Mast Cell Tumors in Dogs
Mast cells are located in their skin and several of their tissues, intestines, and respiratory tract

Mast cell tumors in dogs account for roughly 20 percent of all skin tumors.

While they may not be the most common form of tumor your dog can develop over their lifespan, they can be one of the most dangerous.

These forms of tumors will in most every case start out very small and appear insignificant, but they must be taken very seriously.

In some cases they can be removed and your dog will never have another problem.

However, in other cases, even when they are removed, they can still lead to a life threatening situation.

If you do spot one very early as a small growth, under no circumstance try to remove it yourself.

If you try to remove it, they can cause severe damage to your dog as well as placing their life in jeopardy.


In fully understanding mast cell tumors in dogs and the forms of cancer they can cause, it is extremely helpful to understand exactly what a mass cell is.

Mast cells are cells in your dog’s body that are located in in their skin as well as several of their tissues, their intestines, and their respiratory tract.

Your dog has a tremendous natural immune system that acts as a defense against any type of a foreign invasion, and mast cells are a major part of this system.

The mass cells in your dog’s body contain very large amounts of several substances that include histamine, heparin, as well as what is referred to as proteolytic enzymes.

These are the enzymes that breakdown protein in your dog’s body.

When combined, they become extremely toxic and deadly to most all foreign invasions from bacteria, parasitic, and other invasions that attack your dog’s system.

However, it is in these cells that mast cell tumors in dogs are formed.

Because of the contents of the mass cells, they can and do create several problems in your dog if they are damaged or removed.

If large amounts of these contents are released by some sort of damage, they can affect your dog’s heart, their blood pressure, as well as several other vital functions in their body.

Even when removed by a professional, the site where they were located may never heal properly and can become extremely difficult to manage.

For this reason, if to see any type of growth, never pick at it or try to remove it yourself.

If you do, and they are mast cell tumors in dogs, you can severely impact your dog’s health as well as threaten their life.


Cute pugsMast cell tumors in dogs does have some effective treatments

Mast cell tumors in dogs will show a large array of various symptoms, and it is also helpful to understand that they are not always malignant.

In some cases they are benign, but even this form can lead to other threats.

The first sign that you may see is the tumor itself, but unlike other tumors that are quite definitive in appearance, mast cell tumors are anything but definitive.

They can be found either on your dog’s skin or under their skin, and they can be very smooth, very bumpy, or even ulcerated in some cases.

These tumors are almost always found in three parts of your dog’s body; their limbs, their trunk, or their genital area.

However, there are other signs and symptoms that you may notice before you actually see the growth or tumor.

Your dog may suddenly start to vomit for no apparent reason, develop blood in their stool, or develop what is referred to as duodenal ulcers.

However, there is one other very chilling symptom; the sudden loss or abnormalities in your dog’s blood clotting abilities.


Mast cell tumors in dogs can affect all breeds and at any age. However, there are some breeds that seem to be a lot more affected than others.

The breeds include Golden Retrievers, English Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, as well as Boxers.

It is also believed that any breed that has a short wide head is also more at risk, but other than a possible genetic link, the medical community has no idea why.

In fact, the actual cause of mast cell tumors in dogs is still not fully understood.

These tumors do not occur in humans, and because of this, there has been very little research done on the actual cause.


Mast cell tumors in dogs are graded on their degree of severity and how likely they are to actually be malignant.

This grading process consists of grade one through three, with three being the most severe.

Grade one implies that the mass cell tumor is in the skin of your dog, and this is almost always benign.

Even they can become very large and extremely difficult to remove, they do not spread.

Grade two will extend below your dog’s skin into other tissues, and may or may not be malignant. However, this grade does not always respond to treatments.

Grade three goes deep into your dog’s skin, can become extremely aggressive, and it very difficult to treat.

Once the grade has been determined, they are than staged by your veterinarian.

This process is the measurement of how much they have actually spread in your dog’s skin and tissues, and is on a scale of zero through four.

Stage zero and one are very close in relationship, as there will be only one tumor located and will have no lymph mode involvement.

Stage two of mast cell tumors in dogs is where there are multiple and very deep skin tumors, and may or may not involve lymph nodes.

Stage three is one or more tumors that have spread and does involve the lymph nodes, and it may or may not involve other symptoms.

Stage four is very similar to stage three, but is considered much more serious.


Mast cell tumors in dogs has three forms of treatments; surgical removal, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Surgical removal is the most popular of the three and can be very effective in resolving grades one and two.

In this process, the tumor as well as a very large area of healthy tissue will be removed that surround the tumor for one very basic reason.

It can be extremely difficult to determine where the tumor actually begins as well as where it ends.

However, there will be some cases where surgery may not be able to completely remove the tumor, and in this case, radiation will also have to be used.

In the vast majority of cases, if your veterinarian determines there is not enough area around the tumor that can be safely removed, they choose this option.

This is done after the surgery, but only if they have not spread. If they have spread, the only other option will be to combine surgery, radiation, as well as chemotherapy.

This will involve anti-cancer drugs with the combined treatments and there is one other important factor; mast cell tumors in dogs do not respond as well as other forms of cancer to chemotherapy.


Mast cell tumors in dogs and their overall chances of survival will all depend on the grade and the stage.

In the vast majority of cases it can be resolved, but if it has gone very deep and has attacked internal organs, your dog may not have much of a chance.

If it has gone deep into your dog’s nail bed, the genitals, or their muzzle and mouth, they have a very poor chance of surviving.

However, if it is in only affects their limbs, their chances are very good unless you pick the tumor or try to remove it yourself. In these cases, all bets are off.

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