Canine limbal melanoma: 30 cases (1992–2004). Part 1. Signalment, clinical and histological features and pedigree analysis


Address communications to: David Donaldson Tel.: 08700 502540 Fax: 08700 502541 e-mail:


Objectives  (1) To review the signalment, clinical, and histological features of canine limbal melanoma; (2) to perform pedigree analysis on breeds predisposed to limbal melanoma to establish if common ancestry exists; and (3) to investigate if any ancestral relationship exists between canine limbal melanoma and canine anterior uveal melanoma (CAUM).

Design  Retrospective study.

Animals studied  Thirty dogs with limbal melanoma.

Methods  Medical records of patients were reviewed. Follow-up information was obtained by re-examination of patients or telecommunications with the referring veterinary surgeons or the owners. Pedigrees were analyzed for common ancestry amongst affected dogs.

Results  The mean age (± SD) at diagnosis was 6.2 (± 2.75) years with a range from 1 to 11 years. There was a bimodal distribution of ages with a peak at 3–4 years and a peak at 7–10 years. There was no eye predilection or predisposition for sex or coat color. Twenty-five (83%) of the limbal melanomas occurred within a dorsal arc from the dorsomedial to the ventrolateral limbus. Golden retrievers were four times more common in the melanoma group compared to the Animal Health Trust population (P < 0.0001). Labrador retrievers were three times more common in the melanoma group (P = 0.01). Pedigree analysis on eight Golden retrievers [limbal melanoma (n = 5), CAUM (n = 2) and diffuse ocular melanosis (n = 1)], revealed a pattern of inter-relatedness consistent with the condition(s) being caused, at least in part, by a genetic mutation(s). A similar level of inter relatedness was evident in six Labrador retrievers (limbal melanoma (n = 2) and CAUM (n = 4)). In 5/22 cases (23%), histological features suggestive of malignancy were present including intratumor necrosis in 4/22 cases (18%) and cellular atypia in 1/22 cases (5%).

Conclusions  In Golden and Labrador retrievers there is evidence that limbal melanomas, CAUM and ocular melanosis are at least in part heritable and that the same genetic mutation(s) may be causally associated with melanocytic disease at different ocular sites. The same genetic mutation(s) may be present in these two breeds. Histology should be performed on all cases to identify those with greater malignant potential.