Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs, Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Today, you will be enlightened on Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most major type of skin cancer found in dogs. It is a malignant epithelial of the skin composed entirely of basal cells.

Also, the Basal cell tumors grow slowly and steadily invading the neighboring tissues. This simply means dog with this cancer has a minimal metastasis rate.

Likewise, the usual location of this disease on the dog is the head and neck where it is majorly exposed to sunlight. To learn more about this condition, ensure you read through to the end.

Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs, Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Pictures of Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs
Pictures of Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

Basal cell tumors are growths that develop at the base of the epidermis (outer layer of skin). The tumors appear as firm, hairless masses around the head or neck, and they are typically well-defined. The majority of basal cell tumors are benign.

Interestingly, basal cell tumors can be treated successfully through surgery. However, early treatment is the best option to prevent the tumor from ulcerating or causing serious complications.

On the other hand, because some types of dog skin cancer, including basal cell carcinomas as well as mast cell tumors, can be fatal if untreated, you must have your vet doctor check any suspicious growths on your dog.

Basal cell tumors are mostly common with dogs in middle-aged and older dogs.

The majority of these tumors are benign, but malignant tumors do occasionally develop. Both forms of the tumor present as firm, circular masses, with benign tumors having more of a raised, stalk-like appearance than malignant tumors.

Howbeit, basal cell carcinomas often appear as circular, raised, hairless masses that come in different sizes from 0.2 to 10 centimeters in diameter. Besides, it appears mostly around the head, neck, or shoulders. At other times, these tumors appear discolored when compared to healthy skin. If the Basal tumor or carcinoma cell goes without treatment, it can ulcerate and lead to complicated skin problems.

Causes Of Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs.

photo of Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs
photo of Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

Now that you’ve had background knowledge about Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs, I believe that the next thing to know is the cause of this disease.

Most basal tumors and carcinoma cells seem to be caused by a complex mix of risk factors, some environmental, as well as some genetic or hereditary.

Despite the thorough and ongoing study by researchers over the years to get to the root of this disease, the causes of basal cell tumors or carcinomas in dogs remain unknown.

However, it is postulated that basal cell carcinoma in dogs is most often a benign form of skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, in this case, sunlight. The same reason is linked to being the cause for the same disease in humans. Due to this uncertainty, there’s has been no known method of preventing basal cell carcinomas in dogs.

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Nonetheless, there has been a relentless quest to provide accurate and known treatment that can cure the disease even though the causes are unknown.

Also, research has made it known that several breeds are more prone to developing basal cell tumors and carcinomas. Dog breeds that Basal cell tumors are more common in are Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and Scottish Terriers, while basal cell carcinomas are seen more in Cocker Spaniels and Poodles.

Symptoms Of Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs.

There are pointers known as signs and symptoms that will help you understand the health condition of your dog. Dog owners must pay attention to their pets at all times to monitor their behavior in case of any change.

Even though these tumors are not usually incommodious, if they develop in an area that can be scratched or chewed, there is the risk of your dog getting infected and self-trauma. As such, your pet should not be allowed to scratch, bite, or lick these areas.

If there is no swift intervention through surgery, these tumors may continue to grow and make the surgical procedure more difficult. So, we advise that it is best to have your veterinarian evaluate any abnormal growths or bumps as soon as you notice them.

Treatment Of Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs.

Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs nose
Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs nose

Now that you’ve learned about the types and causes of basal cell carcinoma in dogs, you will also be interested to learn the means of treating this disease. To better put, treatment of basal cell tumor or carcinoma is dependent upon the type of tumor and its location.

Most often, surgery is the first step taken for malignant melanomas. This comes in handy if the tumor or cancer cell has not metastasized. Radiation is introduced in the case whereby the melanoma cannot be removed in its entirety or if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Radiation does not completely solve the problem but can reduce the rate of spread by 70%. However, there is a tendency for reoccurrence. Another form of treatment that is commonly used together with radiation or surgery is chemotherapy.

In addition, despite the potency and effectiveness of local therapy at alleviating clinical signs (i.e., pain, loss of appetite, bleeding oral masses) in dogs diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, it does not lead to disease control due to the potential for metastasis.

As such, dogs treated with surgery alone to remove a malignant melanoma, even if the surgical removal is complete, typically develop metastatic disease within the given period of 5-6 months of surgery.

Bearing the above statement in mind, it is equally important that adjuvant therapy to control metastatic disease must be considered, and the best choice treatment for delaying metastasis is the use of the vaccine.

There are vaccines designed that when taken it causes the dog’s immune system to attack tumor cells. This helps elongate the survival time of dogs with oral melanoma. It is best to discuss with your vet doctor the best vaccine that your dog can use.

Also, if it is a squamous cell carcinoma, it can often be removed surgically, without further need for radiation or chemotherapy. Howbeit, it is proven to be one of the most effective treatments for delaying metastasis of malignant melanoma.

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Peradventure the tumors occur in inoperable parts of the body, photodynamic therapy and the use of a drug called piroxicam may be beneficial.

Life Expectancy Of Dogs With Basal Cell Carcinoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs is not to be undermined and can in a long run become detrimental and eventually lead to death if not cared for and properly managed. Inclusively, dogs diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma can be treated with surgery alone as earlier discussed.

Likewise, the survival period of Dogs suffering from this condition can span not more than 4-6 months following surgery.

Likewise, the survival period of Dogs suffering from this condition can span not more than 4-6 months following surgery. It can be longer than that depending on the level of care and treatment the dog gets. The reason has been that they eventually develop a life-limiting metastatic disease to the local lymph nodes and/or lungs.

However, Dogs that have gone through complete surgical removal of the basal cell carcinoma, as well as the administration of the vaccine, tend to have an average life expectancy of approximately 1.5 years, with about 30-40% of dogs living more than 2 years.

Nonetheless, Dogs with basal cell carcinoma located on the lip are more likely to experience longer survival times compared to tumors in other locations.

Veterinary Cost Of Removing Basal Cell Carcinoma.

Are you interested to know how much the surgery will cost you? The average veterinary cost for basal cell carcinoma removal is estimated to be around $500 to $1,000.

This is a fairly typical expense for mast cell removal. If the surgeon find it difficult to access the point the tumor is growing from (for internal tumors or less surgically accessable locations on the skin), there is a tendency that the costs are likely to be higher than the above stated.


Following are the frequently asked questions, we have taken time to select from arrays of questions and we have provided answers to it all regarding Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs.

How Long Do Dogs Live With Carcinoma?

Without treatment, the typical duration from diagnosis to death is roughly two months. This can be extended with chemotherapy (in some cases for a year or more), but sadly, not all lymphomas react satisfactorily.

What Is A Basal Cell Tumor In Dogs?

Basal cells are located at the base of the skin’s top layer (the epidermis). A basal cell tumor is a benign development of these cells.

A basal cell carcinoma is a cancerous tumor. Basal cell tumors are frequent in dogs, and the majority of them are benign.

How Serious Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer?

The BCC is considered to be a harmful substance. While BCCs seldom extend beyond the original tumor location, if left untreated, these lesions can be disfiguring and hazardous.

Untreated BCCs can become locally invasive, spread wide and deep into the skin, and destroy skin, tissue, and bone.

Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Really Cancer?

Base cell carcinoma is cancer that develops on sun-exposed skin. Having melanoma is a cause for concern, but keep in mind that it is the least dangerous type of skin cancer. The disease is curable if caught early.

The disease is generally fatal in dogs. If this is the case, treatment may still be prescribed to ease your pet’s discomfort.

Is Basal Cell Carcinoma Malignant Or Benign?

As a benign form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is commonly triggered by exposure to UV light. Over 3 million Americans are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year, making it the most common form of skin cancer.

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What Does A Basal Cell tumor Look Like On A Dog?

Base cell tumors or carcinomas are typically 0.2-10 centimeters in diameter and look as circular, elevated, hairless lumps.

These are most commonly found on the head, neck, and shoulders. When compared to healthy skin, they may seem discolored.

How Do You Tell If The Growth Of A Dog Is Cancerous?

  • A dog’s skin is covered in lumps and pimples.
  • Odors that come from the lips, ears, or any other area of the body are out of the ordinary.
  • Ear or rectum discharge that is out of the ordinary.
  • A bloated abdomen.
  • Wounded or sores that do not heal.
  • Weight loss occurs suddenly and irreversibly.
  • A change in appetite is evident.

What Happens If You Don’t Remove Basal Cell Carcinoma In Dogs?

Base cell carcinomas could eventually spread across a big area of skin on your body without treatment. This type of cancer can also lead to ulcers and lasting harm to the surrounding skin and tissue.

Can Basal Cells Be Frozen Off?

No, it can not be frozen off. For  basal cell carcinoma, cryotherapy is an alternative to surgery. Your doctor freezes the aberrant tissue with liquid nitrogen. During the healing process, the frozen skin sloughs off (falls off).

Can Basal Cell Cancer Turn Into Melanoma?

No, it can’t. Melanoma does not proceed from basal cell carcinoma to the malignant form. Each type of skin cancer is distinct.

As the most frequent form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is also one of the two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer (the other is squamous cell carcinoma).

How Quickly Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Spread?

Sometimes, the tumors develop so slowly that they are not even noticed as new growths. As a result, tumor development rates vary widely from one to the next.

Are Benign Tumors In Dogs Dangerous?

Yes, it can be dangerous if not care for properly. Tumors are classified as benign or malignant, respectively (cancerous). Non-invasive benign tumors that do not spread to other parts of the body can be surgically removed.

Tumors that are malignant can spread and injure the animal. Invasive cancers can spread to distant organs.

Are Benign Tumors In Dogs Dangerous?

Tumors may be benign or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors are not invasive, do not spread to other areas of the body, and are easy to remove surgically. Malignant tumors can spread and cause harm to the animal. Malignant tumors can invade surrounding tissue and spread to distant organs

How Can I Shrink My Dog’s Tumor?

The size of benign tumors in dogs can be reduced by a calcium chloride injection. The use of other chemical solutions on dogs and humans has also been proven to be successful.

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Basal cell carcinoma is common in dogs and occurs most time on the skin. From our discourse, you now have an in-depth idea about Basal Cell Carcinoma in Dogs and have also learned all that you can about the disease.

You should know that the life expectancy of your dog depends on the early detection and immediate surgery performed. Also, the use of vaccines alongside surgery will further increase your dog’s life.


Author: David Arthur

David's lifelong passion for animals blossomed into a dream profession in 2020. He founded Petscareway Inc., a professional pet care company situated in the Texas. Several veterinarians have educated him in Pet First Aid and CPR since 2003. David decided to become a certified Pet First Aid and CPR instructor in 2011 after completing an instructor training course. David decided he had to be a part of ProPetHero when he discovered them in 2016 and saw how they were offering ER veterinarian-led training to everyone. As a result, he became a member of the ProTrainings family, the designers of ProPetHero. He volunteers and fosters for The Boxer Rescue Inc in his spare time, is a health-conscious Boxer breeder, and is a member of the Middlesex Boxer Club and Wachusett Kennel Club. David has served as a mentor to many people in the pet industry and in the small company world. When he's not working or helping, he's competing with his dogs in agility, lure coursing, and conformation trials across the country. David can be seen training with his puppies, hiking with them on trails, or playing in his backyard when he is not at a trial or trying to find a nice home for a Boxer through the rescue.

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