The Day Leonberger Squamous Cell Carcinoma caused Hullabaloo in the Neighborhood

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a tumor of skin cells that usually appear as a single, solitary lesion in one location. It is common in large dark coated dogs and typically appear in the nailbed, but it can appear in other places. Our Leonberger Bronco was plagued by Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the toe nailbeds. In fact, he got it five times starting when he was eight years old and after that it occurred about once a year. It did not spread, and his second and third tumor, etc., were not metastatic growths. He got this type of cancer five times, each time independent of the other times.

Our veterinarian was at loss as to why he got it so many times. Remember, there was no spread of the cancer. SCC is caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays/sunlight and the exposure to papilloma-like viruses, but as with many cancers the cause is a bit of a mystery. Our veterinarian suggested it could be genetic, but recently we discovered that our pest control guy was using roundup for our lawn where Bronco walked and ran a lot, and he had been doing that for decades. We asked him to stop but we have no idea whether it had anything to do with Bronco’s SCC.

Luckily handling a case of Squamous Cell Carcinoma in the toe is quite straightforward. This type of cancer is not aggressive, even though it can spread (and is therefore called cancer), so if you don’t take too long to amputate the toe you should be fine. In fact, Bronco seemed to enjoy the annual toe amputation. He got to go to the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center, he was pampered, everyone felt sorry for him, he got treats, he had a bandage for a few weeks and then the pain in his toe was gone. He was always very cooperative. Perhaps he understood that we were helping him.

Photo of an agitated Bronco standing guard at the back door. Note the missing toe on his left (your right) front paw. It is enclosed by a red circle.
An agitated Bronco stands guard at the back door. Note the missing toe on his left (your right) front paw. It is enclosed by a red circle.

Below is an excerpt from the book regarding Bronco’s Squamous Cell Carcinoma. One day his toe amputation led to hullabaloo in the neighborhood, and we ended up having to apologize to some neighbors.

When Bronco was almost eight years old, we discovered a case of squamous cell carcinoma in one of his toes—or, rather, in one of his toenails. It was on his right rear paw.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that certain large-breed dogs, including Leonbergers, are susceptible to. It often grows out from the skin around the nail and can affect the bone and tissue around it. It is typically not very aggressive, but it can spread, and it is painful. It manifests itself as a swollen toe, or you may be able to see a large red papule that looks like a pimple. Sometimes the toenail falls off. The dog is likely to limp and lick the toe and may become reluctant to go for walks, although that was never the case with Bronco.

Primarily because of the pain, but also because of the small risk of metastasis, it is usually recommended that the affected toe be amputated. So we went through with the procedure.

When we picked Bronco up the day after the surgery, his paw was in a bandage. But he got some treats, and he was in a good mood. We went back to the veterinary surgical center for a bandage change a few times, and then he was done.

Unfortunately, though, we discovered another lesion a year later. This time it was on a large toe on his left front leg. We asked the doctors if the cancer had spread to this toe. We were told no—Bronco was just prone to getting this type of cancer. But the cause could also have been something in the environment. In Texas, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun is significant. We really don’t know why this happened to him, but we were assured that it was not because the cancer had spread.

This time around, Bronco’s entire leg was put in a cast, to be replaced by a bandage after ten days. We were instructed to keep him inside during those ten days and keep him as still as possible. We were to make sure he wouldn’t bump the cast. This was, of course, almost impossible to do, but we were going to try.

However, Bronco really wanted to go out, which he showed us in various ways, such as scratching at the front door. After a week or so, Claudia suggested that we take him outside a little bit, just in our driveway. I agreed. When I handed her the leash, she said, “He can barely walk; do you think he’s going to run off without it?” We laughed, and I agreed that it didn’t seem like we needed it this time. So Claudia walked out with Bronco slowly limping beside her.

Less than a minute had passed when I heard shouting outside. I opened the door and looked outside to see what was going on……….let’s just say that what I saw was a sight for sore eyes. If I had thought of videotaping it, it would have become a viral video. The crazy thing that happened was also an embarrassment to us and we had to apologize to neighbors. That’s all I am saying. The story is too good to reveal in this post. The rest of the story you have to read in my book. I give you a hint with the illustration below.

Illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt showing a Leonberger running wearing full leg cast.
OMG what is happening? Illustration by Naomi Rosenblatt.










Finally, if you would like to learn about more about my book and find out where to buy it, click here or here. You can also click the image below to buy it from

The image shows the front cover of the book "The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle". Stories and Tips from Thirteen Years with a Leonberger. The cover is beige and brown and it has the face of an old Leonberger in the middle. Author is Thomas Wikman. Click on the image to go to the paperback location for the book.
This is the front cover of my book “The Life and Times of Le Bronco von der Löwenhöhle”. Click on the image to go to the location for the book.

By thomasstigwikman

My name is Thomas Wikman. I am a software/robotics engineer with a background in physics, but I am currently retired. I took early retirement. I am a dog lover, and especially a Leonberger lover, a home brewer, craft beer enthusiast, an amateur astronomer, I’m learning French, and I am an avid reader. I live in Dallas, Texas, but I am originally from Sweden. I am married to Claudia, and we have three children Jacob, David and Rachel. My blog feature the crazy adventures of our Leonberger e Bronco von der Löwenhöhle as well as information on Leonbergers

17 replies on “The Day Leonberger Squamous Cell Carcinoma caused Hullabaloo in the Neighborhood”

I wanted to say “Hi” since you’ve visited my blog! I don’t know anything about dogs unfortunately (in fact I thought Leonberger was a type of cheese) but they look quite beautiful.

I never thought I’d read a sentence like this: “In fact, Bronco seemed to enjoy the annual toe amputation.”

Liked by 1 person

Thank you Hetty. I did not either until it happened to us. Our veterinary told us that it is a pretty common problem among large breeds. Perhaps the Leonberger Health Foundation International could investigate why it happens.

Liked by 1 person

Thank you Hetty. Most people have not heard of Leonbergers. He was accused of being a large mutt, a wolf, and a bear. The Leonberger is a rare but very special breed with a family oriented disposition. They are friendly, protective, intelligent, and funny but they can also be destructive as they are very strong and curious and rambunctious when young. They are similar to St. Bernards in many ways and they share history with St. Bernards. Yes Bronco’s toe amputations became famous among local veterinarians, and he knew the procedure. Every time we went to the veterinary surgical center he marched up to the scale and stood on it. He knew that the first step was to measure his weight. He knew it was a way to end his toe pain.

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