oral melanoma dog has a lump

What is it?

You may be brushing or fussing your dog when you notice they have a lump or bump where there wasn’t one before. Sometimes they appear overnight or gradually get larger and more noticeable.

A lump could be one of many things:

  • An abscess

  • A wart

  • A cyst

  • Localised swelling (including an insect bite or sting)

  • Histocytoma

  • Benign tumour

  • Malignant tumour

A wart on Barnaby’s face

Some of these are very treatable or only a cosmetic issue. Sometimes even warts can cause an issue if they get caught when scratching in specific areas such as eyelids.

If it is a tumour we need more information to find out if it is benign (not going to spread) or malignant (something more serious as it will spread).

With any tumour we have four options:

  • Wait and see. We cannot tell if a tumour is malignant just by looking at it. This can be a risky option if it does turn out to be a dangerous tumour. If leaving it you should at least “actively watch” it. This means monitoring for any changes in size or shape and check ups regularly with your vet.
  • FNA – we can put a needle into the lump and take a small sample of cells. This is then sent to the lab. If there are enough cells they should be able to diagnose what type of tumour it is. Sometimes the sample does not give enough call and the results will come back without any information.
  • Biopsy – a larger sample is taken whilst under anaesthetic. By taking a full piece of the tumour we should get an answer as to the type of cancer. For smaller lumps this would include removing the entire mass.
  • Surgery – this is the best option if we already know what the tumour is and it needs to be removed. Or if we have already decided it needs to be removed for any other reason (e.g. interfering with locomotion or pain). The entire mass can be removed and reduce the risk of it spreading. For larger lumps it can be important to know what kind of tumour it is prior to removing it. This ensures the surgery is adequate for full removal.
  • Staging – for some tumours, or before undertaking a large surgery it can be important to do staging. This is where we see if the tumour has already spread. If it has spread we might need to take a different approach to surgery (such as removing infected lymph nodes) or it may mean that surgery is no longer in the best interest of the pet as it will not result in a good outcome.

So if you feel a lump on your dog it is best to have it seen by your vet. If it it a tumour finding out what type sooner is better than later as it potentially opens up more treatment options, or puts your mind at rest!

The photo on this blog is a very small lump found in our lovely Labrador Barnaby’s mouth. It may not look that serious but it is extremely malignant. We found it very early, he has had a portion of his jaw removed in surgery and has on going treatment. Luckily he is still here with us three years after we found it – which is unheard of for an oral melanoma as he had! We cherish every day we have with him!

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