- Your dog is off his food and seems to be getting a bit thin.
- You know he has canine arthritis in his hind end, but it seems to be causing him more pain then normal.
- He has a funny new growth on his ankle but that would not be causing the problem. Or could it?
With his advancing years, do you put it down to age or do you go into panic mode: convinced it is cancer? It is difficult to keep from automatically thinking the worst, and although the rate of cancer in dogs is increasing, some basic knowledge and warning signs may help to stem the rising fear.
Cancer has a devastating effect on dogs. Animals, by nature, do not show they are sick or that there may be a problem until sickness takes hold. It is a survival of the fittest ideology: if a dog shows the pack that it is ill, there is a greater chance it will lose position of authority. Unfortunately, in the domesticated canine, showing symptoms sooner might in fact save their life.
Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs
Canine cancer is just as common as cancer in humans, in fact, possibly more so. It is estimated that one in four humans will be diagnosed with cancer where as the current rate in cancer in dogs is one in three.
Cancer does not necessarily mean malignant or terminal in humans or dogs. It is estimated that sixty percent of cancer diagnosed in dogs is actually benign, often lymphomas, fatty tumors common in older dogs. The proper name for cancer is neoplasia, simply meaning new growth. Not all cancer is the death knell we all worry about when we hear the word.
Cancer symptoms in dogs are dependent on the type of cancer.
Abdominal tumors are common, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss while often accompanied by a swollen or enlarged abdomen.
Mammary tumors are tumors of the breast tissue and are the most common form of cancer in unsprayed female dogs. The first obvious sign of a mammary tumor is a lump or local swelling felt in the mammary tissue. Note: bitches that are spayed before their first heat cycle will not develop mammary tumors.
Lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph system, is a particularly lethal neoplasia as it affects the immune system. Symptoms for lymphoma are swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetites, and marked lethargy.
The second most common form of cancer in un-neutered male dogs is testicular cancer. Obviously neutered males do not have to worry about this particular cancer.
Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is surprisingly common in large or giant breed dogs and often develops at the site of a prior injury. It grows deep within the bone causing lameness and pain.
Skin cancer is common. Have a veterinarian check lumps as soon as possible, especially if they are fast growing and/or oddly shaped.
Common canine cancer symptoms vary depending on the type of cancer it is and the
individual dog, but common signs to look for or be concerned about include:
- Any lump, but fast growing lumps especially If the lump feels as though it is attached to the tissue underneath
- A lump or mass that has suspicious coloring
- A lump or mass that is irregular in shape or changes shape as it grows
- Non-healing sores
- Difficulty in eating or swallowing
- A change of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal swelling or discomfort
- Difficulty breathing
- Blood in urine
- Blood in stool
- Limping or favoring a limb
- Bad breath or strong body odor
Schedule an appointment with your holistic veterinarian if your dog is demonstrating one or more of these symptoms. Although the symptoms may not prove to be cancer, your holistic veterinarian is the best resource for diagnosing the problem. (Note: You can find a holistic vet in your area from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association). Once a diagnosis is made however, there are many avenues for treatment worth investigating.
Alternative treatments including immunotherapy and supporting the body’s systems to fight the cancer itself are often the best options for dogs, as chemotherapy is not always possible or the best course of action.
Cancer in dogs is common but early detection is possible and is the best chance for recovery. Watch your pet and do not just assume that the limping is caused by old age there could be something more going on. Diligence on your part is both your dogs, and your own, best defense for a long and healthy life.