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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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Misha

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Goldendoodle

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Panting

I just found out that my dog has Malignant Melanoma. She had the cells in the lymph node that was enlarged, and x-rays showed another tumor near her heart. X-rays of that area four months ago were normal. I am seeing a canine oncologist Tuesday. When I feel the lump that is the lymph node, it already has increased in size. I am afraid that the cancer is very aggressive. She is 12, and I can't see putting her through anything that is too distressing or painful. I don't know if the Melanoma Vaccine is a possibility as it takes then weeks or so to be effective. Any advice? Kay

March 21, 2018

Misha's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, without knowing more about Misha's situation, I can't comment on which chemotherapeutic protocols may help her. Your appointment with the oncologist on Tuesday will answer all of those questions for you, as they will be able to take into consideration her age, stage of cancer, and health status to come up with a plan for you. They'll be able to give you a realistic prognosis as far as how things might go for her. I hope that she does well.

March 21, 2018

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Mickey

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schnauzer

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Lump

My 7 yo schnauzer mix has malignant amelanotic melanoma of the lip and this was excised. At the first excision, there was only 0.9 mm clear margin. It recurred in 6 months and within 3 weeks, it grew to 2 cm. A second surgery has been performed and the clear margin is now about 7 mm. Dissection of the right submandibular lymph node showed pigmented cells which the histo report says could be due to melanomacrophages, neoplastic melanocytes or haemosiderin laden macrophages. There was an option to do immunohistochemistry with Melan A,PNL2 and TRP2. Do you think there is a need to do the histochemistry? Is there a need for radiation or vaccination?

Dec. 21, 2017

Mickey's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for contacting us about Mickey. Without further information about Mickey, I cannot answer those questions for you - it would be a good idea to consult with a veterinary oncologist to go over the whole case and where you should go from here, given his histo and physical exam. I hope that he recovers well.

Dec. 21, 2017

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Zara

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mongrel

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8 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Dermal Melanoma In Foot Pad

My dog has a surgery on her foot pad to remove a tumor. The size is less than 2cm. Histopathology report said it's dermal melanoma, and moderate nuclear pleomorphism is supportive of malignancy. The mitotic activity is low <3. Lymphovascular invasion is not evident in the examined section. But the neoplastic proliferation extends to the deep margins of the examines sections. So, what treatment is available for my dog? What is the prognosis of she?

Dec. 4, 2017

Zara's Owner

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Generally with tumours we recommend that tumours are surgically removed and that patients receive chemotherapy; however, malignant melanomas do not respond well to chemotherapy and is not recommended. You should however discuss the use of immunotherapy for post surgical management of the melanoma with your Veterinarian to see if Zara is a likely candidate. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.willows.uk.net/specialist-services/pet-health-information/oncology/malignant-melanoma-in-dogs www.cliniciansbrief.com/sites/default/files/sites/cliniciansbrief.com/files/08_June_article_5.pdf

Dec. 4, 2017

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Tyler Wade

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Pug

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11 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Hello, I found out my pug who is almost 11 yrs old has malignant melanoma. A tumor was found in the palate of his mouth last week during a cleaning. In the past 3 years Tyler has had 2 seizures, elevated liver enzymes and halitosis. We meet w/an oncologist next week. Given what I've read on this type of melanoma it appears that even if we seek treatment, this will only extend his life about 6 months. Any advice or information?

Oct. 23, 2017

Tyler Wade's Owner

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Whilst it is true that prognosis is generally guarded to poor in these cases, surgery coupled with chemotherapy can extend life beyond six months; this is however case dependent and is variable depending on variable factors. The Oncologist would be able to give you more specific information based on their findings during your consultation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 23, 2017

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Ike

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Flat-Coated Retriever

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

'Swollen Toe

I have a male flatcoated retriever of 6 year, who had a melanoma at his nailbasis. I did a toe-amputation . The RX of the chest shows no metastasis. Do you find it a good solution to give him cisplatin IV every 3 weeks. Or what do you advice me to save this dog . Please would you give me some information The biopsy said that is was a very high maligne melanoma

July 26, 2017

Ike's Owner


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0 Recommendations

Malignant melanoma has a very guarded prognosis with dogs which have no lymph node or other organ metastasis having an average survival time of 12 months (with around 10-13% survival after two years); the use of chemotherapy in these cases at at the discretion of the Veterinarian with treatment either being done with cisplatin or carboplatin. Each case is individual, but there is no ‘cure’ apart from an early diagnosis and amputation being the treatment of choice; close monitoring and regular chest x-rays will be important management strategies. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

My 8 year old golden retriever has a malignant melanoma on her toe. We had the toe removed. How long will she live and would the vaccine increase her time. Polly does not seem sick at all.

April 19, 2018

Judi M.

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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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