A Primer On Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Squamous cell carcinomas are cancers that arise from squamous cells.

Squamous cells are one of the three cell types that make up epithelial tissue—skin cells.

A Primer On Squamous Cell Carcinomas: Dalmatians are one of the susceptible breeds.

These cells are flat and appear throughout the body. They are present in large numbers on dogs’ skin, nose, mouth, ear tips, and nails.  They also form the lining of many body cavities.

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What does it look like

Clinical signs depend on the location of the primary or metastatic tumor. Typically, squamous cell carcinomas show up as a single lesion. It is not usual for dogs to suffer from a disease that involves multiple locations.

Oral, nasal, or tonsills

Dogs with oral, nasal, and tonsillar squamous cell carcinomas often have difficulty eating and swallowing, drool, and have bad breath. 

Coughing, a nasal discharge, and a deformed nose or muzzle are also common. In addition, large masses can sometimes appear in the mouth or nose.

Skin, ear, or nail bed

Squamous cell carcinomas of the skin, ear tips, or nail beds often enlarge rapidly, ulcerate, and become easily infected. 


Squamous cell carcinoma in the lungs can cause difficulty breathing.


In the liver, squamous cell carcinoma causes liver disease or failure.

Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The primary treatment for squamous cell carcinoma is the surgical removal of the lump.  

Squamous cell carcinomas on a digit usually require amputation of the toe.  Squamous cell carcinoma in the mouth can require surgical removal of part or all of the jaw.  Your dog will need a biopsy of the mass to grade the tumor, i.e., to determine its aggressiveness. 

Your veterinarian may also recommend blood work, x-rays, ultrasound, and examination of lymph nodes to help determine prognosis.  The veterinarian may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Related articles:
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: What Is that Bump?

Further reading:
Squamous Cell Carcinomas in Dogs

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