Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs: Treatment, Symptoms & Prognosis

Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs: Treatment, Symptoms & Prognosis

Author WDF Staff


Getting a diagnosis of cancer for your dog is undoubtedly one of the worst things a dog owner can hear. However, different types of cancer can affect different parts of the dog’s body. Squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, is one of the most common types of cancer in dogs. If you’re worried about your dog’s health or your dog just got diagnosed with this disease, here are a few things you should know about squamous cell carcinoma in dogs.

What is squamous cell carcinoma?

As we already mentioned, squamous cell carcinoma is a type of malignant tumor in dogs. More precisely, it is a tumor of epidermal cells in the dog’s skin.  It is most commonly found in older dogs, especially in Basset Hounds, Bloodhounds, and Standard Poodles. The good news is that metastasis to other body parts is rare, but that doesn’t mean this type of cancer should be taken lightly. They are defined by their location, and there are three different types;

Oral squamous cell carcinoma

This type of squamous cell carcinoma appears in the mouth. It is most common in older, neutered females and is diagnosed in Shetland Sheepdogs and English Springer Spaniels.

Subungual squamous cell carcinoma

Subungual squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of squamous cell carcinoma. It appears in the nail bed, and it affects females slightly more than males. It is responsible for around 50% of all cases. It is commonly diagnosed in Schnauzers, Standard Poodles, Scottish Terriers, Gordon Setters, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, and Dachshunds.

dalmatian dog looking at treat

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma

Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma appears on the hyperpigmented areas of the skin, often exposed to sunlight. It is commonly diagnosed in Basset Hounds, Collies, Standard Schnauzers, and Keeshonds.

How can I know if my dog has squamous cell carcinoma?

Most dog owners will not know precisely what’s wrong with their dogs. Most will simply notice a weird bump on their dog’s skin and have a vet check it out. Responsible dog owners should check their dog’s skin regularly. It can be quickly done while petting them. However, there are different types of bumps that can appear for various reasons; bug bites, lipomas, other types of cancer, etc. The safest thing to do is call your vet as soon as you notice something and schedule an appointment. In the meantime, you can learn what the squamous cell carcinoma symptoms look like and make an educated guess.

Squamous cell carcinoma symptoms

The first thing your vet will examine is your dog's symptoms. Once they do that, it will help them narrow the search and order precise tests. It will help the vet pinpoint the problem and decide what type of treatment is the best way to go. Here are the most common squamous cell carcinoma symptoms;

  • Bleeding sores
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inflamed sores
  • Lameness
  • Limping or signs of pain when walking
  • Loose teeth
  • Mild cough
  • Oral bleeding
  • Raised lumps (wart-like)
  • Swollen or inflamed areas in the mouth

VET TIP: Since there are different types of squamous cell carcinoma, symptoms might vary. Symptoms will fit the affected part of the body.


What causes it?

Despite all the advances in medicine, we still don’t understand what causes this or any type of cancer. It is most likely a combination of genetic and environmental risks. It is crucial you get a puppy from a breeder that health tests their breeding dogs. Make sure your dog eats healthy and isn’t exposed to artificial ingredients, especially in their food, toys, and treats.

How is squamous cell carcinoma diagnosed?

There are different tests your vet can order if they want to check the dog’s lump. The most common method is fine needle aspiration (FNA). A needle will take a sample of cells directly from the tumor, and the vet will check it under a microscope. However, the sample will be tiny, so the results might be inconclusive. If that happens, the vet will take a biopsy to take more samples from the tumor and send them for analysis.

How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?

The most effective way of treating squamous cell carcinoma is surgery. As long as your vet can remove the whole tumor, the disease can be relatively put under control. All three types can be treated this way, and surgery showed the best results. In some cases, where it is impossible to remove the whole tumor, surgery is combined with radiation therapy.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common ways to treat different types of cancer in dogs and humans. However, chemotherapy is still heavily discussed among veterinarians. They are skeptical about its effectiveness against this specific type of cancer.

What is the prognosis?

One of the first things dog owners want to know is the prognosis for dogs with squamous cell carcinoma. The most aggressive form is the one that appears on the dog’s toes. It is most challenging to deal with, and the chances of metastasis are the greatest. Since this cancer usually affects older dogs, the prognosis is not too optimistic. If the surgery is successful, 95% of dogs survive more than a year. However, if there is metastasis, only 10% of dogs will survive up to a year. You should discuss options and prognosis with your vet. Each case is individual, and your dog might have some characteristics that will go to their advantage.

VET TIP: Vets believe that sun exposure plays a part in developing squamous cell carcinoma. You should limit your dog’s exposure to the sun during the hottest parts of the day (between 10AM and 3PM), especially if you have a hairless or thin-coated dog.

World Dog Finder team

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