A young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kittenA young Asian girl nuzzles noses with a tabby kitten
Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know about Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

By: Kelli Rascoe

No pet owner wants to hear that their pet is sick. The stress of a sick pet can be devastating and can affect the family emotionally and financially. Naturally, there’s no way to predict which pet will become unlucky in health. Medical conditions like squamous cell carcinoma (SSC) in dogs can occur in any pup, regardless of their breed, size, or age. We sat down with Trupanion veterinarian, Dr. Caroline Wilde to learn more about squamous cell carcinoma in dogs and what to watch for in your furry friends.

Woman in black sweater snuggles a small dog

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma in dogs?

With so many medical conditions that can occur at any given time, it can be hard for any new or established pet owner to keep track of everything. Because of this, Wilde breaks down what squamous cell carcinoma is –

“Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that generally occurs on non-pigmented, thinly haired areas of skin, though it can also occur in the mouth, eyelids, or tissues surrounding the eyes.”

How do dogs get squamous cell carcinoma?

Cancer can come in many shapes and forms. Because of this, it can be hard to know what to look for in your pets. Just like with humans, there might not always be a clear indication of the reason for the condition. “It’s not known how dogs get SCC, though it may be associated with increased exposure to UV light,” states Wilde. If you detect anything abnormal with your dog, you should seek medical care immediately.

Exposure to different environments may negatively affect your dog. You may want to consider clothing and pet care options like sunscreen to help keep your pet protected from the elements.

A white dog sticks his tongue out

Common signs of Squamous cell carcinoma in dogs, according to Wilde

SCC of the skin generally appears as:
A discrete pinkish or reddish lesion, often with an irregular surface.

When it occurs in the mouth, ease of detection varies with location, as it can occur on:
The gums, under or on the tongue, or deeper in the oral cavity, for example on the tonsils.

Due to difficulty in visualizing lesions inside the mouth or oral cavity, the owner may first notice:

While every dog is different, some pets might experience some of these signs or only a few. Regardless, if owners notice any of these to please check in with your veterinarian. The earlier a medical condition like this is detected, the sooner you can start a treatment plan.


The diagnosis of your dog starts with a biopsy or fine needle aspirate. From there your veterinarian will determine the next steps based on the results. In addition, several diagnostics might be performed including radiographs, a sample of lymph nodes, CT scan, or an ultrasound.

Treatment options for squamous cell carcinoma in dogs

With the expertise and help of your veterinarian, there are a wide variety of treatment options for Cancer. Wilde breaks down the treatment process –

“The goal of treatment is always the elimination of all cancerous cells and may depend on location and evidence of spread. Also, treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and sometimes chemotherapy. Naturally, the first step is surgical removal depending on the location, if it’s possible. The goal being the removal of all cancerous cells and to obtain ‘clean margins’.”

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The importance of a strong family foundation

Without a doubt, your furry friend will need the love and support of their family. No amount of kisses or cuddles could be too much during this time. Your pet might be scared, confused, or in pain during the treatment process. Having you there to comfort and hold them can truly help them overcome this battle.

Remission is possible

Early detection is always a key factor to a successful treatment plan. By notating any new growths, staying on track with your dog’s treatment plan, and checking in with your veterinarian, your best friend can obtain remission and be on the road to recovery.

For more on pet health, read Heart Murmur in Dogs: A Pet Owner Guide.

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Welcome to the Trupanion blog. A place to celebrate pets, pet health and medical insurance for cats and dogs.

This blog is designed to be a community where pet owners can learn and share. The views expressed in each post are the opinion of the author and not necessarily endorsed by Trupanion. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice.

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