Things to Know About Soft Tissue Tumors in Dogs

Are you a dog owner or thinking of adopting one? Then, you will have to do an extensive study involving their grooming, feeding, training, social life and health. You don’t want to get a canine and fail to take care of it because you didn’t do your research.


Dogs are prone to a number of diseases including soft tissue tumors. These tumors come about because of an abnormal production of cells in the muscle, connective and nervous tissues. 

These tumors can affect any part of the body, like the face, sides, legs, back and chest. Do you want to learn more about these soft tissue tumors? Read on to learn more.

Things to Know About Soft Tissue Tumors in Dogs

What Is a Soft Tissue Tumor or Sarcoma?

Soft tissue tumors entail a broad category of tumors including those that affect the muscles, connective or nervous tissues of dogs and cats. They arise from an abnormal growth of these body cell types in an uncontrollable way. 

Since muscles, connective and nervous tissues are found all over the body, therefore, these tumors can develop on any part of the body like chest, back legs and face. These tumors contribute 15% of the skin cancers affecting dogs and 7% of skin cancer in cats.


Causes of Soft Tissue Sarcomas

The main cause of soft tissue sarcomas is not known. However, it is believed that most tumors and cancers are caused by a combination or a mix of risk factors. 

Sarcomas on injection sites – especially immunization sites – are more commonly seen in cats than in dogs. Also, cats that have been exposed to viruses, like feline leukemia virus, are likely to develop tumors on their head and neck. 

Signs of Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Clinical signs that will be presented by your dog will depend on the body part the tumor is growing. Since these tumors affect any part of the body, signs will vary according to the type of tissue affected.  

You’ll see a noticeable mass that keeps increasing in size. If your dog has a tumor developing from the muscle tissue, then it will exhibit signs of pain in the affected part. Also, depending on the size, you’ll see a firm and distinct growth forming.

If the tumors affect the limbs, then your pet will walk with a limp or difficulty. If you look closely, you’ll find the limbs where the tumor is located beginning to swell.

If the sarcoma has affected the nervous tissue, then your pet will be unable to use the affected limb and will show other neurological signs.

Other Possible Signs

Pets with intestinal tumors will show signs of intestinal blockage such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss and lack of appetite.

Sarcomas affecting soft tissues of the mouth will cause your pet to have halitosis or bad mouth smell, difficulty in eating, bleeding in the mouth, and lack of appetite.

If the sarcoma affects the reproductive system, then your pet could show signs of difficulty in urinating and passing stool.

Diagnosis of Soft Tissue Tumors

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, they can either use FNA (Fine needle aspiration), which is when they insert a syringe with an affine needle into the tumor and aspirates a few cell samples. 

If it’s not conclusive, then your vet can do a biopsy where they cut a part of the tumor for examination. A biopsy shows the Vet how fast the tumor is growing and what medication should be given.


Things to Know About Soft Tissue Tumors in Dogs

Usually treatment of these tumors is surgery. Since the tumors produce “tentacles” of abnormal cells, it’s important that the whole tissue is removed, otherwise it will regrow after surgery. 

In case some cells remain which can be seen using a microscope or histopathology, then a second surgery is required combined with radiation therapy.

The Bottom Line

Soft tissue tumors are a common occurrence in dogs and cats. If you are planning on acquiring a dog, it is important you understand these sarcomas. They affect the connective, nervous and muscle tissues and hence can appear on any part of the body.