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Toe Cancer in Dogs

Updated February 21, 2017

Dogs can develop cancerous tumours on their toes. PetMD.com says that squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common form of cancer that affects dogs' toes. Unfortunately, it's an aggressive cancer that often reoccurs and spreads to other organs even when the tumour is removed from the dog. However, when the malignancy is caught early and is removed, a complete recovery is possible.

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SCC generally appears as a small nodule (tumour) on one of the dog's toes. It resembles a blister as a reddish bump without the fluid. It usually grows from the skin around the dog's nail and affects the bone and tissues surrounding it. Typically, the nodule eventually ulcerates or bursts. According to PetMD.com, the cause of the disease isn't known.


Dogs of all ages and breeds can have toe cancer, although it generally impacts older dogs over 10 years of age and black dogs like Labrador retrievers, giant schnauzers, bouviers and standard poodles.


Aside from the appearance of a growth on the dog's toe, the dog's toe or paw may swell. You may notice breaking and splitting nails, resulting in discharge. The dog may limp, or it may be unwilling to walk.


If a suspicious growth is found on your dog's toe, you should take your dog to the veterinarian for a complete exam. He will likely review your pet's medical history, carefully assess the toe and check other areas of the body for tumours. In particular, he will ensure your dog's lymph nodes are clear to make certain the cancer hasn't spread. The diagnosis is usually confirmed with a biopsy of the tumour, which also tells the veterinarian if the growth is cancerous or benign--mild or not harmful. X-rays and blood tests also may be performed to determine the extent of the cancer.


A single, localised tumour is generally removed with surgery. In some dogs, the entire toe may need to be removed to ensure all of the cancerous cells are removed. The prognosis is usually good for a full recovery even when the toe is removed. If the cancer is in advanced stages and has spread to other parts of the body, surgery alone may not be enough to rid the dog of cancer. It may also need chemotherapy or other medications to keep the dog comfortable and limit its pain.

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About the Author

Christie Gross

Christie Gross has been writing since 1998. Her work writing public policy platforms for elected officials nationwide has been featured in national and local newspapers under various client pen names. Gross has a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science, as well as a Master of Public Administration from the University of Delaware.

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