Mast cell tumours (MCTs) are one of the most common types of skin cancer that affect dogs. These tumours develop in the mast cells, which are an essential part of the immune system that helps protect the body from infections and other harmful substances. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about mast cell tumours in dogs, including their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What are Mast Cell Tumours?
Mast cell tumours are cancerous growths that develop in the mast cells, which are responsible for regulating the body’s immune response. These tumours can appear anywhere on a dog’s body, but they are most commonly found on the skin, followed by the subcutaneous tissue (the layer of tissue between the skin and the muscles).
Types of Mast Cell Tumours
There are three types of mast cell tumours in dogs, which are classified based on their location, size, and how they look under a microscope. These are:
- Cutaneous Mast Cell Tumours (CMCTs): These are the most common type of MCTs and develop on or just under the skin. They are usually benign, but they can also be malignant.
- Subcutaneous Mast Cell Tumours (SmMCTs): These tumours develop in the fatty layer beneath the skin, and they are usually malignant.
- Visceral Mast Cell Tumours (VMCTs): These tumours develop in the internal organs, such as the liver, spleen, and gastrointestinal tract. They are the most dangerous type of MCTs and are often malignant.
Causes of Mast Cell Tumours
The exact cause of MCTs is unknown, but several factors are thought to increase a dog’s risk of developing them. These include:
- Age: MCTs are most commonly found in dogs that are six years or older.
- Breed: Certain breeds, such as Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers, are more prone to developing MCTs.
- Genetics: MCTs can be hereditary, which means that if a dog’s parents have had MCTs, the dog is more likely to develop them.
- Environment: Exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants may increase a dog’s risk of developing MCTs.
Symptoms of Mast Cell Tumours
The symptoms of MCTs can vary depending on their size, location, and how advanced they are. Some common symptoms include:
- Lumps or bumps on the skin that may appear red, swollen, or irritated.
- Sores that do not heal or that bleed easily.
- Itching, licking, or scratching at the site of the tumour.
- Loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhoea in dogs with visceral MCTs.
Diagnosis of Mast Cell Tumours
If your dog has a lump or bump on their skin, your veterinarian will likely perform a physical exam and may recommend a
Diagnosis of Mast Cell Tumours
If your dog has a lump or bump on their skin, your veterinarian will likely perform a physical exam and may recommend a biopsy to determine if it is a MCT. During a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is remove from the tumour and examined under a microscope. If the tumour is found to be a MCT, your veterinarian may also recommend further tests to determine the stage of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
Staging of Mast Cell Tumours
Is the process of determining the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Staging may involve blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic tests. The stage of the cancer will help determine the best course of treatment for your dog.
The treatment of MCTs depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tumour, the stage of the cancer, and your dog’s overall health. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and palliative care.
Surgery is often the first-line treatment for MCTs, especially if the tumour is small and has not spread to other parts of the body. During surgery, the tumour and some of the surrounding tissue are remove. If the tumour is located in a difficult-to-reach area, such as near the eyes or ears, your veterinarian may recommend a referral to a veterinary surgeon.
Radiation therapy may be recommend if the tumour is not completely remove during surgery or if it has spread to other parts of the body. During radiation therapy, high-energy beams are use to destroy cancer cells. This treatment may be give alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy may be recommended if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body or if the tumour cannot be completely removed with surgery.The drugs may be given orally or intravenously (through a vein).
Palliative care may be recommended if the cancer is advanced and cannot be cured. The goal of palliative care is to keep your dog comfortable and improve their quality of life. This may include pain management, nutrition support, and other supportive therapies.
Prognosis of Mast Cell Tumours
The prognosis for MCTs varies depending on several factors, including the size and location of the tumour, the stage of the cancer, and your dog’s overall health. In general, MCTs that are small and have not spread to other parts of the body have a better prognosis than larger tumours that have spread. Your veterinarian can discuss the prognosis for your dog’s specific case.
Preventing Mast Cell Tumours
While it is not always possible to prevent MCTs, there are several things you can do to reduce your dog’s risk of developing them. These include:
- Regularly inspecting your dog’s skin for lumps or bumps.
- Providing a healthy diet and regular exercise to help maintain a healthy immune system.
- Limiting exposure to chemicals and pollutants that may increase the risk of cancer.
Living with a Dog with Mast Cell Tumours
If your dog has been diagnosed with a MCT, it is important to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that is best for your dog. You may also want to consider working with a veterinary oncologist, who specialises in the treatment of cancer in animals. With proper care and treatment, many dogs with MCTs can live happy, healthy lives.
Mast cell tumours (MCTs) are a type of cancerous tumour that can develop in a dog’s skin or internal organs. They are cause by the abnormal growth of mast cells, which are a type of white blood cell.
The exact cause of mast cell tumours in dogs is unknown, but there are several factors that may increase a dog’s risk of developing them, including genetics, age, and exposure to certain chemicals and pollutants.
Mast cell tumours are typically diagnose through a physical exam and biopsy. Additional diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or ultrasounds, may also be recommended to determine the stage of the cancer.