How To Treat Canine Melanoma

Photo of a wounded dog

Canine melanoma is a cancer that can occur in a dog’s mouth, toes, behind the eye or on the skin. Tumors in the mouth, toes and behind the eyes are usually malignant, meaning that this cancer can spread. Melanoma of the skin is generally benign, meaning that the cancer does not spread. Keep in mind that this is a general rule of thumb, and there are always exceptions. 

If your pet is experiencing these health problems, seek professional help. These tips will help you identify and treat this illness.

Symptoms include:

  1. Odd-colored and odd-shaped skin lesions
  2. Bad breath
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Drooling
  5. Coughing
  6. Weight loss
  7. Trouble swallowing
  8. Visible tumors

canine melanomaDiagnosis by a veterinarian depends on findings from:

  1. Physical exam The veterinarian performs a physical exam of the dog including palpating the lymph nodes.
  2. Blood work The veterinarian will draw blood from the dog and test it, getting a blood count and serum chemistry.
  3. Chest X-ray The veterinarian will take an X-ray of the dog’s chest to check the condition of the lungs.
  4. Biopsy The veterinarian can take a biopsy of the tumor to make a diagnosis.

Treatment options include:

  1. Surgery The veterinarian may do surgery on the dog to remove all or at least as much of the tumor as possible.
  2. Radiation Treating the melanoma site with radiation promotes the shrinking of the tumor. Radiation is given in three-dose cycles on day 1, day 7 and day 21.
  3. Chemotherapy Chemotherapy works best when combined with the medicine Dacarbazine.

Unfortunately, the prognosis is poor at best when the disease is found in the dog’s skin. The prognosis for is even worse when it is located in the mouth, toes or behind the eyes. Tumors spread quickly when they are not treated and they may spread even if treatment is tried. Canine melanoma may even reoccur after treatment.

Even though the prognosis is not very good, the treatment received by a dog diagnosed with this cancer may prolong its life, if only for a short time. Of course, as with any medical treatment requiring surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the cost can be expensive. The owner will have to decide if he can afford the treatment. If not, the options are to either let the cancer run its course, which can be painful and might seem cruel, or to have the dog euthanized by the veterinarian, ending the pain and suffering. Remember to always promote canine health, especially during this difficult time for your pup.


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