So as not to throw one’s self in a state of panic, one must always remember that a tumour is just swelling and not necessarily a cancer.
I mentioned before (TPC May 18, 2014) that many tumours in dogs and cats are to be found on the surface of the skin, or just below the skin (as in breast cancers).
One of the most common enlargements on the skin is a cyst, the sebaceous cyst to be exact. Now, let me go back a bit and remind you of what you probably already know, namely that dogs do not have sweat glands. They get rid of heat mainly through open mouth panting. But dogs do have sebaceous glands in the skin. These glands secrete fatty matter which lubricates the surface hair and skin. (That’s why we should not bathe dogs too often; the shampoo bath removes the needed skin lubricants).
If these sebaceous glands, which occur all over the dog’s body, become infected and inflamed, one will notice bumps all over the skin. These bumps contain a thick cheesy substance (Keratin) which is surrounded by a thick capsule. That is a sebaceous cyst. If there are only a few cysts occurring, then your vet can lance and drain them. Some of these cysts actually burst open, when “ripe”, and drain themselves. Of course, one can surgically remove the cysts, if they are only a few in number.
In addition to sebaceous cysts on the skin, there are similar interdigital cysts which, as the name suggests, are to be found between the toes.
Now, in the third paragraph above, I mentioned that dogs do not have sweat glands. Well as nature will have it, dogs do have (some not so well developed) sweat glands between their toes. If there are inflammatory processes (due to infection, etc) in those glands between the toes, infected cysts could develop. These are obstinate and it takes a long and protracted antibiotic treatment to bring about a healing.
Let’s look at some other tumours (growths/enlargements/swellings) on the skin.
Warts and papillomas
Just as in humans, warts and papillomas are pretty common, at least here in Guyana. I say that because some of the learned text books state that dogs don’t seem to have warts and papillomas too often. Yet, we veterinarians are confronted at least monthly with warts/papillomas, not lastly those that arise in and around the mouth, especially in the elderly dog. This latter condition is called oral papillomatosis, and is simply known as warts in the mouth.
These growths in the mouth are probably caused by viruses. Initially they are small and pink looking. Later they become enlarged and cauliflower-like. This means that many of these growths have stalks, on top where there is the rough grey-white “cauliflower”.
Sometimes there are just a few, while on other occasions the entire mouth (inside) and the lips are covered with these papilloma growths. The smart books tell us that these oral warts/papillomas disappear spontaneously of their own accord in six weeks or so. But who wants to live with a dog with such an unsightly appearance? To say nothing of the foul smell emanating from the dog’s mouth. Also, these warts are easily bruised and the animal’s skin begins to bleed. For these reasons I advise surgery and cauterization. Once the animal has been infected with this condition and recovers, the dog will not come down again with this ailment.
While we are sharing information pertaining to swelling on the skin, I am tempted to include a condition known as bursitis or hygroma, which is a name applied to a fluid-filled swelling (sac) on the elbow(s) of a dog. Also, skin deterioration in the elbow area would need to be mentioned, since the cause of both conditions are the same. However, we will leave this hygroma topic for next week, since this very common ailment cannot be dealt with in one paragraph. Also, we will cover some other types of growths.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.