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What is Rapid Cellular Growth?

Histiocytes are white cells in the immune system that police where foreign molecules go into or leave out of a dog's body. Macrophages in histiocytes also deactivate any tissue debris or foreign agents that a dog may come in contact with. While there are four forms of histiocytic proliferative diseases, which are created by rapid cell growth that leads to skin disorders, only histiocytic sarcoma and malignant histiocytosis (MH) seem to have a pattern of being linked to certain types of dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers, Flat Coated Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. Lesions and plaques are signs of the disease.

Officially known as a histiocytic disease, this condition is best characterized by the skin nodules that occur in dogs that are young and middle-aged (4-5 years). The cellular behavior of the disorder, specific to the rapid and excessive growth of cells, is classified by the medical terminology “cell proliferation.”

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Symptoms of Rapid Cellular Growth in Dogs

While rapid cell growth symptoms may be easier to spot in less hairy dogs, symptoms include lumps that wax and grow smaller over a period of time.

These lumps may appear out of nowhere with or without these signs:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Slower time period for wounds to heal
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Other signs of rapid cell growth may include:

  • Ulceration (Cutaneous histiocytosis)
  • Infections (Cutaneous histiocytosis)
  • Bleeding (Cutaneous histiocytosis)
  • Lethargy (Systemic histiocytosis, Histiocytic sarcoma, and malignant histiocytosis)
  • Decreased appetite (Systemic histiocytosis, Histiocytic sarcoma, and malignant histiocytosis)
  • Extremities around the ears, neck or head (Canine cutaneous histiocytoma)
  • Weakness (Histiocytic sarcoma and malignant histiocytosis)
  • Weight loss (Histiocytic sarcoma and malignant histiocytosis)

These mysterious lumps could be signs of mast cell tumors (MCT).


Four different types of histiocytoma are:
  • Canine cutaneous histiocytoma, single lesion in younger dogs
  • Cutaneous histiocytosis (CH), one or more lesions that wax and grow smaller with the possibility of returning again, possibly related to tick bites
  • Systemic histiocytosis (SH), one or more lesions that may appear and disappear the same way as in CH but may also spread to bone marrow, lungs and organs
  • Histiocytic sarcoma and malignant histiocytosis (MH), lesions usually found on bone marrow, brain lymph nodes, skin, spleen, subcutis. More common in bigger dogs, lesions may also be found on tissue cells of large limb joints. Malignant cells most often lead to fatalities within a few weeks to a month. At this stage, veterinarians are more likely to suggest euthanasia to prevent further suffering.

Causes of Rapid Cellular Growth in Dogs

Due to the complexity of some cells being benign and others being cancerous, it's difficult to speculate the cause of rapid cell growth. Overproduction of some cells due to outside factors may be a possibility, along with abnormal cells that form into lock-and-key models or stem cell factors (SCFs) that may lead to higher cancerous risks.

Diagnosis of Rapid Cellular Growth in Dogs

An anesthetic is an option for a histopathology or biopsy. Medication isn’t usually needed for a cytology. Pet owners should be warned ahead of time that if the lesions are found in major organs (ex. liver), excessive bleeding may be a possible side effect. Anesthetics are available for all three procedures, including the special needle used for cytology. Histopathology and biopsies are surgical procedures that may require the pet be put to sleep.

Choosing the histopathology may help the veterinarian take a deeper look at the rapid cellular growth to see if it is cancerous or not and whether it does need to be removed. With a biopsy, benign cells may end up being removed. However, there is no way to know if it's benign if not for further examination of at least a small section of it (cytology).

Clinicians and pathologists can then use this information to confirm what possible cellular growth was found.

Treatment of Rapid Cellular Growth in Dogs

There are three ways for a pet owner to get an accurate diagnosis to treat an animal for potentially dangerous rapid cell growth.

  • Cytology is the least expensive way, which is a quick preliminary test from the surface of a lesion with 21- and 25-gauge needles and 3-, 5- and 10-millileter syringes. However, cytology won't recognize surrounding (possible) cancerous tissues.

  • Histopathology is a more expensive technique that looks at a mass of tissue to see if it is cancerous and whether surrounding cells have been or should be removed. Sample tissue is studied by slicing and sectioning the cell tissue off with different dyes to get a prognosis. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) is one of the medical techniques used by veterinarians to study cells by using a color-producing reaction (known as immunoperoxidise staining).

  • Biopsies are a surgical procedure to get a tissue sample of curious lesions. A punch biopsy is used to collect a small circle of tissue. A larger amount will be taken from a wedge biopsy, and an entire mass of the lesion will be removed for an excision biopsy. Depending on the severity of the lesion, it may be necessary to remove the entire lump. However, if that is not possible, then a small lesion will be removed to look for any cancerous risks.

All test results are estimated to take one to three business days, assuming further testing is not needed.

Recovery of Rapid Cellular Growth in Dogs

Cytology can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to complete, and it requires no medication. The dog can stay awake through the procedure so the recovery time should be pretty quick. However, for worst case scenarios, there may be a small risk of bleeding, short-term limping or bruising. The healing time from a histopathology or biopsy may vary, depending on how much tissue was removed to study the cells for tumors and cancerous risks. Fibrosis and scarring may be a possibility for larger surgical areas. Stitches may expedite the healing process after surgery, assuming that no repeat surgical procedures must be completed.