Canine melanoma is a type of cancer characterized by the formation of dark lesions. These lesions can be either malignant or benign and can occur virtually anywhere on your dog’s body. However, they typically occur on the skin, toes, or in the mouth. Melanomas that occur on the skin usually are benign. Those that are found in the eyes, toes, or mouth tend to be malignant.
There is no known reason why melanoma in dogs occurs. However, it is thought to be for genetic reasons as certain breeds are affected at a higher rate than others, with males and smaller dogs developing melanomas more often than their female and larger counterparts. Various breeds of terriers and spaniels are commonly affected, as well as Chihuahuas and Chow Chows.
Dogs that have a white coat of hair and spend a great deal of time out in the sun can be affected by canine melanoma more often too. That’s why it’s important that sunscreen be used for these dogs. Keeping them out of the sun is the best thing to do though.
Owners sometimes miss spotting the signs of melanoma in dogs. This is especially the case if there is a lot of hair that covers up the lesions. You may notice your dog scratching or licking a mole quite often because it’s itchy. Moles can also change appearance in the form of size, shape, or color.
As you have already learned, canine melanoma commonly occurs in the mouth. If this happens, your dog will have more noticeable symptoms. He will drool, cough, or sneeze excessively. He may also have trouble swallowing his food, so he will be more hesitant to eat which will cause him to lose weight.
The veterinarian will examine your dog closely if he suspects melanoma. A fine needle aspirate or biopsy of the area may be used to establish a diagnosis. Since the cancer can easily spread and get worse, blood tests and x-rays are often conducted.
Treatment of melanoma in dogs commonly involves surgery. If possible, the cancer will be removed. Not all dogs will be suitable for surgery though, so they may undergo radiation or chemotherapy. Dogs may have a pretty good survival rate if treatment is started early.
As with virtually every form of cancer, it is best that canine melanoma be detected as early as possible. This will help keep it from spreading to other areas of the body. If you keep your dog groomed properly, then you will be able to spot noticeable changes to the skin more easily. The mouth and toes should also be checked frequently.