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Mast cell tumours

Mast cell tumours are the most common skin tumours in dogs. Almost 21% of all dog skin tumours are mast cell tumours. Any dog can develop mast cell tumours but certain breeds like the boxer, ridgeback,pug, boston terrier, pitbull, shar-pei and weimaraner are 4-8 times more likely to develop them compared to the general population.

A mast cell tumour is diagnosed on a fine needle aspirate of the skin lump which is then evaluated under the microscope. They have distinct staining characteristics as can be seen in the picture.

These tumours are very invasive and need wide surgical excision that may lead to tricky surgery if they are very large or in a difficult location like the face or extremities.

After surgery the lump needs to be sent to a pathologist who will then grade the mast cell tumour as low or high grade and comment on the tumour free margins of the skin surrounding the mass. It is crucial to grade the tumour to determine a prognosis and indicate if further surgery, radiation or chemotherapy is necessary.

It is important to seek veterinary advice when you notice any lumps or bumps on your pet’s skin. The earlier you can catch a mast cell tumour the easier they are to remove and the better the outcome.

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