You were likely lounging with Fido one day, his paw lazily resting on your lap, when suddenly there it was, bulging from in between his toes: what looked to you like a tumor. Your first thought may have been that your beloved companion was dying of cancer. Take a breath and prepare yourself to learn about toe tumors in dogs, rather than simply jumping to worst-case-scenario conclusions.
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Toe tumors are actually pretty common in dogs, and are among the leading causes of toe amputations in canines, according to a blog maintained by the Embrace Pet Insurance website. Fortunately, not all toe lumps are cancerous. Of those that are cancerous, squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, mast cell tumors and soft tissue sarcomas are the most common.
A carcinoma, while the most common form of malignant tumor, is also often the hardest to treat because it is particularly invasive. A squamous cell carcinoma begins in the skin around the nail and often affects the surrounding bone and tissue, according to PetMD. It usually only affects one toe, and may look like a small, reddish nodule or a blister-like papule (raised lesion), but without any fluid.
What you initially think is a cancerous tumor may be no more than a harmless calcium deposit on your dog's toe. If your dog has been licking the area and as a result it's infected, your vet may recommend using some ointment. Otherwise, he may simply send you and your dog home with a clean bill of health.
Some dog breeds are prone to gout, which can manifest itself as bunion-looking tumors on the feet. Your vet may recommend checking for this condition.
You will need to provide your vet with a thorough history of your dog's health prior to the appearance of the tumor on her toe. PetMD recommends mentioning any sores that you have seen on your pooch lately, even if you previously thought they were caused by outdoor romps. Your vet will look for signs of other tumors and order blood work. He may also extract a sample of lymph fluid for examination. The foot will be X-rayed, as will other parts of the body such as the chest, to inspect for internal tumors. Lastly, your vet will likely biopsy the mass on your dog's toe.
Treatment will depend on the type of mass it's determined to be. A malignant tumor that has not spread to other parts of the body may require a toe amputation. Dogs tend to recover well from this procedure and are soon walking normally. If cancer has spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy may be recommended as well. If gout is found to be the problem, your vet will recommend some dietary changes as well as medication.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.