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Mast Cell Tumor in Dogs… How worried should I be?

As we all know, the word “tumor” automatically invokes a certain level of fear, and rightfully so. This is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss what it might be like to own a dog who has been diagnosed with a mast cell tumor. We bet you wonder what exactly a mast cell tumor is and how it will impact your ‘dog’s health.?   You might also be wondering what your treatment options and the prognosis? While we’re probably not going to answer all of your questions in this short article, we might be able to answer some of the most urgent ones! So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

What is a Mast Cell Tumor?

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies or inflammation. They also have a response mechanism within the body to deal with it. A mast cell tumor, or MCT, is a skin tumor due to the body’s failure to respond to allergies/inflammation appropriately. As you may know from humans, any kind of skin cancer or skin tumor is much less deadly than other types of cancer/tumors. So, while it’s natural for you to become anxious that your dog has been diagnosed with a mast cell tumor, we encourage you to relax until you know the whole situation.

Because the truth is not all “mast cell tumors” are the same. Some can be serious, while others can be caught early enough, so you may not have much to worry about.

Symptoms & Clinical Signs of Mast Cell Tumors

Because mast cell tumors occur on the skin, you’ll probably easily see it on your dog, which is a good thing because this can often lead one to be able to identify and diagnose the condition early on. Of course, your dog’s fur coat could cover up a lump or mass, but with regular brushing and adequate grooming, you’ll likely come across it on your dog’s body soon enough.

Problem is…

Sometimes, a mast cell tumor can be overlooked or mistaken for a standard “skin tag.” This is why we want to take a moment and describe some of the “characteristics or symptoms” that could indicate that you’ll need a professional to examine your dog. Characteristics such as:

  • The size and shape of the “skin tag” is not consistent; may even change,
  • Noticeable growth of the skin tag or lump in a short period,
  • Enlarged lymph nodes, as well as a lump or growth,
  • Loss of appetite and or unexplained weight loss,
  • Vomiting or diarrhea.

Please note that your dog does not need to display all symptoms. As a rule of thumb, if you suspect something is wrong, visit a vet regardless!

Commonly Affected Breeds

Mast Cell Tumors can impact any breed, but Boston Terriers and Pugs are more likely to get them than others. If you have either breed, it would be a good idea to do a body exam once a year to look for lumps and canine mast cell tumors specifically.

Stages of Tumor

Like all types of cancer, there are stages of mast cell tumors and grades. Grade 1 is much less prone to metastasis than Grade 3. You may see it written as Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III, aka “high grade.” Stages refer more to the spread. If there is only a tumor and no metastasis, it’s stage 1. However, any lymph node involvement automatically qualifies as stage 2. If it’s gone beyond region lymph nodes to farther-reaching ones, then it’s likely stage 3. Further, spread to organs such as the spleen puts it at stage 4.
The stage of the disease will determine the treatment plan and the prognosis.

Mast Cell Tumor Diagnosis in Dogs

The veterinarian will be the one to give an accurate diagnosis and determine the stage. This will be done using various investigation methods, such as a fine needle aspirate and a surgical tissue biopsy. Your dog may also be given an abdominal ultrasound to check the organs.

Treatment Options

Again, this will depend on the stage and grade of the tumor. Your dog will almost always need surgical removal of the cancer. This could be a relatively straightforward procedure. Whenever a surgical excision is done, a surgeon removes the tumor and surrounding cells in what is known as the surgical margins. If it is later shown that there are still cancer cells in the surgical margins, then your vet may need to do a follow-up surgery to prevent spread.

Other treatments….

That may be necessary, including radiation, chemotherapy, anti-cancer drugs, and antihistamines if a histamine release is a symptom of your dog’s tumor. It’s important to note that local tumor recurrence is known to happen; roughly one in ten dogs will have it even after treatment. Does that mean your dog’s survival time is lower? Not necessarily.

Now, this is…

It’s probably also a good time to remind folks that we at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors or veterinarians. We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them. So, if you feel like your dog may suffer from a mast cell tumor, be sure to have it checked out by a veterinarian immediately! This way, you can be sure your pet won’t suffer needlessly. Plus, in addition to possibly saving your animal’s life, you could save yourself a ton of money!

You see…

Treating mast cell tumors can be expensive, mainly as the cancer grows and metastasizes to other parts of your dog’s body. Which is why catching this disease early is so important. It’s also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not. But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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