Well-being

Cancer in Dogs

Claire Dunling

Common forms and signs of cancer in dogs
Just as with humans, canine cancer can affect any part of the body and to differing degrees. But while we may ‘coppa feel’, do a cursory Google search or make a doctor’s appointment, the symptoms of cancer can easily be overlooked in our dogs. So, in consideration of ‘cancer awareness in canines’, we have compiled a general checklist to help you keep a weather-eye on your canine companion.

Cancer in Dogs: Do you know what to look out for?

Of course, if you find any kind of lump on your pet then a visit to the vets must be your first course of action. Depending on the related symptoms, your vet will run a few tests, (usually a biopsy and maybe blood’s and x-rays) to establish what the key issue is.

When is a lump just a lump?

It is worth bearing in mind that a common cause for concern are benign lumps, referred to as lipomas. It’s a condition mostly found in older and overweight dogs, however, even if this is the case your vet may still run some tests to rule out any suspicion. These fatty lumps are usually soft, movable and cause no pain or discomfort to your dog. If they are small surgery is generally not needed.

What should I look out for?

Skin cancer in dogs may present not only as a lump or bump but also as darker pigmentation on an area of skin. This discolouration is most commonly seen in animals with white fur, so it’s especially important to protect their skin during the hotter months when they may be inclined to bask in the sun.

Treatment for skin cancers, like melanomas, for instance, will usually begin with surgery to remove the affected area, then a biopsy will be taken to establish a suitable course of treatment, depending on the severity and margins of the growth.

Other typical forms of cancer in dogs include the blood-borne, lymphoma. The signs of lymphoma aren’t easily distinguished as, like leukaemia, it is a cancer which attacks blood development by increasing white blood cell production. There are two forms of the disease, acute lymphoma and chronic lymphoma, so an early diagnosis is pivotal to ensure your pet receives the correct treatment. Look out for weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy or difficulty breathing.

Cancer Awareness Infographic

One of the many reasons your vet will have recommended having your dog spayed and neutered is the prevention of cancer. The chances of a female dog contracting mammary or ovarian cancer is drastically reduced if they are spayed under two years old. It is the same for male dogs and the risk of testicular cancer. If you do spot any suspicious lumps around these areas, put your mind at rest and get to your vets as soon as possible.

Next time you’re giving them a bath or notice them struggling to eat or they are just not as lively as usual, give them a pat down and check for any discolouration or lumps – keeping up on these simple checks can make sure your pet isn’t suffering. As with any disease, the sooner a diagnosis is made, the higher the chance a full recovery.

Cancer in Dogs: What treatment is available to pets?

Fortunately, the dreaded C-word doesn’t necessarily indicate a death warrant.  Having taken biopsies to establish the type of cancer, surgery can be undertaken to remove a malignant tumour. Other treatment options include chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Early diagnosis and treatment could give you many happy years with your pet. So check your dog regularly for any lumps or bumps or signs of ill health, and get to your vet to check these symptoms as soon as possible.

This Cancer in Dogs post is an opinion and should only be used as a guide. You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!