Did you know that dogs can get skin cancer, too? Well, if not, we’re sorry to tell you it’s true. Bud, don’t worry; like melanoma in humans, if diagnosed early, there is a perfect chance that your dog will be just fine. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a responsible and caring dog owner, will be less stressed by hearing that your dog has been diagnosed with melanoma.
This is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss what it’s like to have a dog diagnosed with melanoma. This way, you’ll be better prepared to know what to expect. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Have you heard the words malignant and benign? If so, you probably already know that malignant tumors are cancerous, whereas harmless means are noncancerous. If your dog has malignant melanoma, it is cancer, but don’t get too stressed out. Because not all malignant tumors are harmful, some can be pretty manageable.
Common types of Melanomas
The most common type of melanoma for dogs is oral or mouth skin cancer. It may sound contrary to everything you’ve ever heard about skin cancer (it’s caused by the sun; how does the sun get in your dog’s mouth?), but yes, it’s true. The mucus membranes in your dog’s mouth can get tumors.
That said, dogs can also develop cancers on their noses and “fur-covered” body portions. This is why it’s essential to know how to “check” your pet for any signs of skin cancer and be aware of some of the things you should look for.
Checking Your Dog
Humans prone to skin cancer are advised to do self-examinations regularly. This means surveying one’s body, looking for abnormalities on the skin. As a pet owner, you can also do this with your dog. While regularly grooming your dog, note if you see any suspicious skin lesions, moles, or other things that could be a tumor. Open your dog’s mouth and look in the oral cavity for signs of oral malignant melanoma. You may also check your dog’s nail beds for anything suspicious. This is especially important to do for older dogs.
Diagnosis of Melanomas in Dogs
The first thing your veterinarian will do is this same kind of exam, looking for signs. If you have pointed out a specific site, then your vet will look at that with careful consideration. Now, a biopsy is the only way to determine if tumor cells are in the mass. Your vet may surgically remove the entire tumor and then test it or scrape a bit of it to test for cancer cells.
If your dog already has malignant melanoma, the vet will have to find out if it has spread. They will do this through tests such as chest X-rays, ultrasound, and possibly an MRI. Your vet will decide which tests to conduct based on clinical observation. The lymph node system is one of the main areas in which any cancer tends to spread. This could be localized or throughout.
Once you know if the cancer has reached metastasis, a treatment plan can be implemented. There is some evidence that melanoma and dermal mast cell tumors go hand in hand, so your vet will look into that. If your dog’s mast cells are cancerous, then a treatment plan will address that explicitly.
Your dog’s treatment plan for malignant melanoma could include:
Your dog’s median survival time will depend on the extent of their cancer. As mentioned, your dog could need a simple surgical excision to remove the tumor, and he’ll be fine! However, survival times drastically decrease if major organs have cancerous cells present.
Another treatment option…
What has recently been developed is the “melanoma vaccine.” You may want to consider it; however, some wonder if it is controversial. Discussing this with your vet would be best, and then deciding what is best for your dog.
This brings us to a critical point that we need to make: We here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. 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 have melanoma or be suffering from any other medical condition, don’t rely on the internet to make a diagnosis; have your pet checked out by a professional!
You may save your pet from discomfort by having a simple condition become complicated, but you could also save yourself a ton of money. This brings us to our next topic: what it might cost to treat your dog if they develop melanoma.
You need to know logistically: how much will this treatment plan cost? Again, just like survival times, it depends on how far along the cancer is. It could cost you as little as $200 if it is a primary cancer. But, if things have gotten complicated, you could find yourself shelling out thousands of dollars over a few months. Are you in the financial position to do that? If not, you’re not alone.
This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost 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.