Does Your Pet Have Cancer? Warning Signs to Watch for in Pets

Humans battle cancer frequently, and cancer in pets is another unfortunate situation that happens on occasion. When cancer occurs, it involves uncontrolled cell growth that begins spreading to surrounding tissues and organs. Some types of cancer even involve a spread of cancerous cells to other areas of the body. This occurs when cancerous cells enter the blood or the lymphatic system. Watching for cat cancer symptoms or signs of cancer in dogs involves ongoing vigilance to spot potential issues that could suggest a health problem.

  • A number of warning signs can be present that may indicate cancer. Observe your pet daily to notice any signs or symptoms that could suggest cancer. In pets, some symptoms may involve their behavior; they may begin showing unusual behavior and deviating from normal activities. Other symptoms could involve physiological changes.
  • Unusual or persistent swelling or growths can be a sign of cancer in pets. Feel the lymph nodes behind a pet's knees or behind the jaw. Swollen lymph nodes might indicate lymphoma. A distended abdomen might be a symptom of a mass in the abdomen.
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  • Sometimes a dog or a cat will have a marked loss of appetite. Weight loss may also accompany the appetite loss. Watch for struggles with swallowing or eating.
  • Signs your dog has cancer can also include sores that won't heal. If you smell an offensive odor around your pet or you notice unusual bleeding or discharge from a body opening, this can also be a warning sign.
  • Stiffness or lameness can set in with cancer.
  • You might observe a dog hesitating to run and exercise, and sometimes, a pet may show signs of lost stamina.
  • Other signs of cancer in dogs and cats include breathing difficulty and problems urinating or defecating.
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  • A persistent dry cough could be a symptom of lung cancer.
  • If a pet has an oral tumor, unusual breath odor may occur. An oral tumor could also cause a pet to change its dietary habits.

[Insert image: Photo by Eli Duke (Flickr) Caption: Careful observation and regular veterinary visits are integral parts of pet care and overall health.]

Pet owners can have many questions about general pet health. With the concerns and risks of cancer, it's also common for pet owners to wonder about possible symptoms of cancer in dogs and cats. If you have concerns about spotting signs your dog has cancer, a veterinarian can assist with answers to your questions. Here are answers to some common questions about how to tell if your dog has cancer and about cancer in cats.

Q: How do I tell if my dog has cancer?

A: Watch for behavioral changes, which often appear before physical changes. Behavioral changes may include confusion, disorientation, irritability, aggressiveness, anxiety, decreased grooming, and changes in sleep cycles. Other behavioral changes might include house soiling, overreaction to sounds, more vocalizations, repetitive activities, and less interaction with humans.

Q: How prevalent is bone cancer in dogs?

A: Bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is more prevalent in dogs than in humans. The large and giant breeds of dogs are most likely to develop bone cancer. The typical age for a dog to develop bone cancer is 8 years.

Q: What are symptoms of brain cancer?

A: A dog or cat with brain cancer will typically begin showing symptoms as the brain becomes affected by a growing mass. Symptoms might appear suddenly, or the onset could be more gradual. Possible signs of brain cancer include appetite changes, depression, loss of learned behaviors, persistent pacing, and seizures.

Q: Is lymphoma in dogs curable?

A: Canine lymphoma is incurable at this time. However, treatment options can be effective for placing many dogs into complete remission. Remission may last for months. During this time, a dog's quality of life improves dramatically.

Q: What happens if my dog has a tumor?

A: A veterinarian will evaluate the tumor first. This evaluation will probably include blood tests, tissue aspiration, and a biopsy. Other tests could include an ultrasound, a CT scan, and specialized tests of specific organs. After evaluation, the veterinarian will be able to formulate a diagnosis and possible treatment options.

Q: Will a pet with cancer need a special veterinarian?

A: After a cancer diagnosis, a pet will probably be referred to a veterinary oncologist for treatment. Veterinary oncologists specialize in treating pets with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and immunotherapy.

Q: What is an effective way to detect cat cancer symptoms?

A: Petting your cat can be very effective for detecting unusual lumps. Owners of female cats should regularly check for lumps, especially mammary masses. If you find lumps or notice any other unusual symptoms, such as decreased appetite, weight loss, and lethargy, have your cat examined by a veterinarian.

Q: How prevalent is pet cancer?

A: Pets are at a high risk for developing cancer. Some studies indicate that as many as 50 percent of all pets die from some type of cancer.


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