Dogs can be affected by many of the same health issues that effect people. Just as in humans, not all diseases have to be fatal or even particularly painful. Cancer in all it’s varied forms is one of these health issues. Dogs particularly can be affected by several types of cancer depending on sex, breed and age; including breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, osteosarcoma (OSA), prostate cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, tonsillar cancer, and transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder.
Despite the type of cancer a dog may have, like in people if the cancer is caught early enough it is very possible that treatment can be administered with positive results. With cancer however detection may be difficult; while some cancers might present early on some may not present signs until later stages. Even in the later case where a cancer might not present till later stages aggressive treatment can still be effective.
Symptoms to Look For
The issue with “common” early signs of cancer in dogs is just that; they are common. Many of the symptoms in this section are also very common symptoms of other health related issues that have absolutely no connection to any form of cancer. That said if your dog displays any of these signs he or she should be brought in for examination. Common early signs of cancer in dogs include but are not limited to:
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
(I told you they were pretty common)
Other signs that may appear in later stages include:
- distended abdomen
- growths on the skin, testicles, or breasts
- lumps underneath the skin
As with any symptom of any disease or health issue the symptoms above are NOT mutually exclusive to any one disease or health issue. Other health issues that they could represent are urinary tract or bladder infection, food poisoning, an upset stomach or other less serious conditions. This is especially true if your pet is young or a breed that has a rare incidence of cancer. For example, osteosarcoma (OSA) occurs more frequently in large or giant breeds than in smaller breeds. In addition, the majority of cancers occur in middle-aged and older dogs.
Early Detection is the Key
The key to cancer as we discussed is early detection. What this means is that your dog needs to see his or her vet on a regular basis, most of the time a routine, regular exam will provide all the opportunity needed to detect early signs. Because cancer is more prevalent in older dogs as a guideline dogs about 7 or older should have a full veterinary physical exam at least once a year more if they currently have health issues you know about or if they are a breed that is particularly susceptible to a disease or cancer.
Geriatric Dogs are a Concern
Older dogs (geriatric) naturally exhibit reduced energy which is not going to be a sufficient tell as to whether or not cancer should be a concern. However, if your dog is getting up there in age and has low energy and displays sudden onset of any of the following signs they need to see their vet as soon as possible.
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Coughing or rapid, labored breathing
- Weakness or exercise intolerance
- Increased thirst and/or frequency of urination
- Change in bowel function with constipation or diarrhea
- Bloody or purulent discharge from a body opening
- An increase in temperature, pulse or breathing rate
- A growth or lump anywhere on the body
Our doctors are experienced in identifying and diagnosing hard-to-detect diseases and disorders. If you want to put your mind to rest, bring your pooch in for a routine exam and we will be able to eliminate your concerns.