Should My Dog Get the Canine Melanoma Vaccine?

Should your dog get the canine melanoma vaccine? Many dog owners seem to be asking the question, because of course, no one wants his dog to suffer from canine oral melanoma.

Winnie died in 2009 from canine oral melanoma. By: Bob Gaffney/Flickr

Editor’s Note: Updated in January 2013.

Wondering if your dog should get the canine melanoma vaccine? Many dog owners seem to be asking this question, because of course, no one wants his dog to suffer from canine melanoma.

Before we answer the question, let’s find out exactly what canine melanoma is.


Canine melanoma is a skin cancer that is found in dogs, and it affects the region around the mouth (called canine oral melanoma), eyes and areas around the toes. The melanoma found in these areas is normally malignant, so it tends to spread very fast across the other parts of the body. It can also spread to the internal organs of the body and is often fatal.

This disease has been predominantly found in dogs older than 9 and whose coat color is darker. However, this does not mean that a light-colored dog or a younger dog will not be affected by melanoma. Now let’s discuss a few of the symptoms.


Some of the symptoms of canine melanoma are unusually bad breath, bleeding of the mouth or gums, loose teeth, poor appetite, excessive drooling, coughing or trouble swallowing, and noticeable weight loss. Take your dog to the vet if you find any of these troubling symptoms of canine melanoma.

Treatment Options

By: Jasen Miller

After proper diagnosis and further tests, the veterinarian will be able to determine the exact nature of the disease and its various stages. Dogs that have been diagnosed with melanoma in the initial stages have a better chance of recovery. There are not many treatment options for advanced canine melanoma.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a license for a vaccine that can be used for treatment of canine oral melanoma. The vaccine, called Oncept [PDF], is not designed for prevention but rather treatment.

This so-called therapeutic vaccine is designed to create an immune response for battling stage II and stage III levels of the cancer. Researchers call it a “groundbreaking” way to extend the survival rates of dogs that have melanoma. Dogs in early studies have been able to live much longer than the previous five or six months after diagnosis.

Should Your Dog Get the Canine Melanoma Vaccine?

So if your dog is suffering from this disease, should your dog get the Oncept vaccine? This therapy has shown some success in studies, and you should ask your vet if this is a good option for your pet. Check for more info here:

Here’s something to look forward to: Researchers are hopeful that one day the vaccine will evolve as a way to prevent canine melanoma altogether.

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  • julie

    I need to find the vaccine. Merial has it on back order. Does anyone out there know of a source. Time is ticking – as you know this is an aggressive cancer. It was found early, but I have been waiting a month for Merial to deliver and now they have moved the availability date – again. Please help if you know a source.

  • Laura

    Hello Julie there’s 2 oncologists in NYC that have it NYC vet specialists and 5th avenue vet. 5th ave vet is alot cheaper. There’s also gArden state vet specialists who are recieving a shipment this week.


    Thanks Laura! It’s good to know that you can get Oncept if you’re in the New York City / New Jersey area. There’s not a whole lot of info out there yet on availability as far as we can tell… pretty much the answer that we’re getting is to talk to your vet specialist, who will be able to assist.

  • Dawn

    The Animal Cancer Care Clinic in Stuart, Florida also has it available.

  • Alex

    We have a Scottish Terrier who was recently diagnosed with melanoma. Yesterday he went through surgery since the tumor was already creating discomfort when eating/breathing. We also did echo and RX scans and fortunately there are no signs of further disseminations. The problem is I live in Romania, so I need to find a way to get the vaccine to Europe. Can you please advise on who can I contact to discuss a solution for shipping it?

    Kind regards,

  • djperrucci

    I work for a Veterinary Oncologist. My most memorable dog who received the CMV, was Grizzley, a Black Chow Dog. Part of his tongue was severely “eaten away” by oral malig. melanoma. His response was amazing, no reoccurance, and when he died, he was euthanized because of his severe arthritis, not from the cancer. He was about 12-13 yrs old, a great dog, and had a long time of remission. I’ve seen a very good response to the vaccine, and would use it on my own dog if I had to.