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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