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The majority of humans will, at some stage in their life, notice the development of a mole somewhere upon their body. A mole is a small area of skin that may appear darker in appearance than the rest of the surrounding tissue. The mole may also be raised and have a slightly different texture and some may even have hair growing from them. While the majority of these small spots are harmless, some can be a sign of a serious disease such as cancer. Additionally, some people may find moles to be upsetting and damaging to their self-confidence depending on their appearance and location on the body. But, are dogs at risk of developing these potentially damaging growths too?
Dogs can develop moles, although they are slightly less common in canines than they are in humans. However, just like in humans, moles can sometimes prove to be a sign of a serious problem, meaning that if you have a suspicion regarding a particular growth, it is best to be safe and have a vet examine your furry companion.
Moles are fortunately quite distinctive, making it easy to tell if your dog has developed them. There will be no inflammation around the site of the brown spot, making it easy to distinguish it from other, more harmful growths. However, there are no accompanying symptoms that go along with the development of normal moles (such as pain, itching or other visible signs) that may alert you to their presence. That said, if the growths are in fact cancerous, there will typically be some irregularities in both the texture, shape, and coloration of the spots that should prompt you to visit a vet.
Moles are caused by skin cells growing in an atypical level of proximity to each other, making them tough to the touch due to the tissue’s density. They will also become much darker than the surrounding skin due to the amount of melanin that will end up being concentrated in just one area. However, while these growths are typically benign, they can sometimes result in a tumor developing, putting the dog at risk of cancer spreading into other parts of the body.
To diagnose whether or not a mole requires treatment, the vet will perform a physical examination to check for other signs of cancer, as well as carry out a blood test and take a sample from the mole itself for analysis under a microscope.
For more information skin tumors and how they are diagnosed, check out our condition guide for this subject, Skin Cancer in Dogs.
Benign moles generally do not require treatment, though if it causes a dog discomfort, your vet may recommend removing a mole surgically or freezing it off with cryosurgery.
If a mole has been identified as being cancerous, the vet will be able to recommend a treatment solution. Typically, they will offer three solutions: surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Surgical removal of the mole will consist of the vet simply using a scalpel to cut away the growth, removing it from the body before it has a chance to spread further. This usually has very good result if the condition is caught in its early stages, though it may be relatively ineffective if carried out at later stages.
Radiotherapy, meanwhile, consists of using beams of radiation to kill the cancerous cells. These beams will be projected from different locations outside of the dog’s body, meaning that they will intersect within the tumor and therefore not deliver a damaging dose of radiation to any healthy cells. While this method is very good at destroying localized cancers, it will not be so useful if the disease manages to spread.
Finally, chemotherapy uses a mixture of chemicals to destroy all the cancer cells within the body by poisoning them. While healthy cells will be protected by the immune system, cancer cells will be left to die, removing the disease from the body. You should keep in mind that chemotherapy can result in some quite severe side effects such as vomiting and weight loss, meaning that older and more infirm animals may suffer considerably.
After the treatment has been completed, a dog will typically not need that long before they can return to their normal life, though dogs that have completed surgery or chemotherapy may need a few weeks of rest in order to fully heal. Additionally, further testing may be needed in order to make sure that the cancer does not return.
Despite the physical differences between various species, there are some qualities that moles will share in common within them all.
In all species, moles may prove to be cancerous, ultimately proving a threat to life.
Most moles appear early in a person’s life, meaning that animals with shorter lifespans will typically develop their moles in the same space of time that humans do. This also means that unexpected growths can suddenly appear seemingly at random.
In all canines that have developed moles, the growths will almost always contain a higher concentration of melanin than the surrounding tissue regardless of thw dog’s base skin color gradient.
Although in some respects moles may appear similar, there are several vital differences that the condition will display between species that will affect both the diagnosis and the treatment of the condition.
While humans can often dislike moles for cosmetic reasons, dogs have no such compunctions regarding the growths’ presence on their bodies, meaning that treatment of benign moles is absolutely unnecessary.
Some moles in humans may end up producing hair follicles, which results in long hair growing out of patches of otherwise regular skin, which makes the growths much easier to detect. In dogs, it is very hard to tell if the follicles are abnormal due to the usual density of the animal’s coat. That said, differences in hair color can sometimes be of help in revealing the mole.
While stroking their dog, the owner of a Yorkshire Terrier notices a small brown spot as they disturb the fur on the animal’s back. On closer inspection, the mole appears to be coarse in texture and of an irregular shape. Concerned, they take the dog to see a vet, who biopsies the mole and finds that it does contain a tumor. Due to the fact that the growth had been discovered relatively early in its life, the vet elects to surgically remove it. The procedure is very fast, requiring just under half an hour to perform and the dog is able to return home the same day. The owner is, however, asked to restrict the dog’s exercise in order to avoid dirt entering the wound and causing an infection. A few weeks later, the dog is fully healed from the surgery and further testing finds no sign of other cancers developing in the animal, although the vet does advise that tests should be carried out every several months for a year or so just to be absolutely sure.
Cancerous moles can be expensive to treat. If you suspect your dog has a mole, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Embrace. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!
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