Mast cell tumors are quite common and account for a great number of skin tumors in dogs. Although mast cells are part of the normal immune system, when cancerous, they might be deadly. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Beagles, Schnauzers, and other protection dogs are prone to developing these tumors.
About Mast Cells
Mast cells are cells that are found in the skin and tissues of the intestines and respiratory tract. These cells belong to the immune system and are part of the defense mechanism of the body. The make-up of these cells is such that it is poisonous to foreign parasites and viruses.
Because these mast cells contain histamine, heparin, and enzymes, they might turn into tumors when these compounds are damaged or removed. These compounds might also release in the body, causing an array of heart problems and affect other body functions. These tumors occur on the skin and account for almost 25% of the skin tumors in canines.
The Appearance of Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors fluctuate in shape. Therefore, even if the dog has had the tumor for several days, it might not appear completely visible. Sometimes dogs also get redness and swelling at the site of the tumor. These tumors have a variable appearance. Sometimes the tumor can look like an insect bite or any other type of skin allergy.
A typical mast cell tumor should be pink, round, hairless, and raised. These tumors can occur anywhere in the body including spleen, liver, and lymph nodes.
Protective Dog Breeds at Risk for Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors usually occur in old dogs. However, there are certain breeds that are at a higher risk of developing these tumors including Boston terriers, Staffies, and Boxers. Although these tumors have been seen in dogs aged eight and above, there have been several cases of younger dogs developing mast cell tumors as well.
Mast cell tumors can also appear in dogs belonging to other breeds including German Shepherd protection dogs, Belgian Malinois protection dogs, and other family protection dogs.
Diagnosing Your Protection Dog with a Tumor
If you suspect that your dog has tumors on its skin, then you can visit the vet. The vet will conduct a test using a needle and examine the cells in the sample under the microscope. If the vet confirms the presence of mast cell tumors, a surgical procedure will have to be performed.
Mast cell tumors can spread in different parts of the body. Hence, the vet will cut a large area around the tumor to ensure that all the cells are removed. This means that the surgical cut will be larger than the size of the tumor itself, which will require plastic surgery to be stitched back together.
Once the surgery has successfully been completed, the vet will take the tumor to the lab for histopathology. The mass will be examined to determine the type of tumor and its aggressiveness. Multiple mast cell tumors can be treated using chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Mast cell tumors can be life threatening for your personal protection dogs. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on your dog’s skin and take it to the vet if you suspect an abnormality on its skin.