»  Doctors Warn Pet Owners About Melanoma (Posted: September 04, 2006 )

Cases Of Melanoma Can Be Just As Deadly In Pets As In People

Eileen Curran

(CBS4) BOSTON Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, but what many people don't know is that pets can get this disease too.

The first sign that there was something wrong with Lesly Beck's pug was finding blood in his water bowl. 'I was scared, I was really scared.'

An exam showed that Tarzan had a mass in his mouth and the biopsy brought more bad news. 'It was oral melanoma -- the worst of the worst. I didn't know they could get melanoma.'

Veterinary Oncologist Mary Kay Klein sees cases of melanoma all the time and it can be just as deadly in pets as in people. 'The most common sites for dogs and cats to develop malignant melanoma is in the oral cavity and in the nail beds.'

As with humans, early detection is crucial. Pet owners need to check for lumps regularly. 'Go ahead and get your hands all over them,' said Dr. Klein. 'Take a look in their oral cavity when they're playing with their toys.'

In addition to lumps that are flesh tone or black, other warning signs are blood in the water bowl, or unusually bad breath. 'When we treat our melanomas aggressively, we can still have our patients live a very long time,' said Dr. Klein.

Tarzan had surgery to remove the tumor along with chemotherapy.

Doctors do not know what causes the cancer, but the sun is not thought to be a factor. Most pets get melanoma in areas that are not exposed to the sun.

There are several melanoma vaccinations for pets that are in clinical trials and doctors say early results are promising.

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