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Updated: Jul 2, 2020

The word we dread hearing and the disease too often touching our lives in some way. Unfortunately our pets are also susceptible to cancer. Below are a list of some of the common malignancies seen at The Ark.

Mast Cell Tumours

Mast cell tumours (MCT) are common malignant tumours in dogs, although they are also prevalent in cats. These tumours usually present as firm, cutaneous lesions - some covered by hair, others may be ulcerated and more obvious. Mast cells can also metastasize (spread) to other organs. As these tumours vary in size, shape and location, any firm lumps found on your pet should be investigated. Fine-needle aspirates (FNA) can be performed, usually without general anaesthetic to determine if mast cells are present in the cell population. This can help determine if surgery is indicated and if so, how wide surgical margins will need to be to ensure complete excision.

(Image source:

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Those pets who love to sun bake are especially prone to this particular type of skin cancer. White or light-coloured animals are more susceptible than their darker-furred friends', however large-breed black dogs commonly present with squamous cell carcinomas on their toes (see bottom picture). Toe tumours usually require toe amputation to allow complete excision and improved healing. Cats often have nasal lesions as shown in the top pictures.

Below are variations and signs of squamous cell carcinomas.


  • A crusty or bleeding sore on the skin that does not go away with antibiotics or cream

  • Sores that do not heal for several months

  • Sores in areas where the hair is white or light-coloured

Growths or Tumours

  • White-coloured growth of skin; mass

Growths in areas where hair is white and skin is light coloured

  • Sores or growths may be found anywhere

  • Usually there is just one growth or sore

  • Common locations are the nose, toes, legs, scrotum or anus


Lymphomas arise from lymphocytes, the cells in the blood responsible for fighting infection and providing immune defence. Lymphomas generally develop in the lymph nodes, bone marrow and spleen but can also affect other organs. They are usually presented as a mass which has generally grown rapidly in the respective organ/gland.

Signs of lymphoma usually include lack of appetite, lethargy, weight loss and generalised weakness (Source: Sudden onset blindness may also be an indication of neoplastic change within your dog.

Although there is no current cure for lymphoma, quality of life for your pet can be managed through pain relief and palliative care. In some cases chemotherapy can be successful in slowing the disease process and may be indicated. Life expectancy and treatment are dependent on the stage of disease.

Our main focus at The Ark is ensuring your pet has a decent quality of life and we are there every step of the way to discuss concerns and options.


Large-breed dogs are predisposed to this bone cancer and lesions are usually found in the longer limb of the legs. Patients generally present lame with or without severe pain on palpation, swelling and possibly a mass around the site of malignancy. However the initial signs can be subtle and may have similar symptoms to arthritis. Radiographs are able to diagnose lesions and treatments plans will vary, dependant on age, location and severity. Amputation and chemotherapy are options but risks involved are high and life expectancy although perhaps prolonged, may not have quality. The picture on the left is an x-ray of a pathological fracture of the femur. (Source: These fractures are due to the degradation of the bone structure caused by the cancerous growth. Osteosarcoma is a dreaded diagnosis, as although pain relief is warranted, masking the pain will increase the use of the leg - therefore increasing the chances of a pathological fracture. We put strong emphasis on quality of life in these cases and are able to discuss the positives and limitations of treatment.

Nasal tumours

We often see these cases in older cats who may present with frequent bouts of sneezing, with or without discharge. These are often thought to be cases of chronic cat flu and if trials of antibiotics have failed, further investigation is warranted. They may also present as a mass or nasal swelling. Nasal tumours can respond well to radiation therapy. Fortunately, Brisbane Veterinary Specialaist Centre (BVSC) is within short distance from our clinic where they are able to perform this service. Picture right shows Cleo, a 10 year old Burmese, after radiation therapy. The diamond marking on her face is the section where radiation was used. Her hair has grown back a different colour! Cleo received this treatment over a year ago and her tumour has shown no signs of redevelopment.

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