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Mast cell tumors are a little known but common form of cancer in dogs

by veterinary_clinic_traverse_city 11. May 2016 02:24

Despite the fact that you may not know much about mast cells or their function in a dog’s body, almost one in five dogs will develop mast cell tumors in their lifetime. 

Mast cells are blood cells that are involved in a dog’s body’s response to allergies.  The cells contain many chemicals, including histamine and heparin, which biologically modify immune reactions. 

When these cells become cancerous, they can form tumors in just about any part of your pet’s body, although they are most prevalent as skin tumors.  Mast cell tumors, also known as mastocytomas, are also commonly found in the liver, bone marrow, spleen and gastrointestinal tract.  And although any breed may develop mast cell tumors, studies have shown that Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Pugs tend to have a higher rate of incidence. 

According to Traverse City area veterinarian Dr. Eric Peck, there are many ways to treat mast cell tumors. “The course of treatment depends on several factors including where the tumors are located and what stage the tumors are at.  Tumors are staged, meaning they are graded, from Stage 0 up to Stage IV.  Once they are graded, we decide best how to treat them.” 

Most mast cell tumors are treated by being removed surgically.  This is effective for tumors up to Stage II and will provide a cure for your pet.  In cases where surgery is not an option, where lymph nodes are involved, or if tumors have not spread throughout the body, radiation is the preferred course of treatment.  Chemotherapy is reserved for the most aggressive forms of mastocytomas and is generally combined with surgery and radiation.  Unfortunately, mast cell tumors do not always respond to chemo drugs as well as with other kinds of cancers found in canines.  However, there are many variables that play into whether or not a dog will find relief and an extended life when treating mast cell tumors. 

Located in Williamsburg and providing veterinary services to Traverse City, Elk Rapids, Acme, Kalkaska and nearby communities, Northern Michigan Veterinary Hospital is a fully equipped regional facility serving the routine and emergency needs of pet owners since 2009.

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