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Squamous Cell Carcinoma in dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

There are many types of skin cancer and squamous cell carcinoma is one of them. However, as you might know not all skin cancers are created equal. Some undergo metastasis while others do not. That’s why it’s important to learn more about squamous cell carcinoma if you think your dog has it.

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

As mentioned, yes this is a malignant type of cancer. It shows up in the epidermal cells of the skin. There are two very important things to know about this type of cancer:

  1. It grows much slower than other types of cancer – but this doesn’t mean you should just let it be (it needs to be taken care of!)
  2. If it spreads, it will not spread to the lymph node system like other types of cancer.

What Causes SCC (risk factors)?

You’ve probably heard that sun exposure causes skin cancer. Guess what? That’s true with dogs too. Though your dog has a thick coat of coat (at least some do), he can still get exposed to the sun, especially during those long days at the beach or the park.

In addition…

To this, research seems to indicate that there is a genetic component to the development of squamous cell carcinoma as well.  This is why dogs with thin fur coats might be more prone.

Breeds such as:

And Dalmatians are some of the breeds that could get SCC.


It’s important to note light haired dogs are more prone, however, black dogs could get it on their toes or exposed skin.

Now are these…

Dogs “genetically prone” to developing squamous cell carcinoma?  Or are they just genetically prone to developing a “coat” that makes them susceptible to developing squamous cell carcinoma?  We’ll that’s sort of like asking…

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

We’re not sure, all we know is that if your dog has short hair, try to limit his or her exposure to the sun.

Symptoms & Clinical Signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

Not all squamous cell carcinoma looks the same. There are sores and there are tumors. Sores tend to look crusty and can even bleed. They may be referred to as lesions. Don’t confuse this with actinic keratosis; that’s a separate thing altogether (and very few cases of actinic keratoses will ever turn into skin cancer).


On the other hand, are masses of skin growth, raised and can appear as moles or skin tags.

Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

If the vet diagnoses your dog with SCC then you will have to consider the treatment options. Most likely, this is going to involve one type of surgical excision or the other. You can do:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing of the mole).
  • Mohs surgery (cutting it out and analyzing) aka mohs micrographic surgery.
  • Curettage and electrodesiccation (this involves removing the damage and surrounding cells).


A vet will recommend removal of the skin tag without diagnosing it. In fact, because he/she will have to do a biopsy for a full diagnosis, then it doesn’t really make sense to biopsy such a small thing, wait for the results, and then do a second incision. Instead, most of the time, the whole tag, mole or growth is removed and then analyzed.

There is also…

A chance that the vet will recommend photodynamic therapy for the nearby cells. This is a special treatment using photosensitizers and wavelengths to kill off the potentially dangerous cells. It’s not that common that a vet will recommend radiation, but he or she might in severe situations.

Prevention of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

The best thing you can do to prevent recurring SCC or from it happening altogether is to use sunscreen. Yes, there are sunscreens for dogs. Look into a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have squamous cell carcinoma (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Cost of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

The cost of SCC will depend on the severity, but it’s likely going to be less than $1000. That still sounds like a lot, we’re sure, but it’s cheaper than most illnesses or diseases.  Imagine if your dog got another type of cancer. It could be $5000 for surgery and treatment.

This is 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 right 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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