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My dog has an unusual growth - what could it be?

(Q) My three-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Russ, has recently sprouted some form of growth on his face. A friend mentioned strawberry warts and said they were common in short-haired dogs. Russ doesn’t seem to be in pain but I am anxious that it may get bigger and start to cause problems.

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: Although skin lumps can be a consequence of wounds or areas of infection, Russ has a swelling that appears to look suspiciously like a mass. It could be benign or malignant. 

It is important to identify what it is and how it is likely to behave, as this will help you to choose the right course of action for your dog.

Get this lump checked out promptly by your vet. Your vet could aspirate cells through a fine needle allowing identification of the cell type present, take a biopsy sample from the mass, or remove it.

Once the cell types and their rates of cell division have been identified, an assessment can be made as to the type of mass, and its likely behaviour. Then you can decide whether surgery and/or chemotherapy are needed.

The mass could be a histiocytoma (or strawberry wart) which is benign and could disappear by itself without treatment. However, in case it isn’t, it needs to be checked out further.

(A) Vet Holly Mash says: It’s always important to get your vet to check any skin mass that comes up suddenly.

This is because skin growths can be due to a number of different causes — from the benign to the cancerous — so the sooner a diagnosis is made the better. 

A histiocytoma is a benign, round, hairless mass sometimes known as a strawberry wart. There is also a canine virus that causes small proliferative warts, called canine papilloma virus. These warts usually regress on their own over time. 

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