What is Basal Cell Tumor?
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.
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Symptoms of Basal Cell Tumor in Dogs
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.
Causes of Basal Cell Tumor in Dogs
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.
Diagnosis of Basal Cell Tumor in Dogs
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.
Treatment of Basal Cell Tumor in Dogs
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.
Recovery of Basal Cell Tumor in Dogs
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.
Basal Cell Tumor Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
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.
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.
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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.
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
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?
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
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