Like human beings, dogs are susceptible to a number of forms of benign and malignant cancers in their skin, bones and organs. Each type of cancer is different in its growth rate, symptoms, and prognosis. Most cancers, however, are treatable in dogs if they are identified early enough and many tumors that are found with routine screening are benign and can be removed without extensive treatment.
Once a dog reaches 10 years of age, he has a nearly 50% chance of contracting some form of cancer. However, even younger dogs can develop tumors and cancers and it is important that you watch for the variety of possible warning signs. The good news is that around 60% of all diagnosed cancer in dogs is benign – the result of fatty tumors that can be relatively easily removed.
The actual symptoms to watch for vary depending on the cancer type:
- Abdominal – Vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, swollen abdomen, lethargy
- Mammary – Lump or swelling in mammary tissue (dogs that are spayed before they have a chance to go into heat do not develop this form of cancer.
- Lymphoma – Swollen lymph nodes, stops eating, lethargy, general illness.
- Testicular – Lumps and lethargy (does not affect neutered males)
Additional symptoms include the presence of any quickly growing lump or spot with strange coloring on your dog, issues with eating or drinking, coughing, breathing problems, or blood in either urine, vomit, or feces.
Who Gets Cancer
Any dog can develop cancer, though some breeds may be more susceptible than others. Additionally, unaltered dogs are far more likely to get cancer than those that are safely spayed and neutered at a young age. Pure bred dogs with long lines of inbreeding can also present with higher tumor rates, though there is no link between those tumors and malignant cancer.
Avoidance and Treatment
Avoiding cancer is not always possible. There are some steps you can take to keep them safe though. First, avoid letting your dog get too much sun as they are susceptible to skin cancer, just like us. Additionally, make sure to have them spayed or neutered young. Avoid any unnatural, processed foods as well. Chemicals in their water as well as plastic bowls or toys can also be possible sources of the carcinogens that lead to cancer.
There is no medically proven link between specific things in a dog’s diet or play habits that lead to cancer, however, so exact avoidance is hard. Once a dog is diagnosed with cancer, the tumor will be removed with an immediate surgery, followed by possible treatment with chemotherapy if it persists.