Everything to Know About Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs

mt. carmel animal hospital mast cell tumors dogs

Learn more about mast cell tumors in dogs.

A mast cell is a kind of white blood cell active in multiple body tissues. Mast cells play a huge role in battling against parasites and the allergic response. They release compounds and chemicals in a process known as degranulation. One of these compounds is histamine, mostly known for producing the common symptoms of allergies such as itchiness, swelling, and skin redness. Keep reading to learn more about mast cell tumors in dogs.

What is a Mast Cell Tumor, and What Causes It?

Mast cell tumors (MCT) are the most common skin tumor in dogs. A mast cell tumor is a kind of tumor consisting of mast cells. They mainly develop masses or nodules in the skin but can impact other body areas – the spleen, intestine, liver, and bone marrow. Most dogs with MCT only form one tumor.

In addition, there is no precise cause for a particular dog developing MCT. Most cancers develop by a complex combination of risk factors, environmental, and some genetics. While any breed of dog can form MCT, specific breeds are more prone to the cancer. They are particularly prevalent in Bull Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, and Boston Terriers.

What are the Signs of a Mast Cell Tumor in a Dog?

Mast cell tumors of the skin can happen anywhere on the body and differ in appearance.

  • MCT often appears as an elevated lump or bump or under the skin
  • The tumor can be red or swollen in appearance
  • Can appear suddenly and develop quickly
  • Can suddenly grow quickly after a couple of months of no change
  • May appear to fluctuate in size, becoming larger or smaller daily

Changes in the tumor are brought on by degranulation. This can be spontaneous or caused by agitating the tumor. Agitation can be as simple as your pet scratching at the tumor. When mast cell degranulation happens, some compounds and chemicals can enter the bloodstream and produce problems elsewhere. Ulcers can occur in the stomach area and cause loss of appetite, vomiting, melena, and lethargy. Although it’s rare, MCTs of the skin can enter the internal organs, producing enlarged lymph nodes, sometimes with fluid build-up in the abdomen. This causes the dog’s belly to look swollen or rounded.

How is a Mast Cell Tumor Diagnosed?

This cancer is usually diagnosed via fine needle aspiration (FNA). This simple procedure can occur during an office visit. It involves using a small needle with a syringe and sucking a sample of cells directly from the tumor. A veterinarian will then analyze the microscope slide under a microscope. We may send the sample out to our reference lab to have a pathologist review the slide.

Are There Any Treatments for MCTs?

MCTs are one of the most treatable types of cancer regardless of the range in behavior and prognoses. Searching for the spread of the cancer to other body areas is usually advised during the MCT diagnosis. This is essential because it will help us create the optimal treatment options for your dog.

Surgery is usually for lower-grade tumors with no proof of spread. Removing a mast cell tumor requires taking large “margins” to ensure all the cancerous cells have been removed. Once the tumor has been eliminated, we will send it to our reference laboratory to have a veterinary pathologist to examine the tumor and cells under a microscope. This will allow us to ensure we removed all the cancerous cells as well as grade the tumor to decide if any further treatment is necessary.

Depending on the tumor grade, surgery may be enough to cure your pet. Higher-grade tumors may require chemotherapy or radiation in addition to surgical removal of the tumor to rid your dog of cancer completely.

Occasionally, there are times when surgery is not an option due to the size or location of the tumor. In these cases, chemotherapy and radiation may be a better option. We also have the availability of targeted therapy in cases where surgery is not an option. We will guide you through the best treatment options for your pet every step of the way.

Here at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital, We’ll Treat Your Pets Like Family!

Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2022 at 3:15 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.