Mastocytoma in Dogs – What can be Done?

There are a variety of health issues that a dog may experience but one has to do with tumors that exist in the connective tissues. Those types of tumors, known as Mastocytoma or mast cell tumors, exist within the connective tissues, including those that are close to the surface, such as the lungs, skin or mouth. It is a problem that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian but in some cases, there are treatment options available for the dog.

Mast cells exist in the connective tissues and they have the function of defending against infestation from parasites, repairing the tissue and they help with the formation of blood vessels. Mast cells are also associated with allergic reactions, as they contain both heparin and histamine. As a result of containing those chemicals, they can also have an effect on the immune system including inflammation and immune reactions that affect the body.

When tumors exist in the mast cells (Mastocytomas), they are often recognized because of the lump that exists under the skin. This type of condition, known as a subcutaneous tumor, may exist for days or perhaps even months prior to the time that it is checked by a veterinarian. During that time, the tumor may remain the same or it could change size and in some cases, rapid growth is seen. The area where the tumor exists could be itchy and it may lead to other symptoms, including enlarged nodes, loss of appetite, diarrhea and inflammation.

As is the case with many tumors, they are graded according to various stages. Stage one is when a single tumor exists and it has not metastasized. As it metastasizes and new tumors form, it is moved up through various stages until it reaches stage IV. At stage IV, the tumor has metastasized to other areas, including the blood or a nearby organ.

A veterinarian will need to diagnose this problem in dogs and they will be the one that discusses any treatment options that may be available. In most cases, they will take a biopsy from the tumor but they may also do blood tests, x-rays or ultrasound to determine the extent of the problem.

A number of treatment options are available and it really depends upon the development of the mast cell and the wishes of the owner. It is always something that should be discussed openly with the veterinarian to determine what the best course of action is. In some cases, surgery may be suggested by the veterinarian or they may be given antihistamines to help reduce symptoms and make the dog more comfortable. Chemotherapy may also be an option that is considered, although it doesn’t always have long-term benefits.

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