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What is Malignant Melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is often fatal within one year even with treatment to remove the cancer. The average survival time for this disease is up to about 10 months and possibly up to 36 months with immediate surgical removal. The only treatment is surgery because chemotherapy and radiation are not effective. There are four stages of malignant melanoma and each has its own survival time.

  • Stage one (smaller than 2 cm): about twelve months
  • Stage two (2-4 cm): about eight months
  • Stage three (larger than 4 cm or tumor that has spread): about four months
  • Stage four (extensive metastasis): about one month

Malignant melanomas in dogs are cancerous lesions or tumors on the skin, mouth, or toenails. These are common in older male dogs and certain breeds such as Schnauzers and Terriers. The most often seen melanoma is a raised and ulcerated nodule that is darker than the surrounding skin, although some melanomas are amelanotic (not pigmented). Malignant melanomas are an aggressive type of cancer that often spread into other areas of the body.

Malignant Melanoma Average Cost

From 358 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

Symptoms of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

The signs that your dog may have malignant melanoma can vary depending on where the cancer originates. The three most common places are the mouth (oral), skin, or toes.

Oral

  • Dark (black, brown, grey) lump or lesion on mouth, tongue, lips, or gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Bloody drool
  • Foul breath
  • Unable to eat
  • Loosened teeth
  • Dropping food from the mouth

Skin

  • Rash or grouping of small blister-like lesions, usually on the feet, underbelly, and face
  • Large lump anywhere on the body, usually darker than the skin surrounding it
  • Pain or bleeding from a spot or lesion of unknown origin that does not seem to be healing

Toes

  • Swelling of the foot
  • Discolored toenail
  • Malformed toes
  • Loose toenail

Types

There are three main types of malignant melanoma.

  • Oral malignant melanoma includes the mouth, gums, lips, and jaw
  • Skin malignant melanoma can be found anywhere on the body, but most often on the abdomen or face
  • Malignant melanoma of the toes includes the foot, bones, and digits
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Causes of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

The cause of malignant melanoma in dogs is unknown. In humans, one of the main causes of this disease is sun exposure, but this does not seem to be the case with dogs. There are some risk factors though, which are:

  • Older dogs
  • Males
  • Certain breeds (Doberman Pinscher, Springer Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Airedale, Boston Terrier, and Scottish Terrier)
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Diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

Diagnosis is pretty easy if you are able to get a veterinary oncologist or one who specializes in skin diseases. Most veterinarians can do a physical examination and confirm the diagnosis right away, but will not confirm it until blood tests and a biopsy are done. During the examination, be sure to tell the veterinarian as much as you know about the issue and if you have given your dog any medication, prescription or otherwise. The examination includes a complete skin and haircoat analysis, reflexes, body temperature, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, respirations, breath sounds, pupil reaction time, and oxygen level.

Laboratory testing includes a complete blood count (CBC), serum analysis, platelet count, glucose level, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), liver panel, packed cell volume (PCV), and a urinalysis. A skin scraping or a fine needle biopsy will be gathered for microscopic analysis. Chest films (x-rays), lymph node aspiration, and possibly a CT scan with contrast dye will all be used to stage the disease. There are four stages, as mentioned earlier.

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Treatment of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

While treatment of malignant melanoma depends on the progression of the disease, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are strongly suggested. However, none of the treatments are an actual cure as the melanoma grows back in many cases.

Surgery

As long as the cancer has not spread too far, surgical removal of the melanoma is always the first part of the treatment plan. This is usually a simple surgery, depending on the location, and only has slight risks (less than not having the surgery. The veterinarian removes the melanoma and a large area of tissue around it to improve the chance of survival.

Radiation

This treatment is done only in cases where there is still a small risk of tumor regrowth. However, it has not shown to add much time to the prognosis of survival.

Chemotherapy

Although some veterinarians still used chemotherapy, this is not usually very effective.

Supplemental Care

Keeping your dog hydrated, as pain free as possible, and increasing quality of life are the veterinarian’s goals. This includes pain killers, intravenous (IV) fluids, oxygen therapy, and maybe a feeding tube. The veterinarian will describe what is being done at each step, but ask questions if you are unsure.

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Recovery of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

The prognosis for most dogs who have malignant melanoma is not good. Usually, by the time the symptoms are noticed, the cancer has spread. Be sure to follow all the directions that the veterinary team has given you in order to give a good quality of life in the meantime, and call the veterinarian if you have any concerns.

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Malignant Melanoma Average Cost

From 358 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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Malignant Melanoma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Lhasa Apso

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17 Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor In Mouth, Frequent Seizures, Lethargic

I have decided not to put her thru test. Had a dog w/ oral melanoma b4. It has a very bad odor. This looks & smells the same. Shes having seizures 3-4xs per week. Grand mal, seem 2 b more frequent and more severe. Tumor is in the roof of her mouth. She has been lethargic, she has moments of her old self but a lot of times she just looks confused & acts very tired. Is it time? I need somebody to tell me it is because I have a fear of doing it too soon. I dont want her to suffer and she is 17. Any advice wud be appreciated. I feel like it is time. Just wanna b right.

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without seeing your dog, it is not possible for me to comment on whether it is time for her to go. This is a conversation that you should have with your veterinarian, as they can see her, assess her quality of life, and let you know what they think about whether it is time. I am sure you will make the right decision, and I am sorry that you have to make it. I hope that all goes well.

July 23, 2020

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Pitbull

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Painful Mouth Melanoma Tumor

Karma was diagnosed with melanoma tumor in her mouth we did 6 rounds of radiation 4 vaccine melanoma. Now the tumor is growing back. Bleeding and painful is there something else I can do for her to help with the inflammation and pain

July 17, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- I am so sorry you are both going through this. I would reach out to your veterinary oncologist or referring veterinarian and ask to see if they can prescribe pain medication for her to keep her comfortable or if they have any other suggestions on treatments for the tumor. If there are no treatment options left there should be several medications they can prescribe to keep her comfortable until her quality of life is such that humane euthanasia is the best option. Take care!

July 17, 2020

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Huck

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Beagle

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12 Years

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Critical severity

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1 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Sores, Loss Of Hair

I often foster senior dogs in hospice. The dog I currently have has cutaneous melanoma. He has sores all over his body and has lost 2 toenails. His skin is kind of raw & pink. Rescue group didn't tell me much about this disease and understandably doesn't want to spend a lot on vet care. I am feeling ill prepared for what is to come. He sheds pieces of skin with fur attached. This good boy is currently super happy and loving with a great appetite and regular, healthy bowel movements. He is taking prednisone, simplicef and tramadol as needed. I know there are probably many different things that could happen but just wondering if it's more likely it will spread to internal organs or will he just be one big mess of festering sores. I am so worried I won't know when it's time. I appreciate any insight you can give.

June 16, 2018

Huck's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Cutaneous melanoma does not tend to metastasize to internal organs in dogs, but Huck sounds like he is affected quite severely by his condition. That type of cancer doesn't typically cause that many lesions, and he may have something else going on. It would probably be a good idea to have him examined by a veterinarian to get a better idea as to what is happening with him, if this is expected for his level of disease, and if there is anything else that you may be able to do for him.

June 16, 2018

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Penny

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Beagle lab

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Tumor

My beagle/lab mix had a few malignant melanoma tumors removed about a month or two ago, and ever since, each day she is getting more and more lumps all over her body. Our vet said there is nothing we can do at this point besides the medication they gave us. She is still eating and drinking water, but we can’t tell if she is in pain. Her breathing sounds different and she lays down in the corner of my room a lot. I am wondering what her survival time could be and what the symptoms are of her being in pain so that we can make the right decision for her. Thank you!

June 11, 2018

Penny's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Prognosis is generally guarded and therapy is usually centered around treating local lesions; in advanced cases palliative therapy may be indicated using medication and/or radiotherapy. Animals can be stoic by nature and it may not be easy to see when they are in pain, you need to look out for changes in behaviour and other signs which may be an indicator that the time is coming. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 12, 2018

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Sam

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Labrador Retriever

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My dog who is 12 years old had a malignant tumor removed from his mouth in January. He has since developed another mass in his mouth. I want to do whatever I can to make sure he is comfortable and not in pain and don't not want any further surgeries. What is the prognosis.

April 6, 2018

Sam's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Without knowing the type of tumor, the stage and the progression, I don't have any way to comment on the prognosis for Sam, unfortunately. Some oral tumors grow slowly, and some can be quite aggressive. It would be best to follow up with his regular veterinarian, as they have seen it and know more about Sam's particular situation.

April 6, 2018

My dog has the same tumor in her mouth only 75 % was removed 3 weeks ago and now I feel its bigger than before the surgery, she is eating, etc. no real change in personality yet. When will this happen. if you have bleeding in the oral tumor buy Yunnan Baiyao from a chinese store. It has stopped bleeding and really helped!

July 20, 2018

Wendy

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Louie

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Mix

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15 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None
No

Our 15 year old male dog was found to have a 2 cm growth in his mouth. The biopsy identified it as a poorly pigmented melanoma with an MI of 2. During the procedure, his heart rate dropped to 40 so our Vet was not able to completely remove all the growth. I have not been able to find out much about poorly pigmented melanoma with a low MI. Is it recommended to try and remove any additional growth?

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Xena

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Rottweiler

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

None

My 6 yr old rottweiler female had a 2 year old mass removed from skin near her foot. It was slow growing and had recently changed color and reached its current size of about 2.5 cms in last 2 months. Got it surgically removed. Vet said it was very superficial and shallow. Of size 2.5 cms. On biopsy it was revealed as within the dermis, highly pigmented cutaneous malignant melanoma. There was no metastasis seen via lymph node aspiration and whole body x rays. No other signs or symptoms. Vet is further consulting specialist before initiating any treatment. He said there is a chance tumor cells did not detach as it was very superficial and if it hasn’t metastasized in 2 years Then maybe it won’t But he cannot guarantee anything. I am worried about my baby. I have started ganoderma, soursop, wheatgrass and curcumin supplementation. Also waiting for homoeopathy anti cancer kit that I ordered. Can you please suggest prognosis and treatment for above situation.

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emma

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flat coat retriever

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11 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

My 11 year old dog had a small malignant melanoma (like a skin tag) on her mouth and we had it removed. She then started the vaccine in March of 2019. I also had the dna stain and her Ki67 was 2, 0 mitoses in 10 high power fields. I am up to $10,000. 3 months ago she had the dexascan and no tumors visible. Now they want another xray and yet her 6 month vaccine in a month. She is also going to get therapy as she has had hip issues forever. I am in a quandry...do I have the x ray and do I have another vaccine? (1400 more).I also give her life gold. how long will she have if I do not do anything more; when it comes to the melanoma?

Malignant Melanoma Average Cost

From 358 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $15,000

Average Cost

$10,000

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