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A Vet’s Advice On Mast Cell Tumors In Dogs

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Pets have a wonderful way of creeping into our hearts and homes, playing the role of both a family member and best friend. This can make the discovery of illness heartbreaking and leave pet owners desperate for a solution. Understanding the risks of mast cell tumors in dogs and when you need to visit your local vet is an important step in protecting your fur baby.

A normal mast cell has the important job of protecting a body against bacterial or viral invaders but can sometimes lead to uncomfortable and painful allergic reactions when releasing chemicals through a process called degranulation. In some instances, these mast cells form an unstable, cancerous tumor that can present health threats if left untreated.

A mast cell tumor often forms nodules or masses on the skin, which is where you may first notice the abnormality in your dog. However, it can also affect other areas such as the spleen, liver, intestine, and bone marrow.

Mast Cell Tumors In Dogs

It’s possible for any breed of dog to develop a mast cell tumor, however certain breeds are more prone to the development. For example, boxers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, pugs, Boston terriers, pit bull terriers, and Weimaraners tend to experience a mast cell tumor four to eight times more than other breeds.

Causes Of Mast Cell Tumors

It’s not clear as to what exactly causes these forms of tumors and it seems to be a combination of various risk factors, including environmental and hereditary issues. As mentioned, some breeds of dogs are more at risk of developing a mast cell tumor. This is due to a well-known protein mutation called KIT that is more susceptible in certain breeds.

Identifying A Mast Cell Tumor

If you notice that your canine has a strange bump during the next tummy rub, have a vet check it out. A mast cell tumor is a type of tumor that is made up of mast cells. These normally appear as nodules or a lump in the skin.

A mast cell tumor can appear as a raised lump or bump either on or just under the skin. Sometimes, it may appear to be red or swollen. These bumps may grow suddenly in size or even get smaller. The change in size is dependent on the agitation of the tumor which further affects degranulation and swelling surrounding the tissue.

These bumps are often called ‘the great pretenders’ because of their ability to resemble something less serious, so it’s best that they be formally identified by a professional veterinarian.

Treatments Of Mast Cell Tumors

If you notice an abnormal lump on your dog, then it’s in your best interest to visit a trusted vet to grade the mast cell tumor and diagnose the risks. A professional diagnosis of a mast cell tumor is done with a needle aspirate which collects some of the cells to be examined under a microscope.

Once the sample has been assessed, with the genetic makeup and abnormalities considered, then a prognosis and treatment will be offered. Depending on the severity of cancer, various treatment options will be considered. While there are higher-grade tumors that can present a challenge to treat, the low-grade tumors are relatively simple to treat.


Surgery is often recommended for lower-grade tumors that don’t show any evidence of spreading. This option offers long-term control without the need for any other form of therapy such as radiation.


Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are sometimes advised for higher-grade tumors, especially those that have evidence of spreading. These options of treatment are also recommended when the location is not suitable for surgical removal, or if the surgical removal has left cancerous cells behind.

Get Veterinary Advice About Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors are quite reactive, and degranulation can easily be triggered with pressure. If you notice a strange lump or bump on your dog, especially one that fluctuates in size, then it’s best to contact a professional veterinarian.

At All Aboard Animal Hospital, we offer a range of pet care services to diagnose and treat mast cell tumors. These services are in conjunction with our preventative and wellness services which strive to keep your loved pet as healthy as possible. Your best friend deserves the best care. Contact us at (954) 785-7780 to find out more, or request an appointment online.


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