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Squamous Cell Carcinomas in Dogs and Cats

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Squamous cell carcinomas are cancers that arise from squamous cells.  They are seen in both dogs and cats and can spread to many sites in the body. 

 

Squamous cells are flat cells that are found throughout the body. They are present in large numbers on the skin, nose, mouth, ear tips, and nails in dogs and cats.  They also form the lining of many body cavities.



Clinical signs depend on the location of the primary or metastatic tumor.  Pets with oral, nasal, and tonsillar squamous cell carcinomas often have difficulty eating and swallowing, and may drool and have bad breath.  Coughing, a nasal discharge, and a deformed nose or muzzle are also common.  Large masses can sometimes be seen in the mouth or nose.  Squamous cell carcinomas of the skin, ear tips, or nail beds often enlarge rapidly, ulcerate, and become easily infected.  Squamous cell carcinoma in the lungs can cause difficulty breathing, and squamous cell carcinoma in the liver causes liver disease or failure.


Primary treatment for squamous cell carcinoma is surgical removal of the lump.  Squamous cell carcinomas on a digit usually require amputation of the toe.  Squamous cell carcinoma in the mouth can require surgical removal of part or all of the jaw.  A biopsy of the mass is needed to grade the tumor, ie, to determine its aggressiveness.  Your veterinarian may also recommend blood work, x-rays, ultrasound, and examination of lymph nodes to help determine a prognosis.  Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended.


Q&A

What is a squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinomas are cancers that arise from the flat cells that are present in large numbers on the skin, nose, mouth, ear tips, and nails.  These tumors are seen in both dogs and cats.


Are these tumors malignant?

Squamous cell carcinomas tend to invade underlying tissues and can spread to other parts of the body.  Therefore, your veterinarian may recommend a laboratory biopsy and other diagnostic work to help determine a prognosis. 


How are these tumors treated?

The primary treatment is surgery, which may be extensive (eg, toe amputation for a tumor on the digit).  Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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