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Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs

Mast cell tumors are a complex health often diagnosed in dogs. Dog owners must understand these tumors' origins and treatment options to ensure a positive outcome. In this blog post, our vets in Diamond Bar will discuss mast cell tumors in dogs, including their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. 

What is a Mast Cell?

To better understand mast cell tumors, it's important to know what mast cells are. 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.

What is a Mast Cell Tumor?

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

What Causes This Cancer? 

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 breed of dog, certain breeds are more prone to these tumors, including boxers, English bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, schnauzers, Staffordshire terriers, beagles, Rhodesian ridgebacks, Weimaraners, Chinese shar-peis, 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 can have varying sizes and textures, appearing 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:

  • Itching, redness, and swelling around the lump
  • They appear to be oval or irregularly shaped
  • Red-brown color
  • The lump may change in size
  • Occur anywhere on the body
  • Can appear suddenly and grow very quickly.
  • They can burst and start bleeding

How are Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs Diagnosed?

Diagnosing mast cell tumors typically involves a combination of physical examination, fine needle aspiration, and histopathology all done 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.

How are Mast Cell Tumors Treated? 

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, such as toceranib phosphate (Palladia®), are being developed. Other drugs such as tigilanol tiglate (Stelfonta®) 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 Diamond Bar Veterinary Clinic.

Life Expectancy & Recovery for Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs

The prognosis for dogs with mast cell tumors depends on various factors, including the tumor's grade, 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 undergoing successful treatment. Monitoring the dog's health and providing follow-up care is crucial to ensure their 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 you suspect your dog may have a mast cell tumor or notice any unusual lumps or symptoms, don't hesitate to contact your vets in Diamond Bar to book an examination. Early detection and intervention are key to increasing the chances for positive outcomes.

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Diamond Bar Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Diamond Bar companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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