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Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs

A mast cell tumor, or MCT, is a complex condition that can affect your furry friend. In this blog post, our vets in Toledo will discuss mast cell tumors in dogs, including the causes, symptoms and how they can be diagnosed and treated.

What exactly is a mast cell tumor?

It's important to know what mast cells are to understand mast cell tumors better. These are a type of white blood cell that can be found in the skin and other tissues. They are important for the body's immune system, but when they become abnormal, they can lead to the development of mast cell tumors.

A mast cell tumor (MCT) is a cancerous tumor composed of mast cells. These tumors usually appear as nodules or masses on the skin, but they can also affect other organs such as the spleen, liver, intestine, and bone marrow.

MCTs are dogs' most common type of skin tumor, accounting for 7% to 21% of cases. Fortunately, most dogs with MCTs only develop a single tumor.

What are the causes of mast cell tumors in dogs?

The cause of mast cell tumors (MCTs) in dogs is still unknown, but it is believed that both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to their development. The exact reason a particular dog develops MCTs or any cancer is still under investigation.

While MCTs can affect any dog breed, certain breeds are more prone to these tumors, including boxers, English bulldogs, Boston terriers and Labrador retrievers.

MCTs are usually found in older dogs, with an average age of eight to nine years, and both males and females are equally affected.

What does a mast cell tumor look like on a dog?

It can be difficult to identify a mast cell tumor on a dog, as they have varying sizes and textures and appear as raised lumps or bumps on the skin.

Here are the most common symptoms of a small cell tumor and what they may look like:

  • They can be itching, redness, and swelling around the lump.
  • They appear to be oval or irregularly shaped.
  • They are usually red-brown.
  • The lump may change in size.
  • They can occur anywhere on the body.
  • They can appear suddenly and grow very quickly.
  • A dog's mast cell tumor can burst and begin bleeding.

How are mast cell tumors diagnosed in dogs?

Diagnosing mast cell tumors typically involves physical examination, fine needle aspiration, and histopathology in our veterinary diagnostic lab. Veterinarians may perform a biopsy to confirm the presence of mast cells and determine the tumor's grade, which helps guide treatment decisions.

What are the treatment options for mast cell tumors in dogs?

Mast cell tumors in dogs can progress differently depending on many factors, such as the tumor's stage and grade. Treatment options vary, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments. The main goal of treatment is to remove the tumor and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

Recent studies have shown that mast cell tumors have a genetic basis. Therefore, drugs targeted at proteins associated with cancer development are being developed. Other drugs are designed to cut off the tumor’s blood supply. Targeted therapy is a more practical option for patients with non-surgical MCT or those with recurrent MCT that has failed to respond to other chemotherapies.

For the best treatment options for your dog, consult a veterinarian at Shoreland Animal Hospital.

Prognosis & Life Expectancy for Dogs With Mast cell Tumors

The life expectancy of dogs with mast cell tumors depends on various factors, including the tumor's grade and stage and the effectiveness of the treatment administered. While some dogs may experience a tumor recurrence, others may lead a happy and healthy life after successful treatment. Monitoring the dog's health and providing follow-up care is crucial to ensure its well-being and detect any signs of recurrence at the earliest possible stage.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition. 

If your dog has any unusual lumps or bumps, please don't hesitate to contact our vets in Toledo to book an examination.

Welcoming New Patients

Shoreland Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinary team is passionate about the health of Toledo pets and is looking forward to meeting you and your furry friend. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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