Skin cancer isn’t just a disease in people … and it isn’t just caused by too much time spent in the sun without sunscreen. Half of all dogs get cancer, and all forms of cancer are on the rise, including dog skin cancer.
In fact, skin tumors are the most common tumors found in dogs.
Let’s look at the most common types of dog skin cancer, then we’ll look at two natural treatment options that will help your dog safely, without surgery.
Types of Dog Skin Cancer
There are several different types of dog skin cancer. Three of the most common are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Mast cell tumors
Melanomas are abnormal growths that involve melanocytes – the cells that produce pigments (color). These cells are found throughout your dog’s entire body, wherever tissues are colored. Melanomas can either be benign or malignant.
- Typically range in size from very small to 2.5 inches or more in diameter.
- Are usually less concerning than malignant melanomas because the risk of them spreading is not very high.
- Are black, brown, gray or red in color.
- Usually found on areas of the skin that are covered with hair.
- Are a more aggressive, invasive type that usually spread fairly quickly to other areas of the body.
- Can spread to any area of the body, including the lymph nodes and lungs, making them a much more serious threat than benign melanomas.
- Are most often in a dog’s mouth, around the lips, or on the feet (in toenail beds or on the pads).
The cause of melanoma in dogs isn’t clear. While melanoma in humans is usually caused by damage to the DNA of skin cells (especially by UV light), this isn’t likely with dogs since many of the melanomas occur in areas not directly exposed to UV light.
Genetics also seem to play a role. The breeds most at risk include:
- Doberman Pinschers
- Airedale Terriers
- Bay Retrievers
- Scottish Terriers
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that originates in the outer layer of the skin, the squamous epithelium. Carcinomas are characteristically malignant and particularly invasive.
Squamous cell carcinomas:
- Typically grow quickly, getting bigger with time.
- Are usually resistant to healing.
- May appear as crusty, bleeding sores that don’t heal for months, or hard, white-colored wart-like growths.
- Are usually found on the belly, around the genitals, or the feet.
As with melanomas, there’s some debate over what causes squamous dog skin cancer. Extended exposure to sunlight, which is known to damage cells, is the most commonly accepted one. A weak immune system may help these cells become malignant. There may also be some association with the papilloma virus as a cause.
Genetics may also be a factor. The breeds most at risk are:
- Standard Schnauzer
- Basset Hound
3. Mast Cell Tumor
Mast cell tumors are the most common type of dog skin cancer. They occur in the mast cells, the immune cells that play a role in allergic reactions and inflammatory responses. These cells contain histamine, heparin and enzymes to fight off predatory foreign invaders, but damage from allergies or inflammation can cause problems.
Mast cell tumors:
- Usually develop in the skin, but they can also develop internally, but this is less common.
- Can vary widely in size, shape, appearance, texture and location.
- May show up as an isolated lump or mass, although they can appear in clusters.
- May grow in size, then shrink.
- May appear red in color, could be hairless or could be ulcerated (an open wound).
Aside from the lump, most dogs won’t have any symptoms of irritation or illness.
Unfortunately, the causes of mast cell tumors in dogs are not clear. The sun is a potential culprit, but genetics also seem to play a role. The dogs most at risk include:
- Boston Terriers
Why Not Surgery?
If it’s cancer, why not just have it surgically removed? There are several reasons.
Surgery’s invasive. Any time you cut into your dog’s body, there are risks from the anesthesia, blood clots and post-op infections.
Also, to attack any of the remaining cancer cells, the conventional veterinary approach is to bombard an already compromised body with chemical poisons and radiation through chemotherapy and radiation.
To add even more dirt to the pile, there’s research to suggest that surgery can cause the cancer to spread. Also, since most surgeries are not able to get to all of the microscopic cancer cells or remove them, the chances of the cancer coming back are really high.[Related: Can chemotherapy make cancer in your dog worse? Find out what the research says here]
So if surgery is out, what’s the alternative? One of the good things about skin cancers is that they’re easy to get to and they respond well to natural therapy.
Cancer As A Systemic Disease
Cancer is systemic. This means that it affects the whole body.
For example, if your dog has a malignant melanoma, you may see the tumor itself, but you can’t see how the cancer is affecting the rest of your dog’s body. So, when you choose to remove a tumor, you’re just removing one part of the problem. That’s why the tumors so often come back, especially with skin cancer.
There’s something else at work that’s causing the problem to being with.
What that means is that you need to support the whole body.
How can you do that?
- Minimize vaccines
- Feed a fresh, balanced whole food diet with supplements that support and boost his immune system
- Use natural dewormers and flea and tick remedies
- Stop using heartworm medicines
- Wait until maturity to spay or neuter, and do ovary sparing spays if possible
- Avoid the use of chemicals in your dog’s environment – household cleaners and pesticides
Your attitude towards cancer also plays a role. Changing your perspective on cancer can make a big difference. Cancer is not a death sentence and your emotions can have a significant impact on how happy – and healthy – your dog is.
Natural Solutions for Dog Skin Cancer
Here are the two most effective natural treatment options for dog skin cancer.
Neoplasene is a cream made from bloodroot extract. It works by causing apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells. Once applied to the tumor, the tumor cells actually die and the tissue will eventually slough off.
The Pros: It works and it’s not as invasive as surgery. With surgery it’s really hard to get all of the microsopic cancer cells but neoplasene seeks them out and helps the immune system seek and destroy them.
The Cons: It can only be used under veterinary supervision. Because the cancerous tissue sloughs off, a hole is left and proper wound management is crucial. It can also be painful for the dog which is hard for some dog owners to accept.
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin – which is essentially its active ingredient. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, wound healing and anticancer activities.
There have been literally thousands of studies done on turmeric, and nearly 1/3 of the studies done on it are cancer research … and the results are very promising. It’s been shown to not only kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing but to stop precancerous changes from becoming cancer in the first place. And, not only does it kill tumor cells, it does so selectively, leaving healthy cells alone.
The American Cancer Society has said “Curcumin interferes with cancer development, growth, and spread.”
The Pros: Turmeric works, it’s inexpensive, it isn’t painful and you can use it to treat dog skin cancer at home.
The Cons: Turmeric stains your hands, carpets and furniture so you have to wrap it after each application.
One of the easiest ways to use it is with a salve. Here’s a recipe
Recipe For Healing Salve For Dogs
Here’s what you need:
- 1 part organic turmeric powder
- 1 part raw coconut oil (cold pressed)
- 1 part organic lecithin powder
Mix the ingredients together to form a paste and store in a glass jar. Keep it refrigerated.
Here’s how to use it:
- Apply it once a day for 7 days
- After 7 days, let it air for 24 hours
- If there is still a lump, reapply for 2-5 more days, until the lump pops or falls off
You can also get a ready-made turmeric healing salve instead of making it on your own.
A Note About What Your Vet May Prescribe
If you take your dog to the vet and ask for a non-surgical treatment option, you’re probably going to get a prescription for fluorouracil, a topical antimetabolite cream. This toxic compound prevents cells from metabolizing to stop cell growth.
Sounds good, sure … but it’s toxic and is killing dogs.
People are prescribed this cream to deal with their own cancer. What’s scary is that several reports of dogs getting ahold of the bottles and ingesting a small amount only to die a few hours later should make you wonder why it would even be prescribed for dogs … but it is.
The FDA has warned, “People using this medication should use care when applying and storing the medication if they are also in a household with pets, as even very small amounts could be dangerous to these animals.”
If your dog can’t ingest even a small amount, how can it possibly be safe for them? It can’t.
If your dog has skin cancer, surgery isn’t the only option. There are natural treatment options that work and that are far less invasive and risky.