Skin cancer in dogs is just as dangerous as in humans, encompassing any number of dog diseases involving the uncontrolled growth of skins cells, as well as tumorous growth in related structures such as hair follicles, glands, connective tissue and fat.
There are forms of dog cancer that start in other parts of the body and then later spread to the skin through metastasis, but these aren't considered to be true examples of skin cancer because the tumors did not begin in the skin tissue.
There are many types of dog cancer, but skin cancer in dog breeds is considered the most common variety. Dogs tend to have up to six times the number of cases of skin cancer as cats, but due to how common these tumors are, dogs are also more likely to experience benign ones.
For the most part, skin cancer in dog breeds targets individuals who are middle-aged and older. This includes dogs that are around six to 14 years old. However, there are exceptions; there have been a number of cases of skin cancer being reported in younger dogs as well. Also, there are certain breeds that are thought to be more prone to skin cancer than others.
These include Boxers, Terriers, Norwegian Elkhounds, Bullmastiffs, Basset Hounds and Weimaraners.
As with many other types of cancer, we aren't exactly sure what causes most cases of skin cancer in dog breeds. Exposure to large amounts of sunlight have been known to increase a dog's likelihood of developing two types of skin cancer, known as hemangioma and squamous cell carcinoma; lighter dogs with thin coats of fur are the most likely to develop either of these two diseases.
Malignant melanoma is another kind of common dog cancers. Its exact causes are unknown too, but trauma or excessive licking concentrated on one particular area of the skin has been proven to increase the probability of tumor growth. There has also been some speculation that this kind of cancer has some genetic causes as well.
The most common type of skin tumor in dogs is probably the mast cell tumor, which infects the cells of the immune system. Some doctors believe that, like malignant melanoma, mast cell cancer has genetic roots. However, there is also evidence that irritants and inflammation play a role in the development of this type of tumor too.
Fortunately, unlike some other forms of dog cancer, skin tumors can often be treated if they are discovered soon enough. With malignant melanoma, surgery is often the answer.
If the tumor can't be fully removed, or if it has been allowed time to spread to the lymph nodes, radiation therapy is often used. These treatments are usually able to extend the dog's life expectancy even if the cancer in the dog can't be fully undone. Depending on the type of cancer, drugs and chemotherapy may often be administered.