Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

Overview of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

Malignant melanoma is a tumor arising from melanocytes, which are the cells that produce pigment. Although there is no known cause of malignant melanoma, the predisposition of many dog breeds makes many researches believe there is a genetic predisposition for this disease.

Malignant melanoma can originate from different areas in the body, most often the oral cavity, skin, and digits. The aggressiveness of the tumor and the likelihood of the metastasis vary with the tumor location. Any organ may be affected by a metastatic melanoma (tumor that has spread from a primary site).

Melanoma is more commonly in dogs than cats and primarily affects middle-aged to older pets (often 9 to 12 years). Black dogs may be predisposed. Male dogs are more commonly affected.

The Scottish terrier, Boston terrier, Airedale terrier, cocker spaniel, boxer, springer spaniel, Irish setter, Irish terrier, chow chow, Chihuahua, and Doberman pinscher are the most common breeds affected by melanomas of the skin and toes. The poodle, dachshund, Scottish terrier and golden retriever are the most common breeds affected by melanomas located in the mouth. Other breeds affected include the giant schnauzer and miniature schnauzer, Golden retriever, and Gordon setter.

What to Watch For

Tumors occur most commonly in the skin, digits and in the mouth. The tumors may be pigmented (black) or un-pigmented.

In patients with cutaneous melanoma:

Diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

Treatment of Malignant Melanoma in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention

Prognosis is generally guarded and early detection is very important. Twenty to fifty percent of cutaneous melanomas in dogs are malignant. Those occurring in the scrotum, digit, or oral cavity are most often malignant. Aggressive and radical surgery greatly increases survival times and decreases reoccurrence rates.

Contact your veterinarian if there is recurrence of the melanoma or change at the surgical site. Return for follow up as directed by your veterinarian.

There is no preventative care for malignant melanoma.