Just the word “cancer” is enough to make many of us cringe. And unfortunately, dogs can develop many forms of cancer just as humans can. Here’s what you need to know about cancer in dogs, in the event that your pet is ever diagnosed with it.
Not all growths are cancerous. An abnormal growth (neoplasia) can be either benign or malignant. Benign growths typically develop slowly, do not invade other areas of the body, and in many cases are not harmful. Some can be dangerous, however, if they affect a major organ, restrict blood flow, or impact the nerves.
Malignant growths are what we refer to as cancer. This type of neoplasia usually grows rapidly and might spread to the rest of the body. Cancer in dogs can be treated through various methods but does frequently recur and is often fatal.
The most common types of cancer in dogs. Like humans, dogs can develop many types of cancer, but the most common types are:
- Lymphoma (in the lymph nodes)
- Mast cell tumors, or skin cancer
- Cancer of the spleen
- Osteosarcoma, or cancer of the bones
- Cancer in the mammary glands
- Melanoma (in skin, mouth, and toenails)
Preventing cancer. With many types of cancer in dogs, we don’t know the exact cause of the disease. However, the methods of prevention are similar to those of humans.
- Feed your dog a healthy diet
- Make sure your dog gets appropriate exercise
- Prevent obesity
- Avoid excessive exposure to the sun
- Avoid secondhand cigarette smoke and other known environmental risk factors
- Take your dog to the vet for regular checkups.
- Spay or neuter your pet
The common signs of cancer. Sometimes cancer is not noticeable until it has already reached an advanced stage, but every patient is different. Regardless, if you notice any of the following symptoms, we urge you to schedule an appointment with us right away:
- Unusual lumps and bumps
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Difficulty breathing
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Abnormal swelling
- An unusual odor
- Bleeding with no obvious cause
If we do suspect cancer in your dog, don’t panic. We will perform a biopsy first, to determine whether a growth is benign or malignant. Then, if the growth is malignant, we will discuss life-prolonging treatments and help you decide how to proceed. Cancer in dogs can be scary for pet owners, but we will be there to guide you through this difficult time.