Causes of Canine Melanoma
The causes of melanoma in dogs are not known. This type of cancer arises from abnormal, uncontrolled growth of cells that produce melanin, which is a dark, sulfur-containing pigment normally found in hair, skin, eyes and certain nerves. People can develop melanoma from genetic mutations and in part from exposure to ultraviolet light. However, unlike so-called skin cancer in humans, melanoma in dogs does not seem to be exacerbated by excessive sun exposure. In fact, dark brown and black dogs seem predisposed to developing this form of cancer. The fact that some domestic dog breeds are more commonly affected by melanoma suggests that there is a genetic component to the disease.
Canine melanoma cannot realistically be prevented, because veterinary science has yet to discover its underlying cause. Given the suspected genetic contribution to this disease, affected animals probably should not be bred. However, with early detection, the adverse effects of melanoma may be manageable. Dog owners, especially those with predisposed breeds, should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of melanoma and should perform routine, hands-on examinations of their pets to identify any suspicious lumps or bumps at the very earliest opportunity. These should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as they are identified. Currently, there is no vaccine proven to prevent the occurrence of canine melanoma, although there is a vaccine that is licensed to help treat the condition by prolonging survival rates and minimizing clinical signs of the disease.
While surgical removal is the most common treatment for melanoma, the tumors frequently recur in the same or in other areas post-operatively.