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Basal cell tumors are tumors that develop at the base of the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin. They appear as firm, hairless masses around the head or neck, and they are typically well-defined. The majority of basal cell tumors are benign, but malignant tumors do develop, especially in older Cocker Spaniels and Poodles. These tumors can be successfully removed via surgery, but early treatment is necessary to prevent the tumor from ulcerating or causing serious complications.
Basal cell tumors are fairly common in dogs, especially middle-aged and older animals. The majority of these tumors are benign, but malignant tumors do occasionally develop. Both forms of the tumor present as firm, well-circumscribed masses, with benign tumors having more of a raised, stalk-like appearance than malignant tumors. The prognosis is typically good if the tumor is promptly treated with surgical excision.
Basal cell tumors present as firm, well-circumscribed, hairless masses that are typically located around the dog’s head, neck, or forelimbs. They occasionally appear pigmented, and they vary from 1 centimeter to 10 centimeters in size. If left untreated, a basal cell tumor may ulcerate and lead to further skin complications. Additional symptoms are nonspecific and may include discomfort or lethargy.
There are two types of basal cell tumors: benign and malignant. The term “basal cell tumor” refers to the benign form, while malignant tumors are called basal cell carcinomas. Though both forms of the tumor are firm and well-circumscribed, basal cell tumors can be differentiated from flatter basal cell carcinomas by their raised, occasionally stalk-like appearance.
Although the development of basal cell tumors in humans is linked to sun exposure, there is little evidence of a similar association in dogs. Basal cell tumors are more common than basal cell carcinomas and may affect all dogs, though they appear more frequently in certain breeds, including the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Scottish Terrier. Cocker Spaniels and Poodles are predisposed to basal cell carcinomas. Middle-aged to older dogs are more at risk for developing either form of the tumor.
The diagnosis for both basal cell tumors and basal cell carcinomas is typically based on clinical findings. When you bring your dog into the veterinarian, provide information on when the mass first appeared, as well as on any other symptoms you may have observed. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination and may conduct blood tests or a urinalysis to determine your dog’s overall condition.
The diagnosis will be confirmed through a microscopic examination of the affected tissue, which may be obtained via a fine-needle aspiration or a biopsy. This examination is typically conducted by a veterinary pathologist and will determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant. It will also reveal the grade and stage of the tumor, as well as rule out other diseases which may account for the mass.
Surgery is the standard treatment for both basal cell tumors and basal cell carcinomas. Cryosurgery, a technique that uses a liquid nitrogen spray to freeze the tumor, may be an option for treating smaller tumors. Otherwise, the tumor can be removed surgically. The success of the surgery depends on whether or not the veterinary surgeon can, and is able to, remove a sufficient amount of skin. This ensures that the entire tumor is excised, as otherwise the tumor may recur.
Following surgery, it is important that you make sure your dog does not lick or scratch the surgical site. Use an Elizabethan collar if needed, and keep the incisions clean to prevent infection. Provide your dog with a quiet and secure place to rest during the recovery process. If your veterinarian prescribes an antibiotic, administer the full course of medication according to instructions.
Monitor your dog for signs of bleeding or swelling, and inform the veterinarian immediately if you notice any new symptoms. There is a high likelihood that you will be requested to return to the veterinarian for a follow-up exam to check that the surgical site is healing properly.
There is a possibility that the basal cell tumor may recur, especially if the surgeon was unable to remove a large enough margin of skin around the original tumor to excise it entirely. Typically, however, the prognosis for dogs with basal cell tumors is good, and most animals make a full recovery following surgical treatment.
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4 found helpful
My nine year old cocker spaniel has just a basal cell carcinoma removed. The margins around the specimen appear clear and the veterinarian is happy with the result. I am a medical professional and have some knowledge which can be dangerous, and asked if he required an X-ray to see if the cancer had spread. I was told he did well under anesthetistic and they felt that his lungs weren't compromised in anyway. He has been coughing occasionally after he been sedantry for a period of time. He has no heart issues.
Nov. 2, 2017
Coughing after surgery is most likely due to the placement of the endotracheal tube which can irritate the larynx a little bit causing a mild cough over the days following surgery. Basal cell carcinoma rarely metastases and surgical excision (treatment of choice) with good healthy margins is usually sufficient to be curative. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/tumors-of-the-skin-in-dogs#v3207500
Nov. 2, 2017
buddy (wheaten terrier) just had his surgery. the vet called and said the biopsy came back as basal cell carcinoma. however, the vet was told he removed it all so hopefully no more worries.
April 19, 2018
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2 found helpful
My 15 year old male cocker-poo was recently diagnosed with a basal cell tumor. Because he is so old I am hesitant to get surgery done to remove the tumor. He is a rescue from a puppy mill and has had many fatty tumors, papillomas, and other skin conditions over the years. He appears to be in decent health with exception of bad gingivitis. I would just like your opinion on what you would do in a similar situation.
July 26, 2017
It is normal for owners to be concerned about the age of their pets when surgery is being considered; there are certain instances when surgery shouldn’t be considered like in pets with liver disease, however if bloods and biochemistry come back normal and Azio is in good health otherwise and cleared for surgery by your Veterinarian there should be no reason not to proceed with the surgery. Remember that any surgery carries a level of risk from reactions to anaesthetics to complications mid-surgery which are the same risks in a fifteen month old as a fifteen year old (generally); recovery may be longer for older pets, but ultimately if your Veterinarian is confident Azio is a suitable candidate for surgery, you should go ahead. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
July 26, 2017
My Jack Russell Terrier appears to have a Basal Cell Tumor on its neck, I touched and squished it. Is it bad if pus has come out of it?
July 26, 2017
My mother in law just found out her Jack Russell has basal cell tumor in her stomach and the vet said there's nothing they can do for her....please can you advise me on what are the possibilities
Nov. 14, 2017
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0 found helpful
My 11 yo yellow lab has a possible basal cell carcinoma or just a benign tumor in his left front middle toe, cytology was not conclusive. I was told he would need a biopsy and if it was malignant he would need to have the whole toe amputated which may affect his balance or prevent him from walking. He has pretty bad arthritis in his back legs and leans forward as it is. The tumor doesn’t seem to bother him. I’m leaning toward not proceeding considering his quality of life if he did gave carcinoma and had to have his toe amputated. What are your thoughts? do they really have to amputate the whole toe? It’s the size of an eraser. Not interested in radiation. What is the prognosis or life expectancy if this is carcinoma and it’s not treated?
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
1 found helpful
Our dog, Tela, recently had a mass removed from her foot that came back as basal cell carcinoma. She's a 10 year old staffordshire terrier. The procedure was done by a dermatologist, and he recommended taking her in for an MRI and X-ray to make sure it hasn't spread. He said the chances of it spreading are very low. We do not have pet insurance, as she has the good ol' 'pre-existing conditions' (a thyroid imbalance), so we would be paying out of pocket. I saw that an MRI alone can cost up to $2500. Does anyone here have experience with something like this or advice? We would never forgive ourselves if we didn't have her scanned and something was wrong, but we also do not want to be spending this kind of money if it's really not necessary. She seems to be her usual, healthy self. I haven't been able to find anything online about basal cell carcinoma metastasis, so I'm hoping someone here has some insight!
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