Cause of Cancer in Pets

Skin cancer is the #1 type of cancer in pets. If it is found early, however, there is a good chance your pet’s life can be saved. A pet owner should feel for new lumps and bumps monthly. Make a picture diagram and document the appearance and date your findings.

Warts (papillomas), cysts and fatty tumors (lipomas) are common. However, some fatty tumors and bumps can look like a cyst, pimple, or tick bite and can turn out to be a mast cell tumor (MCT). Mast cell tumors are what veterinarians like to call the “great pretender” because they can pretend or look like anything. Usually they are small, slightly raised, slightly bald and slightly red, relatively safe and benign looking bumps.

It is ok to watch the bump for a few days or even a few weeks. If it goes away, it was probably a pimple, cyst, tick bite reaction, scrape, etc. If it does not go away or even if you are convinced it is just a fatty tumor, let us look at it. We will just stick a small gauge needle in it to extract some cells. This is called an FNA or a fine needle aspiration. It doesn’t hurt and is inexpensive. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you in about 2 minutes if it is just a cyst or fatty tumor. And guess what? If this is the case, you won’t have to remove it or do anything about these. If we get microscopic cells that look like a mast cell tumor (MCT) then we can take steps to save your pet’s life.

Dr. Rockhill with Cat patientMCT’s typically only spread after about 6-12 months. They spread to the liver and spleen and usually kill the patient in a few months to years. If caught within 6 months and removed, you just saved your pet and lots of worry, surgery and chemotherapy.

Melanomas are the other malignant skin cancer that if overlooked even for a few weeks can be deadly. Malignant melanomas again don’t look like a big deal. They are usually small, dark (black) lumps or bumps on the gums (in the mouth) or near the toes. Call us immediately if you find a lump that matches this description. Remember that lots of dogs have dark pigmented smooth gums, which is normal. A pigmented mass, however, may be cancer. Small black lumps near the eye or on other areas of the body are usually benign.

No need to talk about the large, firm, faster growing or oozing, draining lumps. Most clients will bring pets with these in right away. Again, the thing to remember is that time is of the essence. The earlier you bring in your pet to have a lump or bump checked, the better a chance for a diagnosis and cure, costs will be decreased, and most importantly, your pet can go on to live a full and healthy life!

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