Hard Tumors in Dogs

If you feel a hard lump on your dog's body, don't panic, but do have it examined. A hard tumor isn't necessarily malignant; it could be a benign growth. Get into the habit of checking your dog's body regularly for any bumps and lumps, whether hard or soft. In many cases, early tumor detection makes a big difference in your pet's prognosis.

vet doctor checking pet dog skin
Have your vet investigate any lumps on your dog.
credit: michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

The most common type of canine skin cancer, squamous cell carcinomas often appear wartlike, with a firm, elevated surface. These tumors usually develop on the abdomen, head, rear of the body and lower legs and feet. Surgical removal, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, is the standard treatment. Should the tumor develop on a toe, tail, ear or other easily removed body part, surgery generally will include amputation.

Basal Cell Tumors

Most canine basal cell tumors are benign, but they can grow quite large. They appear as firm, lone, raised, ulcerated or hairless growths. As it grows, the mass can break the dog's skin, resulting in pus or fluid drainage. The most common sites for basal cell tumors are the head, ears, front legs and neck. The basal cell carcinoma, or cancerous tumor, usually isn't raised and can show up anywhere on the body. Surgical excision is the treatment for both types. The carcinoma doesn't usually spread internally, but can expand all over the skin.

Hemangiopericytomas in Dogs

Hemangiopericytomas, usually found on a dog's legs, are tumors originating in the blood vessels. Solid and firm, these growths usually develop irregular borders. While hemangiopericytoma is usually malignant, it doesn't spread the way many cancerous tumors do. While it requires surgical removal, it often grows back on the original site within a year. Radiation therapy can prevent tumor recurrence. For an older dog, radiation may not be necessary, because by the time the regrown tumor reaches a harmful, inoperable size, the animal is likely close to the end of his natural life span. However, radiation is advisable in younger dogs. Another option is limb amputation.

Hair Follicle Tumors

If your dog develops a hard, hornlike tumor, he could have a hair follicle tumor known as cornifying epithelioma. These benign growths usually appear on the back, legs or tail of middle-aged and older dogs. Although they mar your dog's appearance, there's no need to remove them unless he's constantly scratching at them, resulting in ulceration or infection. If you do opt for surgical removal, know that dogs prone to these tumors tend to sprout new ones over time.

Trichoepitheliomas, found primarily on the face, are hair follicle tumors filled with yellowish material, but some are malignant. However, even malignant trichoepithelioma generally don't spread to internal organs. Treatment for both types of trichoepitheliomas is surgical removal.