Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Vet is doing a needle biopsy on a Cocker dog.

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Basal cell carcinomas and tumors are the most common forms of skin cancer found in dogs. Most basal cell tumors in dogs are benign, though they can become malignant. Malignant tumors are referred to as “carcinomas”. When they are caught early, most basal cell carcinomas can be treated without further complications, usually with surgery. It is rare for the cancer to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. Basal cell tumors develop on the outer layer of skin and appear as elevated, hairless masses, usually around the head, neck, or shoulders. If you notice a raised mound on your dog’s skin, it is important to get it checked out by a veterinarian. They will be able to tell you if it is benign or malignant and form a course of treatment. Early detection and treatment is always more effective. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of basal cell carcinomas in dogs.

Symptoms Of Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs

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The signs that a dog might have a basal cell tumor or carcinoma include a circular, raised, hairless mass that can vary from 0.2 to 10 centimeters in diameter. Usually this is found around the head, neck, or shoulders. Sometimes they can appear discolored when compared to healthy skin. When they go untreated, basal cell carcinomas can ulcerate and cause other skin problems.

Benign basal cell tumors tend to be more raised and stalk-like, while basal cell carcinomas tend to be flatter. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your dog’s tumor is benign or malignant and form a treatment plan. You should always get any mass you find on your dog checked out by a veterinarian to be safe.

Causes Of Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs

Close-up image of senior White Labrador dog in poor health.

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The causes of basal cell tumors or carcinomas in dogs is unknown. Although the development of basal cell tumors in humans has been linked to sun exposure, the same link hasn’t been found in dogs. Therefore, there is no known method of prevention of basal cell carcinoma development in dogs. Though the causes are unknown, there are several breeds that are more predisposed to developing basal cell tumors and carcinomas. Basal cell tumors are more common in Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and Scottish Terriers, while basal cell carcinomas are seen more in Cocker Spaniels and Poodles. Middle-aged and older dogs are also more likely to develop these conditions.

Treatments For Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs

Dog with a shaved area of fur revealing stitches on a large cut from a recent surgery to remove a tumor. Image taken isolated on a white studio background.

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Basal Cell Carcinomas in dogs are sometimes treated with cryosurgery where they are frozen off with liquid nitrogen, though this is only the case for very small tumors that are less than a centimeter in diameter. More often, the tumor is removed with surgery. If the veterinarian removes all of the affected skin, the dog can usually recover without complications, and the tumor generally will not return so long as a sufficient amount of skin is removed. Basal cell carcinomas will almost never disappear on their own without treatment, so it is important to get it treated properly as early as possible.

Has your dog ever suffered from a basal cell tumor or carcinoma? How did you treat it? Let us know in the comments below!

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